Appellate court rules in favour of villagers in landmark case

KUCHING: The Court of Appeal here yesterday ruled in favour of 12 native customary rights land (NCL) owners from Pantu Sri Aman when the appellate court dismissed two appeals submitted by Land Custody Development Authority (LCDA) and three others and the state government respectively.

The NCL claimants were led by one Masa Nangkai and the ruling of the court was read by a Kuching court registrar.

The case was said to be landmark, as the appellate court agreed with High Court Judge Datuk Linton Alberts decision that the NCL claimants (then the plaintiffs) had proven their native customary rights (NCR) over a disputed land in Pantu.

The appellate court also ruled that LCDA and other defendants vacate the disputed land after declaring agreements (including joint venture agreements) that were entered into by LCDA (acting on behalf of the native villagers) were null and void.

The Court injunctions obtained by the appellants against the villagers were also lifted but if the appellants still wished to continue their injunctions, they would have to apply to the Court through a motion.

To the villagers, it had been a rather long wait of over two years from the hearing of the appeals which started on Oct 15, 2012.

They first filed their case in 2005 and won after a long trial at the Sri Aman High Court through a judgment delivered by Linton on Feb 18, 2011. One of the then plaintiffs was the late Ivanhoe Anthony Belon from Rumah Lanyau, Kampong Pantu.

The villagers were represented by counsels Dominique Ng and Dato Sri Daniel Tajem Miri, while the appellants by counsels Arthur Lee (for LCDA and three others) and the State Attorney-Generals Chambers represented the government.