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Court Dismisses Appeal By 372 Felda Settlers

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PUTRAJAYA – Three-hundred and seventy two Felda settlers not only lost their appeal over their civil suit on oil palm extraction grade today, but they would also have to pay a total of RM472,000 in costs to Felda and Felda Palm Industries Sdn Bhd.

On June 27, 2015, the High Court in Seremban had ordered the settlers, from Serting Hilir and Raja Alias land schemes in Negeri Sembilan, to pay costs of RM1,000 each after the High Court dismissed their civil suit.

Today, a three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, chaired by Justice Datuk Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, unanimously dismissed the settlers’ appeal and ordered them to pay a global sum of RM100,000 in costs.

The court granted RM100,000 in costs after lawyer Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun, representing Felda and Felda Palm Industries, requested for the amount on the grounds that the hearing of the appeal took three days and there were complex issues involved, as well as voluminous documents.

Lawyer R. Sivarasa, representing the settlers, however, asked for a lower amount of RM10,000 in costs, saying that it was not a full day hearing.

The 29-page judgement was delivered by Justice Datuk Zamani A. Rahim, another judge presiding on the panel. The third judge was Justice Puan Sri Zaleha Yusof.

In his decision, Justice Zamani said that there was no appealable error committed by the then High Court judge Datuk Zabariah Mohd Yusof (now Court of Appeal judge) warranting the appellate court’s intervention.

In affirming the High Court’s decision, Justice Zamani said they agreed with the trial judge that the issues raised by the settlers’ counsel did not have merits.

Initially, there were 766 plaintiffs in the civil suit, but the number decreased to 372 as some of them withdrew from the civil suit and some had died.

The settlers filed the RM200 million civil suit on Aug 9, 2010 alleging that they were underpaid with lower grade rate when the extraction of oil palm fruits were of superior quality.

They claimed that there was fraud in the rates of oil extraction grades between 1995 until Sept 1998, before the direct purchase system was introduced.

About 30 settlers turn up in court today to hear the court’s verdict.

After the decision, Sivarasa said he would study the grounds of judgment before deciding on whether to take the matter up to the Federal Court. – BERNAMA

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