Monday, January 10, 2011

CLASS TUTORIALS - 2 [ we have gone through this in class before]

About nine months ago, some twenty farming families had their crops destroyed and livelihood deprived when they were forcefully evicted from their farms which they had occupied and toiled for the past 50 years. The affected farms occupied an area of agricultural land measuring some 20 hectares. Each farming family occupied about one hectare of land. The land is situated along Batu 9, Jalan Merbuk in the district of Gong Badok, Kelantan. The raid was conducted by some officials and staff from the local Land Office with the aid of some police officers.

The affected land was quickly cleared for a housing project for the rich. The project is undertaken by a government-linked company.

The affected farmers stay nearby in Kampung Gajah. The village headman, Mr. K, informed the press that the affected farmers suffered a combined estimated loss of some RM150,000 arising from the crops and properties destroyed.

During the raid, there was a tense standoff between the affected farmers and the raiding party. The farmers tried to negotiate with the Land Office officials, but the officials concerned were in no mood to compromise. They moved in quickly by force. They destroyed everything including shelters and farm equipments. Also present in the raiding party were some heavily armed policemen. They threatened the farmers with arrest and detention if they resisted. The village headman, Mr. K, was taken into custody during the raid when he interfered with the demolition work.

According to Mr. K, prior to the ugly incident, a huge notice board was erected at the affected land notifying the farmers of the need to move out of the land quickly. This happened a couple of months before the raiding party descended on the farms.

Prior to the demolition, the Land Office, as usual, collected the Temporary Occupation Licence (TOL) renewal fee from the affected farmers. But they were told to wait for the approval because their applications for renewal were pending consideration by the relevant authority.

The plight of the farmers began some two decades ago when there were occasional rumours about acquisition of the land concerned. Worried about the loss of livelihood and the little piece of land where each toiled for his daily livelihood, the farmers’ representatives began visiting the Land Office and also meeting with their elected representatives. Each time they were told to wait and be patient. But they did not give up. They continued the process of engaging the relevant authorities from time to time lest they forgot about their plight. Over the years, the affected farmers had, through their village headman, applied several times for land titles or at least long leases with the knowledge and support of their elected representatives. Election after election, they were told and reminded to vote for the Barisan Nasional component parties’ candidates, which they faithfully complied, on the promise that their plight would be looked into and resolved. But the promises remained unfulfilled.

After the eviction, the affected farmers desperately pleaded with the authorities, including their elected representatives, to be relocated to any site nearby in the district where they could continue to earn their livelihood as farmers. Unfortunately, their pleas fell on deaf ears. Nearly all the affected farmers are jobless after the eviction.

Frustrated with the fruitless process of engaging the authorities and fully aware of the total lack of commitment and sincerity on the part of the authorities concerned, the affected farmers turned to the High Court and commenced a class action against the Land Office and the State Government in tort and trespass and also for breach of promises. They also claim damages for loss of livelihood as well as any other appropriate consequential relief. Also included in the application is a prayer for an order to be issued to the State Government to relocate the affected farmers to a suitable piece of land in the district where they reside so that they can continue to earn their living as farmers.

The State Legal Adviser applied to the court to strike out the application of the affected farmers on the ground that it has no basis in law. This is because TOL licensees acquire no interest whatsoever in the land they occupy. They must gracefully leave the land they occupy once the licence expires. He also seriously doubted whether the applicants have any locus standi to bring their dispute with the Land Office to the High Court.

Advise the affected farmers accordingly.

(30 markah/marks)

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