Court rejects Johor govt’s appeal to strike out Orang Seletar’s compensation suit

Ben Tan
Lawyer Tan Poh Lai (far right) with representatives of the Orang Seletar at the Johor Baru Civil High Court at Menara Cyberport in Johor Baru today. — Picture by Ben Tan

JOHOR BARU, Dec 4 — The High Court today rejected Johor state government’s appeal to strike out the civil suit over land compensation involving a group of Orang Asli from the Seletar tribe.

High Court Judge Datuk See Mee Chun set aside the state government’s appeal citing their reasons as not valid.

The hearing has been set for February 25 next year.

The Orang Seletar, an Orang Asli tribe in south Johor, is represented by lawyers Tan Poh Lai and Gregory Das.

Both counsels argued that the compensation set by the government was a small sum and did not take into consideration of the current market value of the land, which is located in Stulang Laut.

“The government at the time offered about RM250,000 where each of the 51 Orang Seletar will get about RM5,000, despite the land price valued at RM24 million in 2003.

“Now, the land price is about more than half a billion ringgit,” Tan said when met at the Johor Baru Civil High Court at Menara Cyberport here.

Tan said the Orang Seletar merely wants a fair compensation from the state government.

She explained that at today’s proceedings, Justice See allowed them to file their lawsuit against the defendants who are the Johor Land and Mines Department, the district land administrator, Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) and the Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa).

“We will finally have our day in court as we have been waiting for nine years due to various technical issues,” said Tan.

It was previously reported that 51 Orang Seletar had so far won two legal cases against the state government after being evicted from their land in 1993.

This came about as the order to compensate them, had yet to be fully enforced, although the Johor Land and Mines Department lost the case in the High Court in 2010 and again in the Court of Appeal in 2012.

The plight of the Orang Seletar began in 1993 when the state government directed the settlement to relocate from Stulang Laut, where they had been staying for hundreds of years, to Kuala Masai.

The relocation took place in 2003. Two years later, the Orang Asli took the government to court following a series of events, including the demolition of a church they had built in Kuala Masai.

In the 2010 judgment, High Court judge Justice Zakiah Kassim ruled that the land in Stulang Laut, which had been developed into a shopping and commercial centre known as The Zon, belonged to the community.

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