In June 1997 James Foong, then of the High Court, ruled in favour of three residents affected by the Bakun dam, ordered the project developer Ekran Bhd to suspend work on the dam in Sarawak state until it complied with Malaysia's Environmental Quality Act 1974. He ruled as invalid an order by Malaysia's Minister for Science, Technology and Environment Law Hieng Ding that delegated powers to Sarawak state authorities to approve the project's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The order had deprived the residents of their right to give their views before the EIA was approved, he said.
"This court shall not stand idly by to witness such injustice especially when the plaintiffs have turned to this institution to seek redress," Judge Foong said in a 44-page judgement. The suit was brought by Tahu Lujah, 70, Saran Emu, 48, and Kajing Tubek, 39, who had wanted EIA reports to be made available to them for their views. (Source:Malaysia's High Court issues ruling against Bakun dam ,AFP,19 June 1996 )
The principal defendants in the matter were the Governments of the Federation of Malaysia and the State of Sarawak.They took the matter on appeal to the Court of Appeal.
On February 17 1997 the Court of Appeal comprising Gopal Sri Ram the then Datuk Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim and Datuk Mokhtar Sidin, ruled to allow their appeal.
Their reasons included: "In particular he (James Foong) did not have sufficient regard for public interest. Additionally he did not consider the interests of justice from the point of view of both the appellants and respondents." (Source:Grounds for allowing appeal in Bakun case ,K. Kabilan , 30 April 1997 ,The New Straits Times)