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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Federal govt not appealing in suit over Temiar Orang Asli land dispute

 


The federal government is not pursuing an appeal to reinstate a suit on behalf of the Temiar Orang Asli involving alleged land encroachment in Kelantan.

This was in relation to the Kelantan government’s earlier successful appeal for the Court of Appeal to strike out the federal government’s suit over purported encroachment into the Temiar’s customary land in Pos Simpor, Gua Musang. 

On June 3, the Court of Appeal allowed the Kelantan government’s appeal, ruling that the federal government has no legal standing to sue on behalf of the Temiar Orang Asli.

When contacted today, counsel Gurdial Singh Nijar, who represented the federal government in the suit, confirmed that the government is not pursuing the appeal before the Federal Court.

Malaysiakini is attempting to reach out to Attorney-General Idrus Harun for a response on the matter.

Earlier today, Free Malaysia Today reported that the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) would not be appealing against the Court of Appeal verdict.

The online news portal quoted a source who claimed that Idrus decided not to continue with the appeal after having read the "broad grounds" of the Court of Appeal ruling.

The three-person Court of Appeal bench chaired by judge Lau Bee Lan had ruled that the federal government has no locus standi (legal standing) to be the plaintiff in the suit initially filed at a High Court in Kelantan.

She noted that there is no provision in the Federal Constitution that allows the federal government to institute legal action on behalf of aboriginal peoples.

However, the judge pointed out that the Temiar Orang Asli are not precluded from directly instituting their own legal action over the issue (by being the direct plaintiffs).

On Aug 20, 2019, the Kota Bharu High Court denied the Kelantan government's bid to strike out the lawsuit, when it ruled that the court has the jurisdiction to hear the legal action that targeted the PAS-led state government. The state administration then appealed to the Court of Appeal. 

Earlier on Jan 18 that same year during the previous Pakatan Harapan administration, then attorney-general Tommy Thomas announced that the federal government filed the legal action to safeguard the welfare of the Orang Asli, who protested against the encroachment of their customary land. 

Thomas had contended that the Kelantan government and its agencies granted logging rights in Gua Musang to private companies without consulting the Temiar community or offering them compensation.

The Perikatan Nasional coalition has since taken over the reins of the federal administration since early 2020.

The federal government’s suit, which was filed at the Kota Bharu High Court, named the Kelantan government, the state director of the Lands and Mines Department, the state director of the Forestry Department and five private entities, as defendants.

It had sought legal recognition of the Temiar community's native land rights in Pos Simpor, and injunctions to prevent private entities from encroaching on and destroying native land for commercial profit.

The Temiar Orang Asli have been fighting loggers for years, setting up blockades, which would be demolished by state government officers or those working for private companies.

Besides loggers, a more recent threat to their lands has been durian plantations. - Mkini

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