Orang Asli Land: Test Case Proceeds

The hearing of a civil suit by 7 Temuans from Bukit Tampoi, Dengkil, Selangor, against the Government and several other authorities began on 18 February in the Shah Alam High Court before Justice Datuk Faiza Thamby Chik. Three lawyers represented the Orang Asli, while a team of 6 lawyers represented the 4 defendants.

The case began with the lawyers discussing and agreeing to the services of a Temuan interpreter and the acceptance of an expert witness for the plaintiffs.

The first plaintiff, Sagong Tasi, 68, took the stand and gave evidence to the effect that his people had always lived in the area, as far back, in his memory at least, to 5 generations (and he listed his ancestors). And that in February 1996, the authorities served him and the others notices of eviction
on a total of 8.3 hectares acquired for the construction of the KLIA highway. His (and the others') fruit trees and commercial crops were summarily destroyed. Compensation for these amounted to RM57,000 and this was received under protest on the advice of the lawyers.

To a question from a defence lawyer whether the compensation of RM57,000 was enough, Sagong replied: "When you are alive, a hundred thousand is not enough. Even a million ringgit is not enough. But when you are dead, even one sen is not worth anything." This baffled the defence lawyers.

However, as the evidence-taking dragged on, Sagong became tired and was merely agreeing to everything the defence lawyers were suggesting. This prompted the plaintiff's lawyer to call for an adjournment, to which the Judge (and the defence lawyers) conceded.

Hearing continues on 13 May 1999.  Several other Orang Asli were in court today as observers.

Colin Nicholas