Police suppression of rights of Gatco settlers

IT was an abuse of police power to detain a bus yesterday carrying a group of 40 settlers from Kampung Gatco, Sertling Ilir, Jempol, who were on their way to meet the Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar Aminuddin Harun.

This was when the Negri Sembilan state assembly was in session.

The bus and its passengers were escorted back by the police to their Kampung Gatco.

The arrest was uncalled for.

Later some of the settlers who came in their own transport were able to meet Aminuddin along with some members of Parti Sosialias Malaysia (PSM).

Aminuddin was kind enough to give an appointment to meet the committee members of the settlers at a date to be fixed.

It is strange that Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob talks about Malaysians being one family yet the police force wants to adopt harsh tactics to disperse fellow Malaysians who want to meet their elected representative to resolve a land dispute.

Moreover, this group of settlers have been ardent supporters of the opposition parties such as DAP and PKR long before Pakatan Harapan was formed.

The BN administration betrayed the settlers and when PH won Negeri Sembilan in 2018, they thought that their woes would be finally over.

They were mistaken – the land dispute is still dragging on with no end in sight.

Having exhausted all other avenues including court, they have no choice but to turn to Aminuddin to solve their more than 40-year-old problem.

The need for political will is more pressing than ever.

The settlers and their families are asking for a 3.2ha piece of land that was promised.

It is reduction from the earlier promise of 1.6ha, which is unacceptable to some.

While some settlers loyal to BN have readily accepted the offer, this batch of the pioneer settlers want what they were promised by the now defunct Gatco and affirmed by the court.

Some segments are disputing whether the settlers have any rights at all.

To me this is the greatest betrayal of the settlers of Kampung  Gatco.

This is the reason why the settlers backed by years of struggle and sacrifice want to meet Aminuddin to pour their grievances.

They want an amicable settlement to their cause.

They are tired and unhappy that there is no political will from the government they support to resolve the matter.

Some are asking whether they have to wait for another four decades to settle their dispute.

Where is Keluarga Malaysia?

Where is kindness and compassion?

They believe that Aminuddin is in a better position to understand and settle their four-decades old problem.

Why should the police jump in to detain the bus they were in?

Did the police think the old settlers had terrorist inclinations?

Do we live in an authoritarian state that there is such a huge gap between the people and the elected representatives?

The duty of the police is to maintain law and order, not to turn away those who wish to see their elected representatives.

I will be writing to the inspector-general of police about the conduct of the police force in harassing and intimidating the setters to the extent of escorting them back to their homes as though they were common criminals.

I am glad Aminuddin not only met the remaining settlers but agreed to meet the committee later.

This augurs well for the eventual settlement of the land dispute.

As far as I am concerned, nothing is settled until everything is settled in the Kampung Gatco land matter.

I must thank PSM, in particular S. Arutchelvan, who has been assisting the settlers for a long time.

PSM is doing an excellent job in the fight for justice for the working class.

PSM is making a difference in the lives of the downtrodden working class.

For the party, it is not about power or position, it is about the struggle against injustice and exploitation of people. – December 1, 2021

* P. Ramasamy is Penang deputy chief minister II. 

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