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Monday, July 30, 2012

MBJB loses appeal in 'chapel demolition' case


The Court of Appeal in Putrajaya has struck out an appeal by the Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) over the demolition of an Orang Asli chapel, describing the application as an abuse of the court process.

orang asli court 200905 palace of justiceThe three-member bench headed by Justice Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad, along with Abdul Wahab Patail and Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim, was unanimous in the decision. 

The court also ordered MBJB to pay RM10,000 in costs.

In September 2010, the Johor Bahru High Court had ordered the MBJB to pay damages to Khalip Bachik, Kelah Lah and 49 others of Kuala Masai, Johor, following the demolition of their chapel. 

Khalip had filed the civil suit in December 2008 against the MBJB, Johor Land and Mines Department and the Orang Asli Affairs Department (JHEOA).

The MBJB failed to file affidavits in defence despite reminders being sent, and then failed to enter an appearance when the hearing dates were fixed. As a result, the council was ordered to pay damages.

It appeared alone in its appeal today. The other two appellants will have their application heard next week.

The council had claimed that the suit had been filed under the ‘Johor Bahru Town Council’ and not ‘Majlis Bandaran Johor Bahru’. Hence, it was not bound by the order imposed by the Johor Bahru High Court.

Khalip's lawyers argued to strike out the application, saying the appeal proper was incompetent and that the memorandum of appeal was defective. This made the appeal frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the court process.

The Orang Asli were represented by Steven Thiru and Aron Matthews, while Roger Tan and CP Lee appeared for the appellants.

Permission given for place of worship

Khalip and others are of Orang Asli Laut descent and members of the Orang Asli Christian congregation. They were originally residents of Kampung Orang Asli Stulang Laut.

They received a directive to move to Kampung Orang Asli Kuala Masai from the Johor Bahru City Council in 1993 on the ground that the site they occupied was to be developed.

Khalip and Kelah claimed that the JHEOA director-general had given them an assurance that they could build a place of worship at the new settlement, and had done so upon relocation in 2003.

When the demolition was carried out in 2005, the state failed to show any court order or proof that the chapel was sitting on state land.

Eight of the 20 families living in Kampung Orang Asli Kuala Masai are of the Christian faith.

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