Court rules against placing Gatco settlers under behavioural bond

Gatco settlers’ committee secretary John Cantius leaves court with fellow settlers.

BAHAU: An order to place 30 Gatco settlers under behavioural bond to prevent them from protecting rubber trees they had planted about 40 years ago has been struck out.

Magistrate Mohd Redza Azhar Razali ruled the action did not comply with the required procedure and law.

This was after the 30 Gatco settlers were summoned to the Magistrate’s Court here in Negeri Sembilan for attempting to stop Thamarai Holdings Sdn Bhd from chopping down the trees.

The settlers, who are between 40 and 70 years old, are among those who were arrested on two separate occasions and consecutively released in July.

Twenty-eight settlers were arrested on July 18 and released on bail the next day, while another 30 were arrested on July 24 and also released the following day.

The settlers were placed under a behavioural bond under Section 67 of the Criminal Procedure Code which restricts an individual for the purpose of keeping the peace.

The decision today was made after the settler’s lawyer S Karthigesan had pointed out that an inquiry under the law would be void since the proper procedure was not followed.
“The judge had initially wanted an inquiry into the matter until I had brought up that the action did not comply with the required procedure,” Karthigesan told FMT.


PSM central committee member S Arutchelvan meanwhile said imposing such a bond would create a precedent for developers to trample on the rights of the people without going through civil cases and the normal court procedure.

“This is a preventive law that is being used by police to silence the settlers before even finding them guilty of an offence,” he said to FMT.

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 and 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.