Johor Gov T Taking Hard Line Stand In Orang Laut Seletar Case Claims Lawyer




The lawyer for the Orang Laut Seletar group seeking compensation for their ancestral lands in Stulang Laut claims that the state government is taking a hard line in the case, and tying it down with technicalities. This comes despite a statement on June 5 by recently appointed Johor Menteri Besar Dr Sahruddin Jamal indicating a swift resolution to the case which dates back to 1993. "We are being bogged down in legal technicalities," lawyer Tan Poh Lai told Malaysiakini. "The state government is taking a very hard line on this issue," she said. 
This comes after a court hearing yesterday after which the court fixed Sept 17 for applications to be filed by both sides. The plaintiffs will file an application naming the Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) and the Johor Baru District Land Administrator as respondents to the compensation suit. "The main point is that Orang Laut Seletar had been there for centuries and the court decided in 2010 that this is their customary land. They are urban Orang Asli and want their just compensation based on this decision that they are the owners of the land. Therefore what has been offered does not reflect the value that this is prime urban land. "We have failed to reach a settlement, despite two court victories in our favour, despite obtaining leave for a mandamus order, and despite the MB giving us so much hope by saying they expected it to be resolved soon," said Tan, who is representing 51 Orang Laut Seletar families in the case. "However, at this last stage, the state has indicated in court they will be applying to strike out the Mandamus action," she said
Small compensation offer The case, dating back to 1993, involves compensation for a parcel of prime land in Stulang Laut, where the shopping centre The Zon now stands. The plot was worth an estimated RM23 million in a 2005 valuation based on an estimate of land prices in 1993, yet the compensation offered by the Johor government in 2018 was just RM255,000, or RM5,000 per family. Despite two significant court decisions, the families saw no compensation for decades. In 1993, the Orang Laut Seletar in Stulang Laut were forced to relocate from the land they had lived on for decades. Located in both southern Johor and Singapore, the Orang Laut Seletar is one of the smallest Orang Asli tribes, with an estimated population of under 3,000 – leaving their language and culture under threat. Despite winning a High Court battle against the director-general of the Johor Land and Mines Department in 2010, among others, the authorities refused to conduct an assessment of the compensation claims. The community went on to win again at the Court of Appeal in 2012, but once again found no compensation forthcoming. On June 3, the High Court granted leave to proceed with a mandamus hearing to ascertain the value of the Stulang Laut land, which sources believe is now worth over RM500 million. Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Karim has added his voice to the call for a quick and just resolution, telling Malaysiakini, "The estimated compensation should be based on the Land Acquisition Act 1960, and carried out according to the market price for the land." Sahruddin said on June 5 the Johor government would decide on compensation to the Orang Laut Seletar in Stulang Laut at a state executive council meeting, but there have been no further statements on the matter. - Mkini

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