A piece of NT (Native Title) land at Kepayan fought over in the civil court more than 20 years ago has now become the subject of a dispute among six siblings at the Native Court, here. The plaintiff, a retiree, and one of nine siblings from Kepayan told the court that the land belonged to their late father who once had a business partner known as Hj Izawin but cannot remember the details such as where and what type of agreement was signed by his father.
Later he and his father knew, on checking with the land office, that the land was already sold to a Chinese holding a native certificate. They (father and son) went to see a Kadazan lawyer (who is now a judge) who referred them to his business partner who, in turn, referred them to another lawyer.
The third lawyer opened up the file for RM500 and brought the matter to the High Court.
After one year, the result was in their favour but a portion was awarded to the Chinese buyer leaving them with 0.5 acre. Just after the case was settled, the father died in 1994, hence all the siblings agreed to let the eldest to handle the subdivision or sharing of the land.
This was done verbally without any written agreement where only six of the siblings who had built houses on the land are supposed to be the shareholders. When the siblings met with the eldest who is now the defendant, he informed them that the land is too small to be subdivided.
The plaintiff brought into question that there were two "Jadual 3" (documents issued by the court on ownership of land). The one issued in 1994 showed the defendant was only named as one given the authority ("diberi kuasa") and the second, issued in 1995, named the defendant as inheriting the land. There was no agreement or statutory declaration by the siblings that the defendant is the sole heir of the land. To make matter worse, the defendant had already passed down the land title as inheritance to his two children through the Lands and Surveys Department.
Hence the other siblings felt cheated by their eldest brother and made a police report only in June this year.
When his turn came to be in the dock, the defendant did not answer clearly if he understood and agree or disagree with the plaintiff, so the bench gave him a barrage of questions.
He said there are three long houses on the land for rent which his father managed.
When he died, their mother continued to collect the rent and after she passed on, one of his younger siblings continued.
He said there was agreement from his brothers when he claimed the land and the Native Court kept the copy.
He admitted not knowing anything about the case when the land was bought by the Chinese.
The bench checked the documents and found the land title had changed hand many times, charged to a bank by one Chinese for RM1 million and finally returned to the father in 1993 after undergoing two caveats.
Asked by the court why he did not give a share of the land, the defendant answered clearly that the land is his while the houses belonged to three brothers who are still staying there.
When asked who had worked hard to get the land back, he answered his father and the lawyer.
He added that the father had made a police report on the "cheating" case but the lawyer asked that this be withdrawn in order to get a portion of the land back.
Now the business activities on the land are houses for rent and car wash operated by the brothers who should share the profits, he said.
The defendant did not reply when the bench asked him why he wanted a share of the profits but he did not want to share the land.
Instead he questioned why the land was awarded to him 20 years ago but the same court now entertains another claim.
The bench said there are three documents in the process, "Jadual 1" is where a land claim is lodged, "Jadual 2" is the public notice of the claim and finally the third is when the land is awarded to the claimant.
The first two documents and the statutory declaration by the siblings are not available nor does the defendant have copy, said the court.
The bench consisting of District Chief Bryan Matasing and Native Chiefs Andrew S Lidaun and Woritus Paulus informed that verdict will be passed after the court has investigated further, searching relevant files and records as referred by documents before them.
The court then adjourned the case for one month and the next hearing will be on Sept 28 this year.