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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

28 Gatco settlers arrested over blockade

The settlers were trying to stop Thamrai Holdings Sdn Bhd from entering the village and cutting down the rubber trees there.

PETALING JAYA: Twenty-eight settlers including 10 women have been arrested for attempting to stop a company from cutting down rubber trees at a village in Bahau, Negeri Sembilan.
Great Alonioners Trading Corporation Bhd (Gatco) settlers had apparently set up a blockade preventing Thamrai Holdings Sdn Bhd from entering their village.
Other Gatco settlers are worried as the lock-up in which the arrested settlers have been held at the Ayer Itam police station is headed by a sergeant whom they claim had “verbally harassed” some of the women settlers in 2015.
This was when the settlers allegedly attempted to trespass into land that was being cleared by the authorities.
Speaking to FMT, Negeri Sembilan PSM chief R Gandhi said the unofficial word is that the settlers are being transferred to the Bandar Bari Seri Jempol police station. However, there has not been any official statement yet, so they could still be in Ayer Itam.
“The settlers are worried. The arrested settlers say they are being transferred to Bandar Baru Seri Jempol but there’s nothing official yet,” he said.
Ghandi also claimed that the majority of those arrested were senior citizens.
The blockade came about following an issue that has been raging since 1977, when 400 former plantation workers paid deposits for their plots on the 4,700 acres then owned by Gatco, which subsequently went bankrupt.
The settlers’ legal battle began in 2013 when they sued the two liquidators – K Jayapalasingam and Yong Yoon Shing – and Thamrai 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 owns 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.
Despite the company being wound up, the appointed liquidators sold the land in 2006. Thamarai bought the land.
The 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 dismissing their lawsuit claiming disputed land.
Speaking to FMT, one of the settlers, John Cantious, claimed the police were taking sides in the issue as Thamrai had no legal right to cut down any of the trees since the case was ongoing.
“The appeal hearing will be in September. Why are the police arresting us when we are only trying to stop this company from doing something illegal? Before settling the case they cannot enter the land.
“We want the police to stop them from taking out the rubber wood because the case is still ongoing.
“It is the settlers who planted the rubber trees and looked after them until today,” he said.
He also claimed the police had warned the other settlers not to continue with the demonstration or stern action would be taken.
“The police have threatened us, telling us that if we continue this protest then they will arrest more of us.” -FMT

1 comment:

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