April 9, 2011
By Priscilla Watson
(The story appears in Free Malaysia Today)
BINTULU: Some 640 villagers from Kuala Nyalau and Ulu Nyalau here were awarded RM66.75 million by the Bintulu High Court, bringing to an end a 13-year-long legal battle between them and the state government.
Deputy Registrar of the Miri High Court, Musyiri Peet, arrived yesterday in Bintulu to deliver the ruling in the High Court here.
He also ordered the state government to pay RM200,000 cost and imposed an 8% interest rate per annum effective from 1998 until 2011.
Musyiri, in assessing the damages before awarding the amount to the villagers, said he had taken into consideration various factors like not all teak trees were growing well and that they were not matured yet for harvesting. A legal officer from state attorney-general’s office was also present when the judgment was read out.
Villagers Amit Salleh, BakDrahman, Sapuan Abdullah and Chapon anak Banyai, on behalf of 636 other villagers, had sued the superindent of the Land and Survey Department, Bintulu, the Minister of Planning and Resource Management and the state government of Sarawak for seizing their land.
In their statement of claim, the villagers claimed the government had expropriated 3,022 acres of native customary rights (NCR) land in 1998 for the purpose of constructing an aluminum smelter plant.
The villagers said they were given an alternative site located in Tanjong Panyung, which was swampy and unsuitable for planting.
The villagers were seeking damages of RM101,932,180 being the loss of profit and income purportedly derived from the 713,390 teak trees and 3,000 plus sendang trees which they had planted on the site prior to the seizure by the state.
They won the case in the Bintulu High Court presided by Justice Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim.
Dissatisfied with the judgment, the government had appealed the matter before the Appellate Court.
The Appellate Court, however, upheld the High Court’s ruling.
Still disgruntled, the government further appealed the case before Federal Court, but the judgment remained at status quo.