Malaysia: Decision for the Orang Seletar case set for 27 October 2016

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    The Johor Baru High Court on Wednesday 27 July 2016 heard oral submissions from all parties at the close of the trial set to determine whether the Orang Seletar of Danga Bay have customary title over their settled areas and customary rights to their traditional waters and resource areas.

    The suit began in 2013 when the Orang Seletar plaintiffs of Kampung Bakar Batu and Kampung Sungai Temun saw how the massive development (including land reclamation) works in their vicinity began to threaten their livelihood and their rights to the customary lands.

    The defendants include the Johor State government (including the Director of Lands and Mines), the Federal Government (including the Department of Orang Asli Development, JAKOA) and the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA).

    Several private companies and private individuals were also named as defendants, including Node Dua Sdn Bhd and Timur Terang Sdn Bhd.

    Kampung Sungai Temun in low tide.
    Kampung Sungai Temun in low tide.

    There are several issues before the judge. One is the question of what constitutes customary or native title and whether such title (or rather, rights) extend to ‘foraging’ areas.

    Then there is the question of when, in history, does the term ‘since time immemorial’ refer to, especially with regard to the people’s presence on the land. Also, whether trespass can be claimed against a party that has a (legal) claim to the land by way of alienation.

    The weight to be attached to the testimony of experts and written reports was also an issue argued in court. And more.

    The Orang Asli were represented by Steven Thiru, Dr. Yogeswaran, Aaron Mathews and K. Mohan. The defendants were represented by 10 lawyers, variously.

    [Photos by CN and Lili Li]

    Source: COAC | 28 July 2016

    Waiting for the lawyers to brief them on the outcome of the day's proceedings which were all in high-level legal English.
    Waiting for the lawyers to brief them on the outcome of the day’s proceedings which were all in high-level legal English.
    Aaron briefing the plaintiffs Batin Salim (left) and Eddy Salim (right) on the outcome of the case, with Tony in the middle.
    Aaron briefing the plaintiffs Batin Salim (left) and Eddy Salim (right) on the outcome of the case, with Tony in the middle.

    Orang seletar, Aaron briefing the plaintiffs 2

    COAC's interns and attachments with Steven Thiru, Bar Council President.
    COAC’s interns and attachments with Steven Thiru, Bar Council President.
    With some of the Orang Seletar in court that day.
    With some of the Orang Seletar in court that day.
    COAC interns on a stopover visit to see the site of the area in dispute.
    COAC interns on a stopover visit to see the site of the area in dispute.
    Kampung Bakar Batu and Kampung Sungai Temun are on opposite ends of a promontory at the mouth of the Skudai River. The 'island' opposite Kampung Bakar Batu is the site of a few multi-million ringgit bungalows. This is where some of the older Orang Asli graves are also located.
    Kampung Bakar Batu and Kampung Sungai Temun are on opposite ends of a promontory at the mouth of the Skudai River. The ‘island’ opposite Kampung Bakar Batu is the site of a few multi-million ringgit bungalows. This is where some of the older Orang Asli graves are also located.
    Our newly-reinstated 20-year-old van is now back in action. We needed it given the number of interns and attachments we have this year.
    Our newly-reinstated 20-year-old van is now back in action. We needed it given the number of interns and attachments we have this year.