TR Masa case: Disappointment as Federal Court rules in favour of LCDA

Ng (second right) with the Pantu landowners at the Federal Court in Putrajaya today.

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PUTRAJAYA, Nov 7: The Federal Court in Putrajaya has ruled in favour of the Land Custody and Development Authority (LCDA) in the Tuai Rumah Masa Nangkai case where the Dayak landowners will be compensated for the land lost.

A five-judge panel led by Chief Justice Raus Shariff had unanimously ruled in favour of the appeal made by LCDA, its commercial palm oil developing arm Pelita Holdings Sdn Bhd, a joint venture company Tetangga Akrab Pelita (Pantu) Sdn Bhd and the Sarawak government.

The other four judges were Suriyadi Halim Omar, Zainun Ali, Balia Yusof Wahi and Jeffrey Tan.

On Dec 2014, the High Court in Sri Aman had ruled that Tuai Rumah Masa Nangkai and 11 others were entitled to their NCR claim in the Sungai Tenggang NCR development area at Pantu.

The 12 took the case to court on behalf of some 90 other landowners from several villages in Pantu.

Kedayan landowners with pending land cases flew  from Miri to Putrajaya to lend their support to the landowners from Pantu.

In January 2015, the Court of Appeal again ruled in favour of native landowners, but the decision was overturned by the Federal Court in Putrajaya today.

The landowners’ counsel Dominique Ng said he felt truly sorry for the villagers and expressed disappointment over this lawsuit which he described as “a hard fought battle lasting 14 years.”

“But for my clients, this is totally unacceptable. How can their NCR (Native Customary Rights) land case which has been tried and decided after a full trial before a High Court judge can be so easily overturned by a panel of West Malaysian judges who never saw the witnesses or even heard them in court?” asked Ng.

He was also puzzled why the Federal Court rejected all the evidence deemed well founded by the High Court and the Court of Appeal; and accepted all the evidence rejected by the two courts as being reliable.

“What particularly galled Datuk Seri Daniel Tajem my co-counsel was that the joint-venture agreement and the Principal Deed which were void ab initio (Latin for ‘to be treated as invalid from the outset’) could still be declared valid despite so much proof otherwise,” said Ng. — DayakDaily