Gatco settlers stand their ground

gatco-1-1-1PETALING JAYA: Several Great Alonioners Trading Corporation Bhd (Gatco) settlers will continue to stop Thamrai Holdings Sdn Bhd from coming into the Gatco village at Bahau, Negeri Sembilan to cut down trees.

This comes despite police arresting 28 settlers yesterday and issuing a warning that more arrests will be made if they do not end their blockade.

FMT has attempted to ascertain how many more settlers are still blocking Thamrai from coming into the village but efforts have proven unsuccessful.

However, one of the settlers, John Cantious, told FMT that the settlers are standing firm as they believe that what the company is doing is illegal.

“We will continue to prevent them from entering even if the police arrest all of us,” he said.

Cantious said the settlers are trying their best to explain to the police that the court case is still ongoing and are claiming that the company therefore has no legal right to take down any of the trees in the 4,700 acre land.

“The case is still pending in the court. If we win the next case then who is going to be responsible for the wood which we planted and took care of?”

The settlers’ legal battle began in 2013 when they sued the two liquidators – K Jayapalasingam and Yong Yoon Shing – and Thamrai over the land.

The land was leased in 1977 by the Negeri Sembilan State Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) to Gatco.

The land was reportedly converted by the National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW), which owns Gatco, into a land scheme for members.

The villagers paid RM7,600 each as deposit before working on the land.

According to the facts of the case, the scheme failed and Gatco was forced to take loans from two finance companies.

A third party served a winding-up petition on Gatco in 1996. It was wound up the same year.

Despite the company being wound up, the appointed liquidators sold the land in 2006. Thamarai bought the land.

The lawsuit by the settlers was struck out by the High Court. The Court of Appeal, in reversing the decision in 2014, ordered the lawsuit to be reinstated.

The High Court then ruled in favour of the liquidators and the company.

In November last year, the settlers filed an appeal against the High Court dismissing their lawsuit claim over the disputed land.

Yesterday, 28 settlers including 10 women were arrested for the blockade at the road leading to the village.

According to Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), the 28 settlers will be held for another three days.

PSM central committee member S Arutchelvan said the remand was completely unnecessary as most of those arrested were senior citizens.

“The police requested for four days remand but were granted three. Three days remand for people who are aged 60 and above is ridiculous,” he told FMT.