Kuantan Church Gets Leave To Challenge Land Acquisition

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Frs. Mitchel, Simon and Surin with part of the crowd

The High Court, Kuantan this morning allowed the Kuala Lumpur Archbishop to challenge the acquisition of part of the Church land now occupied by the St Thomas School, Kuantan.

The Archbishop filed his application for leave for judicial review on 3 September 2012 to inter alia quash the decision to acquire part of the Church land.

The Archbishop also seeks various declarations that the acquisition is in contravention of Articles 3 and 11 of the Federal Constitution that protects and guarantees freedom of religion.

Justice Marianna Yahya in her oral decision did not consider the earlier preliminary objection of the government that the application was premature but instead held that the Archbishop’s application for leave was not frivolous. Justice Marianna also allowed by consent of the parties a stay of the acquisition process pending a full hearing of the judicial review. The full hearing is now scheduled on 11 January 2013.

Notice to acquire part of the land was given on 11 June 2012. Prior to the notice, the government had in 2006 already concluded that all the schools in that area will be relocated. The Archbishop had in 2008 given the government notice to quit and to re-deliver the land back by 31 December 2012.

Crowds exceeding over 300 gathered inside and outside the court room anxiously waiting for the decision. They broke out into great applause on hearing of the success of the Archbishop’s application. Dato’ Bastian Vendargon, counsel for the Archbishop briefed the crowd while Fr. Mitchel Anthony, parish priest of the Church of St. Thomas, Kuantan thanked the crowd for their support. Fr. Mitchel also remarked that the presence of the crowd is a reflection of their faith as we journey in this Year of the Faith.

Prior to the decision, those outside the Court room were reciting the rosary. The Archbishop was represented by Dato’ Bastian Vendargon and Benedict Wong. The government was represented by Puan Ida Adhha from the Attorney General’s Chambers.

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