The Federal Court today ruled that six natives in Sarawak had lost their rights to their Native Customary Rights (NCR) after they had resettled in another area.
A five-man bench chaired by Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria overturned the appellate court decision which had ruled in favour of the six persons from the Kelabits, Lun Bawang and Penan tribes, led by Racha anak Urud @ Peter Racha Urud.
The court’s unanimous judgment was delivered by Federal Court judge Datuk Balia Yusof Wahi who said that they did not plead in their statement of claim that they continued to possess the NCR land and continue to forage on the land after their resettlement.
He said they had resettled in their villages nearly 40 years and they no longer possess the land where the logging activities had commenced 20 years ago before the civil suit was filed.
Justice Balia cited the Bisi Jinggut court case authority where, when once abandoned, whatever NCR land that is created or acquired would have been lost.
The tribes had been resettled in the 1960s and 1970s by the state government to Long Napir and Kampung Bahagia, Limbang from their previous settlements in Upper Limbang.
After their resettlement, the state government issued a forest logging licence in 1985 to Ravenscourt Sdn Bhd and planting licences to Billion Venture and Limba Jaya Timber in 2002.
The panel, which also included Justices Tan Sri Hasan Lah, Tan Sri Abu Samah Nordin and Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed, allowed the appeals brought by timber companies Ravencourt Sdn Bhd, Billion Venture Sdn Bhd and Limba Jaya Timber Sdn Bhd and the director of Forests Sarawak and State Government of Sarawak to set aside the 2013 decision of the appellate court.
The court ordered the respondents to pay cost of RM10,000 to each of the timber companies.
The Federal Court had reinstated the Feb 12, 2012 Kuching High Court’s decision which struck out the claim brought by Racha, Edision John Urud, Jalung Jok, Menit Along, Agung Taie and Wilfred S. Lasong on grounds that they should file their legal action by way of a judicial review and not by way of a writ action.
The High Court had also ruled that there was delay on the part of the six persons in commencing the legal action and there was no explanation by them for the delay.
The six of them claimed the land was part of their NCR land and that they were never consulted by the Sarawak government when timber and planting licences were awarded to those companies.
They further alleged that their sources of food, wild produce, irrigation, medicine, as well as their living space, sacred grounds and recreational grounds were seriously threatened by the encroachment into their land.
They sought a declaration that they had acquired and inherited native title of the NCR for those land, that the awarding of the licences to the companies violated their rights, and that the Sarawak government, in giving the licences, was wrong, unlawful and acted illegally.
Source : @ Bernama