Ramasamy: Detention of Gatco settlers uncalled for, abuse of police power

THE detention of the settlers from Kampung Serampang Indah – better known as Kampung Gatco – who were on the way to meet Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Aminuddin Harun was an abuse of police power and was uncalled for, said Penang Deputy Chief Minister II Prof Dr Ramasamy Palanisamy. 

The Perai assemblyman was referring to the 40 Kampung Gatco settlers who were stopped and escorted home by the police while on a bus heading to meet with the Mentri Besar on Tuesday (Nov 30). 

Some of the settlers who came with their own transport were able to meet with Aminuddin in the presence of some members of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM). 

“It is strange that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob talks about Malaysians being one family, yet the police had adopted adopt harsh tactics to disperse fellow Malaysians who want to meet their elected representative to resolve their land dispute,” Ramasamy remarked. 

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

According to Ramasamy, the Barisan Nasional (BN) Government had betrayed the settlers and when Pakatan Harapan (PH) won state power in Negri Sembilan in 2018, the settlers had thought their woes to be finally over. 

“They were mistaken and the land dispute dragged on with no end in sight, and having exhausted all other avenues, the settlers had no choice but to turn to Aminuddin to solve their more-than-four-decades-old problem.” 

 The Gatco ordeal  

Gatco stands for The Great Alonioners Trading Corporation Bhd, a company incorporated in 1977 by the National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW) to facilitate a land development scheme for its members. 

According to a report by Malaysiakini, the settlement originally covered 4,700 acres of land and was awarded by the Negri Sembilan state government after a deal between NUPW Secretary-General PP Narayanan and Isa Samad, who was chief minister of the state then. 

NUPW mobilised its members from all over the country with each settler having to pay RM7,600 to participate in this scheme.  

Each family was provided with one acre of land for housing, ten acres for planting sugar cane, and was given a 66-year lease. 

Of the total 430 settlers who moved into Kampung Gatco, 280 were Indians, 120 Malays, and 30 Chinese.  

However, continuous mismanagement had plunged Gatco into debt and it was declared bankrupt in 1983.  

Malaysiakini further reported that Gatco had failed to settle its loans with the Bank of Commerce (now called CIMB) and the land was subsequently surrendered to Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Berhad before liquidators Singam and Yong took over in 1996. 

In 2015, it was reported that 170 villagers had received land titles from then Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan after the state government managed to “convince” Thamarai to give 1,206 acres to the Kampung Gatco folk. 

Thamarai Holdings Sdn Bhd is the oil palm and rubber plantation company that had bought over the land from Gatco. 

Each villager received four acres of land, half of what they were initially promised by Gatco, with more than a hundred other villagers refusing to accept the offer. 

“The need for political will is more pressing than ever. The settlers and their families are asking for an eight-acre piece of land that was promised to them, which is already a reduction from the earlier promise of ten acres,” Ramasamy pointed out. 

“What is not acceptable to them is the offer of four acres by the state government. While some of the settlers who were loyal to the BN have readily accepted the four acres, this batch of the pioneer settlers want at least 8 acres, promised by the now defunct Gatco and affirmed by an earlier court decision. 

“They also don’t understand why there is this offer of sale of two acres to settlers who might be the relatives of the earlier settlers when the problem of land allocation has not been settled. 

“The settlers only want what was promised in the land settlement agreement and what was affirmed by the court, although some segments are disputing whether the settlers have any rights whatsoever.” 

“To me this is the greatest betrayal of the settlers of Kampung  Gatco, and this is the reason why the settlers – backed by years of struggle and sacrifice – had wanted to meet Aminuddin to air their grievances.  

“They are tired and unhappy that there is no political will on the part of the government they support to amicably 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 the kindness and compassion?” 

Questioning the authorities’ move to detain the bus carrying the settlers, Ramasamy went on to demand if the police think that the old settlers have terrorist inclinations, or if Malaysia is an authoritarian state where there is a huge gap between the people and those they had elected. 

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

“I will be writing to the Inspector General of the Police about the conduct of the police force in harassing and intimidating the setters to the extent they were escorted back to their homes as though they were common criminals. 

“I am glad that Aminuddin not only met the remaining settlers but agreed to meet their committee later as 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.” – Dec 1, 2021 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *