Main photo: Members of the Orang Asli Seletar tribe with their lawyers at the Court of Appeal this morning.
PUTRAJAYA: An Orang Asli Seletar tribe in Johor, whose ancestral land was taken and sold to developers, will be relocated on new land to be gazetted for their settlement.
The 85 families, who previously inhabited Kampung Sungai Temon, will also be provided houses and amenities at the new settlement in Mukim Sungai Tiram.
The agreement was recorded in a consent order entered by a three-member Court of Appeal bench chaired by Justice Yaacob Sam.
As part of the consent judgment, the Johor government agreed to contribute RM1,500 to each of the 85 families towards the purchase of furniture for their new homes.
According to the court order, the state government will also provide amenities and pay compensation of RM6,500 to the families of 50 settlers of Kampung Bakar Batu.
The families had been earlier resettled by the state government on land gazetted for their use.
The civil suit was filed in 2012 by 135 families from the Orang Seletar tribe led by Eddy Salim against the Iskandar Regional Development Authority for loss of rights to their customary lands.
The suit also named the Orang Asli development department (Jakoa), the Johor land and mines department, Node Dua Sdn Bhd and Strait Bay Sdn Bhd as defendants.
The plaintiffs were unhappy about encroachment into their customary lands by private companies and individuals, and the reluctance of the authorities to recognise their rights to the customary lands and waters.
In the suit, the plaintiffs, also known as Orang Laut, sought declaratory orders in relation to their communal customary rights and interests in relation to the sea, seabed, rivers, river beds, tidal inlets, bays, estuaries, harbours and subterranean waters in Johor.
In March 2017, the Johor Bahru High Court acknowledged the customary rights of the 135 families to their traditional lands.
The court ordered the state government to pay the Orang Seletar compensation for loss of their customary lands based on their market value.
The lands were situated at Kampung Sungai Temon and Kampung Bakar Batu in the Danga Bay region of the Iskandar Development Corridor.
Unhappy with the loss of their land, the community filed the present appeal.
Lawyer Steven Thiru, a member of the legal team who appeared for the community, said that in 2018, the state government engaged the Orang Asli in an effort to resolve the matter out of court.
“This resulted in numerous discussions over a four-year span with all stakeholders involved,” he said.
Steven said today’s outcome is remarkable as those affected will be resettled to continue with their livelihood as fishermen.
“The agreement will allow them to preserve their unique way of life at the new site,” he said.
Lawyers K Mohan, S Yogeswaran, Aaron Mathews, David Ng, Shahrul Azwan and Ananthan Moorthi also represented the community.
Lawyer Khoo Guan Huat, Johor assistant legal adviser 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.