Company seeks damages from Gatco settlers

Lawyer R Kengadharan (black suit) explaining to Gatco settlers (yellow shirts) on the court proceeding today on their suit against Thamarai Holdings and two liquidators.

KUALA LUMPUR: Thamarai Holdings Sdn Bhd, who is embroiled in a long legal battle with Gatco settlers in Negeri Sembilan over their land in Bahau, now wants to seek damages from them.

Thamarai claims the settlers damaged properties on the land and disrupted the company from carrying out its activities there.

Lawyer R Kengadharan, representing 140 settlers in their lawsuit in claiming the disputed land, said that the High Court here had set Sept 7 and 8 to hear the assessment of damages.

“Thamarai is demanding damages from the settlers, claiming they could not carry out activities on the land as they did not have access to the land,” he said, adding that Thamarai did not quantify the damages.

Kengadharan said that the court had directed Thamarai and the settlers to file their witness statements by Sept 1.

The settlers’ legal battle began in 2013 when they sued 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.

Last October, the High Court ruled in favour of the settlers on eight questions of law during the retrial while another two questions of law were in favour of the liquidators and the company.

In November last year, the settlers filed an appeal against the High Court’s decision on the two questions that ruled against their favour.

Kengadharan said that the settlers’ appeal will be heard on Sept 15 at the Court of Appeal.

On July 18, 28 settlers were arrested by police for attempting to stop Thamarai from cutting down rubber trees in their village.

They had also set up a blockade preventing the company from entering their village.

The 28 settlers were freed by the High Court on July 20 after they sought a review of the Magistrates’ order to remand them for three days, from July 19.

On July 24, another 30 settlers were arrested by the police for forming a human blockade to prevent lorries from transporting logs from the village.

They were released the same day.