30 Kampung Gatco settlers arrested for blocking lorries transporting logs

isu-tanah-gatco-1KUALA LUMPUR: Settlers from the Kampung Great Alonioners Trading Corporation Bhd (Gatco) in Bahau are not letting up on stopping Thamarai Holdings Sdn Bhd from chopping down the rubber trees planted about 40 years ago.

Yesterday, about 30 settlers, comprising 14 men and 16 women, gathered around 2.15pm and formed a human blockade to prevent lorries from transporting rubber logs from Kampung Gatco.

K. Krishnan, 68, who was one of those present, said there were five lorries loaded with logs, and that they stood in front of the lorries to block them.

“We wanted to stop them from taking the logs out,” he said at the KL court complex here today.

Krishnan said they were told by police not to block the road as it was a public road, and that if they did so, police would arrest them.

“But we argued and said that it is a village road, and we are residents so we have the right to be on the road.

“The outsiders are actually the lorries and the workers,” he said.

K. Krishnan, 68, one of the Kampung Gatco settlers arrested yesterday.
K. Krishnan, 68, one of the Kampung Gatco settlers arrested yesterday.

Krishnan said all of them were arrested and taken to the Air Hitam police station, before being transferred to the Jempol district police headquarters.

They were released last night on police bail, and have been asked to appear in court on August 1.

The settlers had gathered at the court complex today for the hearing of their case before Justice Hue Siew Kheng, but they were subsequently informed the case had been rescheduled for hearing proper on August 15.

The settlers have maintained that the company’s move to chop down the trees was illegal as the courts had yet to make a final decision on the matter.

Meanwhile, Suaram Malaysia executive director Sevan Doraisamy said they would be submitting a memorandum to the Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar on Thursday to complain about the failure and inability of the Jempol district police chief and the Negri Sembilan police chief to handle the Kampung Gatco settlers case in a fair and impartial manner.

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

The appointed liquidators sold the land in 2006. Thamarai then bought the land.

A 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 ruled in favour of the liquidators and the company.

In November last year, the settlers filed an appeal against the High Court’s dismissal of their lawsuit.