Friday February 8, 2013
Firm looking at out-of-court options with Betong natives over NCR claim
KUCHING: Plantation firm THP Saribas Sdn Bhd is studying options for an out-of-court settlement with more than 100 natives from three groups who have sued the company for allegedly encroaching into their native customary rights (NCR) land in Betong Division.
The offer for the settlement via an outright purchase of the rights of the said natives over their claimed areas was conveyed by their lawyers to the company recently.
THP Saribas, which is an 80%-owned subsidiary of TH Plantations Bhd, is eyeing the options of purchasing the plaintiffs’ rights over the land or arranging for a joint venture arrangement with them over the affected areas.
The three groups had filed their cases separately — two in Sri Aman High Court and one in the Kuching High Court. THP Saribas was served the summons in 2010, 2011 and last year respectively.
The groups also named the state government and the superintendent of the Land and Survey Department as defendants in their suits.
In the first case filed in the High Court here, Nyamai Guang and two others from Kampung Rumah Rengan, Selambong Rumah Anau and Rumah Lukun in Saratok, Betong, had sought a prohibitory injunction restricting THP Saribas and/or their employees, servants or agents from trespassing, clearing or occupying their NCR land.
The case, which was up for mention yesterday, had been adjourned to Feb 21, TH Plantations told Bursa Malaysia.
In the second case, Anges Dawong Gerang and 69 others sought for a declaration that they were owners of the 712.2ha NCR land located within the provisional lease for plantation project issued to THP Saribas.
In the third case filed by Antah Ujeh, Gasal Degom, Guyong Renong, Sanggat Enggie and 32 others, they have sought for a court declaration that they were the owners of 222ha NCR land within the provisional lease.
The said provisional lease, which is about 2,600ha in size, was registered under Kenyalang Resources Sdn Bhd, which was renamed THP Saribas upon the acquisition of 80% stake in the company by TH Plantations.
According to TH Plantations, the Sri Aman High Court has ordered all three litigation cases to be consolidated and tried jointly as all were over areas with the provisional lease and also that the areas claimed by the three groups overlapped with one another.
The total claims under all three cases encompassing the affected provisional lease is 934.2ha out of THP Saribas’s total of 10,390ha.
While the out-of-court settlement proposals are being studied, TH Plantations said the court proceedings would continue.
THP Saribas has invested more than RM82mil to develop the areas within the provisional lease into an oil palm estate.
Meanwhile, TH Plantations will seek its shareholders’ approval for the proposed acquisition of Sarawak-based plantation companies — Bumi Suria Ventures Sdn Bhd and Maju Warisanmas Sdn Bhd — for a total of RM254.59mil during an extraordinary general meeting on Feb 20.
The two companies collectively own 6,513.8ha of land, of which 5,424ha is planted with oil palms.
TH Plantations will buy Bumi Suria Ventures from Weida (M) Bhd and other vendors for RM212.5mil, and Maju Warisanmas also from Weida for RM42.08mil.
With the acquisition, TH Plantations will increase its landbank to 97,592ha.