Another promising win for Orang Seletar to secure their rights

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Court of Appeal dismissed the application by two developers to have the injunction against them squashed yesterday, giving the Orang Seletar of Kampung Sungai Temon and Bakar Batu in Danga Bay, Johor another win in the ongoing court case to secure their rights over their customary territories.

The application by Node Dua Sdn Bhd and Strait Bay Sdn Bhd, two of 13 Defendants in the main civil suit by the Orang Seletar, were ordered by the Johor Bahru High Court in December 2013 to stop trespassing onto the customary territory of the Orang Seletar and to stop all work there until the case was settled.

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Lawyer Aaron Matthews explaining to the Orang Seletar what transpired during the court session. The panel of 3 judges returned soon after to deliver the verdict in their favour.

Yesterday, the Court of Appeal dismissed their application to have the December injunction set aside.

The panel of judges comprised Datuk Lim Yee Lan (chair), Dato’ Umi Kalthum and Dato’ Mohd Zawawi Salleh.

Land reclaimed for development

The development project is part of the massive southern economic corridor that is spearheaded by the Iskandar Development Regional Authority.

There are nine Orang Asli Seletar villages in Malaysia, all of which are located along the southern coast of Johore. Seven out of these nine villages are located within the Iskandar Development Region.

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Pulau Kecil, opposite Kampung Bakar Batu, was once mangrove forests. Now it will be replaced with bungalows.

Only two villages, namely Kampung Bakar Batu, Johor Bahru and Kampung Simpang Arang, Gelang Patah have been partly gazetted as Aboriginal Reserves under the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954 (Act 134).

In addition to a claim for customary title, the Orang Asli Seletar claim includes a claim for customary waters (their customary territory on sea, sea bed, rivers, river beds and waters), a unique customary rights claim which is yet to be considered by our courts.

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Much of the mangrove forest the Orang Seletar depended on for their subistence are now being reclaimed for ‘development’

Already much of the land has been destroyed, severely affecting the subsistence and cultural base of the Orang Seletar. More land reclamation and destruction of the mangroves and coastal areas are scheduled to be carried out.

These were mangrove forests which the Orang Seletar depended upon for their livelihoods.

Orang Seletar came in force

The Orang Seletar from Danga Bay chartered a bus to attend the proceedings at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya.The Orang Seletar from Danga Bay chartered a bus to attend the proceedings at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya.

The Orang Seletar were represented in court today by Steven Thiru, M. Mohan, Lee Lyn-ni, Dr. Yogeswaran and Aaron Matthews.

Among these companies is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ekovest and Iskandar Coast Sdn Bhd, a joint venture company between Iskandar Investment Bhd, Danga Bay Holdings Sdn Bhd, and Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ).

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Lawyer Steven Thiru briefing the Orang Seletar on the verdict, which was in their favour.

 

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The legal team representing Orang Seletar community. From left: Esther (chambering student), Lee Lyn-ni, Aaron Matthews, M. Mohan, Dr. Yoges and Steven Thiru.

 

[Photos by Colin Nicholas and Ricklend Christopher]

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