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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Putrajaya gives up fight against ‘encroachment’ of Orang Asli land


Orang Asli protesting against logging activities at Gua Musang, Kelantan. (Bernama pic)

PUTRAJAYA: The federal government will not pursue its appeal in the Federal Court against the Kelantan government over alleged encroachment into Orang Asli settlement in Gua Musang, Kelantan, sources said.

Putrajaya had been expected to file a leave application by framing legal questions as a prerequisite for the apex court to hear the merit of the case.

However, a source said Attorney-General Idrus Harun made the decision to discontinue with the case after having gone through the “broad grounds” delivered by the Court of Appeal early this month.

Contacted today, G Ragumaren, who was given a special licence to represent Putrajaya together with Gurdial Singh Nijar, confirmed that the attorney-general’s chambers was not appealing.

FMT has reached out to Idrus for comment.

On June 3, the Court of Appeal allowed the state government’s appeal to strike out the suit filed by Putrajaya in early 2019.

Judge Lau Bee Lan, who led a three-member bench, said the federal government did not have locus standi to be the plaintiff, unlike the Temiar Orang Asli.

“In our view, even if the federal government has a fiduciary duty under Article 8(5)(c) and the Ninth Schedule of List 1, Item 16 of the Federal Constitution to provide for the welfare of aboriginal peoples, such duty cannot confer the federal government with a right to sue as plaintiff,” she said.

Lau said there was no provision in the constitution or any written law that recognised the locus standi of the federal government to sue on behalf of the aboriginal people.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that there is locus standi, she said, the subject matter of the suit did not fall under Article 128(1)(b) of the constitution.

“In our view, disputes in 128(1)(b) necessarily refer to disputes arising from federal-state relations.

“In this case, the dispute concerns the alleged infringement of property rights of the Orang Asli by the state government and its agencies,” said Lau, who sat with P Ravinthran and Mohd Sofian Abdul Razak.

The bench, however, ruled that the affected Orang Asli could bring an action in their personal capacity.

Apart from the Kelantan government, the director of the lands and mines department and the director of the state forestry department were named as defendants.

Others were Fleet Precision Sdn Bhd, Koperasi Kijang Mas Negeri Kelantan Bhd, KPG Maju Enterprise Sdn Bhd, Ringgit Saksama (M) Sdn Bhd and M7 Plantation Bhd.

The Kelantan government and its agencies had granted logging licences to private companies, allowing them to enter the native land of the Temiar Orang Asli in Pos Simpor.

Vast areas of forest were reportedly cleared to make way for durian and rubber plantations.

In its statement of claim, Putrajaya said this had deprived the Temiar Orang Asli of their native land and resources and caused widespread erosion, pollution and irreparable damage to the ecology and landscape of Pos Simpor. - FMT

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