KUCHING: The Federal Court here today overturned the High Court decision ordering rectification of title to exclude native customary rights (NCR) land from provisional leases given by the state government to plantation companies.
The five-man bench led by Chief Justice of Malaya Mohd Raus Shariff, unanimously upheld the appeal of Land Consolidation and Development Authority (LCDA), oil palm plantations companies TH Pelita Sadong Sdn Bhd and TH Pelita Gedong Sdn Bhd, the state government and RHB Islamic Bank Bhd, against the 2014 decision of the High Court ordering that NCR land belonging to residents of Kampung Lebor in Gedong to be excised from the provisional leases the state government had given to the plantation companies.
The Federal Court also set aside the High Court order to the Land and Survey Department to rectify the title registry and pay for damages and ordered that the landowners be compensated for the loss of their land and the quantum to be decided by the Court of Inquiry.
LCDA and the state government had argued that section 132 of the Sarawak Land Code protected the indefeasibility of the lease title even if it is shown that NCR had been created over the land they had alienated.
The court ordered the state government and the superintendent of the Land and Survey Department, Samarahan division, to pay the compensation.
The other judges were justices Suriyadi Halim Omar, Zainun Ali, Balia Yusof Wahi and Jeffrey Tan.
In the ruling, which was delivered by deputy registrar of the Federal Court, Edwin Paramjothy Michael Muniandy, Raus said the Court of Appeal had not adequately considered that the disputed three parcels of land were later converted to leased state land.
“The effect of this conversion is that the disputed lands are no longer provisional leases but a lease proper and are entitled to the protection of section 132 of the Sarawak Land Code.
“Section 132 of the Sarawak Land Code pertaining to indefeasibility of titles remains applicable even if it could be shown that NCR had been created.”
Tuai Rumah Nyutan Jami and two other landowners, Gangak Guma and Langa Kama, filed the suit in 1997 after the plantation companies entered the three parcels of land and began clearing works for oil palm.
The provisional leases were issued in 1996.