Tell Negeri Sembilan cops to be fair, Gatco settlers urge federal cops

Gatco settler K. Krishnan handing over the memorandum to the Bukit Aman police representative here today.
Gatco settler K. Krishnan handing over the memorandum to the Bukit Aman police representative here today.

KUALA LUMPUR: About 70 Kampung Great Alonioners Trading Corporation Bhd (Gatco) settlers in Bahau, Negeri Sembilan, want Bukit Aman to probe the actions of the Negeri Sembilan police in handling their land conflict with Thamarai Holdings.

The settlers, all dressed in yellow, gathered outside the federal police headquarters about 10.30am today to submit a memorandum to the Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar.

They complained about the failure and inability of the Jempol district police chief and the Negeri Sembilan police chief to handle the settlers’ case in a fair and impartial manner.

They were, however, prevented from going in, with one of the settlers, K Krishnan, 68, eventually handing the memorandum to a police representative, Superintendent A Skandaguru, who handles corporate communications at the police headquarters.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general S. Arutchelvan (right) reading out the key points of the memorandum to the Bukit Aman police representative today.
Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general S. Arutchelvan (right) reading out the key points of the memorandum to the Bukit Aman police representative today.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) central committee member S Arutchelvan said the settlers wanted Bukit Aman police to order the Jempol district and Negeri Sembilan police headquarters to stop abusing their power and to stop intimidating the Gatco settlers.

They also want both entities to act professionally in the matter concerning the Gatco land dispute.

“We want to know why are police so into helping Thamarai Holdings in transporting out chopped rubber trees?

“What is the relationship and why are police interfering in the civil matters of a private company? What interests do the police have here?” he asked today.

Arutchelvan said the job of the police was to secure peace and to urge calm until the court made a decision. He said police action in “continually assisting” Thamarai Holdings only gave the impression that police did not respect the rule of law.

“We also ask the federal police to relook the standard operating procedures when arresting elderly folk, such as the usage of handcuffs and chains,” he said.

On the statement by Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Mohamad Hasan that the Gatco development would proceed, and that the state government would not bow down to any party trying to block development on the estate land, Arutchelvan said the settlers wanted the MB to sit down and have a dialogue with them to resolve the issue.

“If he is an MB for everyone, he should call each settler, sit down and have a dialogue. But he is not doing it.

“He criticised the settlers for taking the matter to court. What can we do? The state government is not helping to resolve the matter, so we have to take it to court,” he said.

Arutchelvan also said the MB had only been talking about replanting but not about the trees that had been chopped down, claiming that RM20 million had been made from that.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) executive director Sevan Doraisamy urged the federal police to call for a meeting to discuss the issue.

“I want an assurance police will call for a meeting. There is a long list of human rights violations. It is your responsibility to look into it and call for a meeting,” he told the police present.

Bukit Aman police keeping a close watch on Gatco settlers outside the police headquarters here today.
Bukit Aman police keeping a close watch on Gatco settlers outside the police headquarters here today.

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.

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.