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IPOH, Dec 22 — It was worth the long wait for 78 Orang Asli from the Jakun tribe in three villages in Kota Tinggi, Johor, when the High Court here today ruled in their favour.
High Court judge Datuk Samsudin Hasan, who presided the case at the Johor High Court prior to his transfer here, ruled that the Orang Asli and the Linggui Valley Orang Asli (Jakuns) Trust should be compensated and ordered them to be paid RM37 million.
The amount included RM5 million in exemplary damages and RM1 million in cost required to be paid by the defendants to the plaintiffs and the court.
Samsudin made the ruling after finding the defendants — former lawyer S. Kanawagi, his son K.Dinesh, two tok batin (Orang Asli chiefs), Tok Adong Kuwau and Daud Kadir, now deceased, and the legal firm of Messrs. Khana & Co, had misappropriated the fund belonging to the plaintiffs.
On June 5, 2000, the Johor Bahru High Court had ordered the Johor government to pay RM38,554,111.92 in compensation to the Orang Asli for land involved in the construction of the Linggui Dam.
The court ordered the money to be handed over to Messrs Khana & Co to be paid to the Orang Asli after deducting the legal cost for consultation and other expenses in the filing of the suit.
However, the plaintiffs were not aware of the court order until 2004 when their attempts to get the legal firm to return the money were futile, resulting in them to appoint a lawyer in 2009 to file an application for the return of the money.
In the judgment, Samsudin said the defendants, as the trustees, had abused and misappropriated the money.
He said the court found that the defendants had used the money, among others, for purchase of 27 apartments, costing RM20.7 million, in Kuala Lumpur under Kanawagi’s name.
The apartments were leased out, and the proceeds were used to 30 apartments under Dinesh’s name.
All the 57 apartments were ordered to be returned to Linggui Valley Orang Asli (Jakuns) Trust.
The Orang Asli were represented by lawyer G. Ragumaren, while lawyer Shopna Rani represented the defendants. — Bernama