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Malaysia Court restrains Orang Asli (Indigenous People) land dam developers pending outcome of suit

FMT Reporters FREE MALAYSIA TODAY Wed, April 28, 2021

The Orang Asli settlers filed a suit three years ago naming the two companies, the Perak government and Putrajaya as defendants, among others. (Facebook pic)

IPOH: The High Court here has ordered two companies involved in the construction of a hydroelectric dam on ancestral land in Gopeng to stop work pending the disposal of a suit by a group of Orang Asli.

Lawyer Vinu Kamalananthan said Judicial Commissioner G Bhupindar Singh made the order today against Perak Hydro Renewable Energy Corporation Sdn Bhd and Conso Hydro or their agents.

“The application for an interlocutory injunction by the Orang Asli has been allowed pending the outcome of their suit,” he told FMT.

Vinu said the court had fixed three days of hearing from June 28.

Last October, a group of 22 Orang Asli settlers from Ulu Geruntum, Gopeng, filed the injunction against the two companies.

Last October, Bhupindar granted the plaintiffs an ad-interim injunction that would be in force until he heard and decided on the injunction application. And today, he allowed an interlocutory injunction.

An ad-interim injunction is issued pending the actual hearing of the injunction and to maintain the status quo while an interlocutory injunction compels or prevents a party from doing certain acts pending the final determination of the case.

Three years ago, the Orang Asli settlers filed a suit naming the two private companies, the Perak government, the Orang Asli Development Department director-general, the Perak Lands and Mines Department and the federal government as defendants.

The plaintiffs want work on the dam to be stopped as it infringes on the community’s rights to their ancestral land which they claim was cleared without their consent.

The settlers, who are from the Semai tribe, come from six villages in the Ulu Geruntum area, namely Kampung Sungai Kapor, Kampung Sat, Kampung Ulu Kepayang, Kampung Empang Main, Kampung Poh dan Kampung Ulu Geruntum.

The two companies started the project in Sungai Geruntum in 2012.

The Orang Asli said the project had destroyed fruit tree plantations and about 50 ancestral burial grounds without permission from the Semai people in Ulu Geruntum.

They said the water source had also been contaminated.

The plaintiffs added that the state and federal agencies had a fiduciary duty to protect their rights under the Federal Constitution and the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954.

Among the declarations and injunctions sought by the plaintiffs are that they are the legal owners of the ancestral land in Ulu Geruntum and that the defendants have no right to damage or extinguish their land rights.

They are also seeking a court order for the companies to vacate the land immediately and compensate them for the encroachment.

The group also wants the court to order the federal and state governments to compensate them for failing to uphold their fiduciary duties.

In 2019, the High Court dismissed an application by the two companies to strike out the suit.

Then Judicial Commissioner Anselm Charles Fernandis said it would be too drastic for the court to dismiss the suit as there were issues to be tried and determined.

SOURCE – FREE MALAYSIA TODAY, MALAYSIA Wed, April 28, 2021

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