They had issued a stop-work order to the Temiar village of Pos Pasik, Kelantan, as no permission had been granted to build a church there(left).
In the earlier 2007 incident, the Gua Musang local authority had ordered a halt to an Orang Asli church construction, only to be met with court action by the community for unlawfully demolishing their church.
In the case of the Temiar village, the department's deputy director-general Nisra Nisran Asra Ramlan in a letter dated Aug 9, had said that an application to build a church at that location had been rejected and ordered an immediate stop to all construction work.
The letter was in reply to village head Setmen Belungei who on May 20 had written to the JHEOA informing them of their plans for a church there to replace their exisiting one made of bamboo (right).
Half of the villagers had converted to Christianity in recent years.
Orang Asli bare fangs through counsel
However, the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns coordinator Colin Nicholas said that the department's permission was never sought and that the earlier letter was only a notification.
"The Orang Asli are not happy with this answer as they did not seek permission from the JHEOA," he said.
They had merely exercised courtesy to inform them of their plans.
The Orang Asli of Pos Pasik consider it their right to build such a structure on their land, in accordance with the constitution, he added.
Colin (left) said that lawyer Lum Chee Seng representing the Temiar headman had written to the DG on Sept 13 informing him that the department's permission was not being sought.
"He also sought the reasons for the rejection of the church building," he said.
In 2007, the Gua Musang district land office had issued a 'stop work' order to the Orang Asli church construction in that area as it was state land and no prior permission had been sought.
However, this was rebutted by the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship of Malaysia which pointed out to the land office that the site belonged to the villagers.
In spite of this, another 'stop-work' order was issued on April 19, followed by a notice of demolition dated May 24. The bulldozers arrived on June 4.
On July 1, 2007 village head Pedik Busu and three villagers filed a case against the Gua Musang District Council head, the Gua Musang Assistant Land and District Officer and the PAS-led state government.
And in July 2009 the Kota Bharu High Court ruled the demolition as illegal.
Justice Mohd Azlan Hashim ordered the local authority to pay damages and costs because it had acted unlawfully when carrying out the action without giving the required 30-day notice.