Land ti­tles re­main with LCDA but na­tives to re­ceive com­pen­sa­tion

The Star Malaysia - - Nation - By SHARON LING

KUCHING: A group of na­tive landown­ers from Kam­pung Le­bor in Se­rian di­vi­sion were dis­ap­pointed that the Fed­eral Court ruled against them in a long-run­ning land dis­pute case with the Land Cus­tody and Devel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (LCDA) and two plan­ta­tion com­pa­nies.

A five-mem­ber panel led by Chief Jus­tice Md Raus Sharif ruled that while Tuai Rumah Nyu­tan Jami and two other landown­ers had proven their na­tive cus­tom­ary rights (NCR) over the dis­puted land, it did not over­ride the in­de­fea­si­bil­ity of the pro­vi­sional leases and land ti­tles which had al­ready been is­sued to LCDA and the two com­pa­nies.

The apex court also ruled that in cases where the land was alien­ated with­out ex­tin­guish­ing the NCR, the landown­ers were en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion un­der the State Land Code.

“It is our judg­ment that Sec­tion 132 of the Sarawak Land Code per­tain­ing to in­de­fea­si­bil­ity of ti­tle re­mains ap­pli­ca­ble even if it could be shown that NCR had been cre­ated in the man­ner pre­scribed in the Code.

“A claim for NCR does not de­feat the in­de­fea­si­bil­ity of ti­tle of land,” the judges said in a unan­i­mous rul­ing which was de­liv­ered by Fed­eral Court deputy reg­is­trar Ed­win Paramjothy Michael Mu­niandy here yes­ter­day.

They al­lowed the ap­peals by TH Pelita Sadong Sdn Bhd, TH Pelita Ge­dong Sdn Bhd, RHB Is­lamic Bank Bhd, LCDA and the state gov­ern­ment against a High Court de­ci­sion in 2013, which was sub­se­quently up­held by the Court of Ap­peal in 2014, in favour of the na­tive landown­ers.

The High Court had ruled that the landown­ers had NCR over some parts of three parcels of land for which pro­vi­sional leases had been is­sued to LCDA and the com­pa­nies.

It also granted a dec­la­ra­tion that the is­suance of the ti­tles was wrong­ful and void, and or­dered the de­fen­dants to rec­tify the pro­vi­sional leases by ex­clud­ing the plain­tiffs’ NCR land.

Nyu­tan, Gan­gak Guma and Langa Kama filed the High Court case in 1998 on be­half of them­selves and 183 other vil­lagers of Kam­pung Le­bor.

Yes­ter­day, the Fed­eral Court panel set aside the High Court or­der to rec­tify the ti­tle and or­dered the state gov­ern­ment and Kota Sa­ma­ra­han Land and Sur­vey su­per­in­ten­dent to pay com­pen­sa­tion to the plain­tiffs, with the amount to be de­cided by an in­quiry.

Met out­side the court­house later, a tear­ful Nyu­tan said he was un­happy with the de­ci­sion.

“We don’t want to get com­pen­sa­tion. We want to have our land back.

“This land was in­her­ited from our an­ces­tors and now we have lost it,” he said, adding that the vil­lagers hoped for a bet­ter so­lu­tion to land dis­putes.

sharon­ling@thes­tar.com.my

Com­fort­ing words: Lawyer See Chee How (right) ex­plain­ing the de­ci­sion to Tuai Rumah Nyu­tan Jami (left) and other landown­ers out­side the court­house.

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