Railway Lines residents lose claim in unprecedented court judgement

The Shah Alam High Court yesterday was painted with sorrow when Judge Hinshawati Shariff dismissed a claim by former residents of Sungai Buloh “Railway Lines” for compensation from the Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS).

Some residents who attended the verdict hearing yesterday could not help but weep when the judgment was delivered, some 20 years after their eviction.

“No valid consideration from squatters”

According to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, C. Soosay Nathan and Mohamad Fakhzam, the judge ruled that no valid consideration was involved in the agreement signed between PKNS and the former residents.

“The judge cited Section 26 of Contracts Act 1950 in saying that a contract or agreement must involve certain value in exchange.

“In this case, the residents did not possess valid consideration (balasan) [for an enforceable contract to be created] because they were not the lawful occupants of the land,” Soosay said.

“[In short] you have move out anyway, although an agreement has been signed,” he added.

In 1992, some 229 families of Sungai Buloh “Railway Lines” were asked to vacate their land to make way for the KTM double-tracking railway project.

In return, the Gombak District Land Office offered each family a plot of land measuring to 40 × 60 feet in Matang Pagar, Sungai Buloh with the condition that the land would be cleared after six months.

Permas: Judgment sets bad precedent

However, PKNS through contractor Ikatan Rapi Sdn Bhd began to occupy the Matang Pagar land to build low-cost houses in 1996 without the residents’ consent.

The residents then sued PKNS, demanding it to abide by the 1992 agreement and compensate them with alternative plots of land.

The Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor and Wilayah Persekutuan (Permas), which has been assisting the residents, decried the judgment as “a bad precedent”.

Its president, Tan Jo Hann, said all squatters areas will be affected if such a ruling is applied.

“Squatters rely on an agreement, in which representations are made to them, in deciding to move out. In this case the judge is saying any promise that is given to them doesn’t need to be fulfilled because they are deemed to be squatters,” he said.

“Urban pioneers are now denied with their rights,” he added

He urged Selangor MB Khalid Ibrahim, as the chairman of PKNS, to intervene immediately.

“It’s really a shame that after 20 years of struggle and three years of negotiations with the state government, nothing has come about.”

He claimed PKNS revealed at a meeting with State Housing Exco member, Iskandar Samad, that 48 plots of alternative land have been earmarked to compensate the remaining 48 families.

“PKNS should honour the promise and give the 48 plots of land to the people,” Tan said.

Meanwhile, the residents will pursue an appeal to deliberate the definition of “consideration” with the Court of Appeal.