Gatco settlers to head to Federal Court over auctioned land

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PETALING JAYA: Former Kampung Gatco settlers will file an appeal at the Federal Court to reverse a Court of Appeal ruling made in favour of Thamarai Holdings Sdn Bhd, lawyer R Kenghadharan said.

“We will file the leave to appeal application soon, although we have a 30-day deadline following yesterday’s decision,” the counsel appearing for 140 settlers told FMT.

Kenghadharan said he would also proceed to file a stay order of the Court of Appeal ruling pending the outcome of the Federal Court decision on the leave application.

“This is to stop Thamarai from interfering with the land,” he said.

A three-man bench, chaired by Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat yesterday unanimously dismissed the settlers appeal and ordered the settlers to pay RM20,000 in costs.

Last year the High Court dismissed the suit filed by the settlers only on questions of law, which resulted in no trial being held.

The settlers want the court to call witnesses to be examined and cross- examined before a ruling is made.

Although they lost in the High Court, the settlers managed to get a stay pending the disposal of their appeal in the Court of Appeal.

That order prevented the developers from gaining access to the land and conducting land clearing.

The settlers’ legal battle began in 2012 when they sued the two liquidators – K Jayapalasingam and Yong Yoon Shing – and Thamarai over the land.

In their suit, the settlers asked for damages and other relief deemed fit by the court over the sale of the 4,600 acre property in Bahau, Negeri Sembilan, for a mere RM16 million in 2004.

Government and private valuers have estimated the property to be worth RM500 million now.

The issue gained prominence recently when the Malaysan Anti-Corruption Commission made several arrests, including of two brothers who carried “Datuk” titles.

They are also chief executives of two companies in a family-run business group, connected to the land deal.

A former bank officer and a liquidator, with detailed knowledge of the deal, were also arrested.

The land was leased in 1977 by the Negeri Sembilan State Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) to Great Alonioners Trading Corporation Bhd (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 but 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 to Thamarai.