Najib urged to intervene in Kampung Gatco dispute

Charles-Santiago-najibKUALA LUMPUR: Don’t close your eyes to the plight of the settlers of Kampung Gatco in Bahau, Klang MP Charles Santiago said in a plea today to the government under Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The DAP lawmaker said the settlers were being treated like criminals.

“They are poor people who gave their time, energy and sweat to develop land which they believe belongs to them.

“The government should at least negotiate and find a fair settlement which will not burden or cause the settlers to lose out,” he said at a media conference in Parliament today.

The tussle for Kampung Gatco began in 2006 after the land was sold by Thamarai Holdings Sdn Bhd.

The land was originally owned by the Negeri Sembilan State Development Corporation (PKNNS) which rented it to farmers.

In 1977, it was leased by the state government through the Negeri Sembilan State Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) to Great Alonioners Trading Corporation Bhd (Gatco), an investment company set up by more than 400 villagers to develop a rubber estate.

The National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW), which owned Gatco, then converted the company into a land scheme model for members, each of whom was required to deposit RM7,600 to work on the land.

The land scheme failed and Gatco had to take loans from two financial institutions.

Gatco was declared bankrupt in 1996, and the land it occupied was bought in 2006 by Thamarai which proceeded to liquidate the company.

However, the settlers who believed they still had rights over the land sued Thamarai in 2013.

Their attempt was rejected by the High Court but the Court of Appeal, in revising the lower court’s decision in 2014, ordered the case to be heard again. But the settlers lost again.

Early this month, several settlers were detained when they tried to obstruct Thamarai-owned timber lorries from leaving the disputed land totalling 4,700 acres.

Santiago said the government should now fulfil its promise to protect the rights and interests of the Indian community when the prime minister launched the Malaysian Indian Blueprint (MIB).

“I appeal to the prime minister to intervene in the Kampung Gatco case. If nothing is done, then it can be assumed that MIB is mere political rhetoric,” he said.