Kampung Kuala Senta is Ready for Court
Published: 15 May 2015
Bah Tony and Faridah at the filing counter of the Ipoh High Court in Perak.
With a sense of much relief, the expert report on the 'History, Presence and Situation of the Semai-Orang Asli in Kampung Kuala Senta Customary Territory, Perak' was filed in the Ipoh High Court yesterday, Thursday 14 May 2015.
The writing and final editing and then the collation of appendices, and cross-referencing them with the text, were only completed at about 4.30am that morning. Fortunately an enterprising photocopy shop in my area opens at 7am (to cater for the college crowd who tend to be in a similar situation with deadlines) and the 5 copies were printed and bound in good time to allow me to drive the 200km to Ipoh and have it affirmed before a commissioner of oaths at noon.
The Commissioner of Oaths, Mr. Chandra Sekaran, attesting the 5 sets of the 222-page report. Easy income for a retired Telekom employee.
Posing with Bah Tony at the filing counter in the Ipoh High Court. It was actually closed for lunch then!
The lawyer for the Semai plaintiffs, Amani Williams-Hunt, himself a Semai, was in the high court to pick up the copies, which were then given to Faridah Goh to get it finally filed in the system, thereby meeting the deadline set by the judge.
Coming just one month after another similar report was filed in the Kota Baru High Court (for the Pos Belatim court case against the planned Ladang Rakyat project in their customary territies), the writing of this report was not a breeze.
Unlike the other 6 expert reports I have done for Orang Asli court cases so far, that for the Semai of Kampung Senta in Bidor, Perak, had very little direct references to their village in the early literature or the archives. To make matters worse, Kampung Kuala Senta was known by other names in the past, including Kampung Talong and Mangul.
The hearing is set for in a week's time i.e. 21 May 2015 in the Ipoh High court. On the same day, the Kota Baru High Court in Kelantan will give its decision on the judicial review application that was re-heard last month.
This is part of the 116 hectares that the Semai are being told are no longer theirs and which is now in the hands of the corporation.
Basically, the Kampung Senta case differs from the other cases in that the first legal move was made by a private corporation! They claim to have obtained title to part of the Semai's customary lands from the state government and now considered the Orang Asli as trespassers and wanted them to vacate the 113.66 hectares they now consider they own. They had in fact served an eviction notice on the Semai villagers which upset them enough to file a counter-claim last year. For more background to the case, go to this earlier note:http://on.fb.me/1FaKXYE.
Amani (also known as Bah Tony among his people) is the solicitor-on-record. Assisting him are Aaron Matthews and Darmain Segaran of Shook Lin & Bok, and also Dr. S. Yogeswaran, all of whom are doing the case on a pro bono basis.
CN-COAC | 15 May 2015
Photos by Colin Nicholas, Lily Li & Faridah Goh
Meeting with the villagers to get new information and to verify those found in the literature and other documents.
Checking with the batin, the second plaintiff in this case. There are so many variables involved that without understanding the history and context of the settlement, one can easily get facts muddled or misintepreted. So a lot of counter-checking and corroboration is needed. Hence the tediousness of it all.
The village today is very crowded, with the number of new families growing quickly and the customary land slowly shrinking in size.
One of the not-so-old graves close the to residential area. There are also a couple that are within the current housing area.
What attracts the corporation is the availbility of a clean water source. Good enough for drinking and also for producing the new medicinal wonder 'herb', spirulina.
The Gedong River runs right through the customary territory. In 1980, eight Semai villagers were killed in a flash flood upstream of this spot.