PUTRAJAYA (Jan 12): A total of 135 Orang Asli Seletar families from two different villages on Thursday (Jan 12) agreed to record a consent order in the Court of Appeal with developers, the Johor government and the Federal Government, which would see them not only being compensated monetarily, but 85 of them being resettled on a 45-acre (18.21-hectare) alienated gazetted land.
The new Orang Asli settlement for the 85 Kampung Sungai Temon families would be relocated to Mukim Sungai Tiram, as their new resettlement on the 45-acre land alienated by the Johor government for them, which will be gazetted as an Orang Asli reserve for them to continue their livelihoods as fishermen.
For the Kampung Sungai Temon, the developer, namely Node Dua Sdn Bhd, would help build the new houses, including one for the Tok Batin, and provide them with basic amenities of water, electricity and street lights and two jetties.
However, Node Dua imposed a condition that the construction cost of the houses and facilities should not exceed RM12 million, and that the construction would take five years.
The Johor government had in addition agreed to pay RM5,000 as compensation to each household, and another RM1,500 to purchase furniture.
Meanwhile, for the remaining 50 families from Kampung Bakar Batu, who had already seen their land gazetted as an Orang Asli reserve, they will receive monetary compensation of RM6,500 for each head of the family, and a repair of five houses in the area.
They were initially slated to be in Mukim Pulai, and following the settlement, the Orang Asli Seletar have agreed to relinquish the rights to the land there (Mukim Pulai).
These are the terms of settlement recorded by a three-member Court of Appeal bench led by Judge Datuk Yaacob Md Sam.
He and the other two judges, Datuk ES Nantha Balan and Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, made no order as to costs.
Yaacob in recording the settlement said the bench was elated to see that the case had been amicably settled, with the result leading to a win-win situation for both parties.
This follows the matter having made its way in 2013, and it took 10 years for the parties to finally resolve the matter.
“The bench would like to congratulate and record its appreciation to the counsels and government lawyers, who had worked tirelessly to resolve the matter and bring this matter to a fruitful resolution,” he added.
Development involves Danga Bay in 10-year legal battle
The development on Thursday settled a long-standing 10-year-land dispute over the land, which was acquired by the Johor government and alienated to developers for the development of Danga Bay within the Iskandar Development Corridor in Johor Bahru.
The Orang Asli Seletar, also called Orang Laut, led by Eddy Salim, filed the action in 2013, and had legal battles in the Johor Bahru High Court.
They named the Johor government, the director-general of the Orang Asli Department, the Johor Land and Mines Department, the Federal Government, and seven developers, including Node Dua, as respondents.
The Johor Bahru High Court on Feb 28, 2017 ruled that the Orang Asli Seletar had customary rights over the claimed territories, and non-exclusive rights over the waters claimed by them.
The court ruled that the Orang Asli Seletar were only entitled to monetary compensation for the deprivation of their customary territories, and the federal and state governments' breach of fiduciary duties in failing to gazette and protect these customary territories from being alienated to third parties.
The community has existed in those villages since the 1950s.
Following the appeals filed by the Johor government and the developers, the Orang Asli cross-appealed to reacquire the land, and the case landed in the Court of Appeal and has been postponed four times prior to Thursday’s scheduled hearing in a bid to derive a settlement.
The Orang Asli were represented by Steven Thiru, K Mohan, Dr Yogeswaran Subramaniam, and Aaron Matthews.
Counsel Khoo Guan Huat along with Johor assistant legal adviser Muhammad Azzam Zainal Abidin and Tan Hui Wen appeared for the Johor government, while G Rajasingam, Nik Azila Suhada, Tan Hui Ling, and Tong Wei Heang represented the developers.
Thiru when approached welcomed the consent order, and remarked that all parties had worked hard to come out with a situation that is favourable and maintains the Orang Asli Seletar's livelihoods as fishermen.
“With this, they can carry out their aquatic and fisheries livelihoods. This is important, as this would keep the community going,” he added.
A precedent had been set, Thiru said, namely that the community not only received compensation, but were also given houses following the settlement to carry on with their livelihoods.
“In the past, like in the previous case of Sagong Tasi, they were given financial compensation, but had seen their ancestral land lost,” he said, adding that now it is better, as the said land has now been replaced for the community to continue with their livelihoods.
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