Ramasamy: Detention of Gatco settlers was an abuse of power by police

Penang Deputy Chief Minister P Ramasamy has blasted the treatment of around 40 settlers from Kampung Serampang Indah, better known as Kampung Gatco, who were stopped and escorted home by the police while on a bus heading to meet Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Aminuddin Harun yesterday morning.

“It was an abuse of police power to detain the bus. It was an uncalled-for arrest by the police in Negeri Sembilan.

“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 wanted to meet their elected representative to resolve their land dispute,” Ramasamy said in a statement.

The incident took place as the bus arrived at Paroi, Seremban, around 10.30am.ADS

The group initially planned to arrive at the Negeri Sembilan state legislative assembly at 11am to submit a memorandum on the settlers’ land issue to the menteri besar.

Ramasamy said that later in the day, some of the settlers who came on their own transport were able to meet Aminuddin in the presence of 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.

“Where is Keluarga Malaysia? Where are kindness and compassion?

“Why should the police jump in to detain the bus carrying them? Do the police think that the old settlers have terrorist inclinations?

“Do we live in an authoritarian state that there is such a huge gap between the people and those elected by them?” Ramasamy asked.

Penang Deputy Chief Minister P Ramasamy

He said that the duty of the police is to maintain law and order, not to turn away those who come to see their elected representatives, adding that he will be writing to the inspector-general of police about the conduct of the police force in harassing and intimidating the setters.

“I am glad that Aminuddin not only met the remaining settlers but agreed to meet their committee later. This augurs well for the eventual settlement of the land dispute,” Ramasamy said.

Long-standing land dispute

The settlers wished to meet with Aminuddin over a long-standing land dispute.

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.

The settlement originally covered 4,700 acres of land and was awarded by the Negeri Sembilan state government after a deal between then NUPW general- secretary 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, 10 acres for planting sugar cane, with a 66-year lease on the land.

Out of the total 430 settlers who moved into Kampung Gatco, 280 were Indians, 120 Malays, and 30 Chinese. It is a rural location, just 60km south of the Pahang border. The nearest town is Bahau in the Jempol district, which is 40km away.

However, continuous mismanagement plunged Gatco into debt and it was declared bankrupt in 1983. Gatco failed to settle its loans with the Bank of Commerce (now called CIMB) and the land was subsequently surrendered to Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Bhd (Danaharta) 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 Mohamad Hasan, after the state government managed to “convince” Thamarai Holdings to give 1,206 acres to the Kampung Gatco folk.

‘The matter is far from settled’

Each villager received four acres of land, half of what they were initially promised by Gatco.

More than 100 other villagers had refused to accept the offer.

Ramasamy said that as far as he is concerned, the matter is far from settled.

“The settlers and their families are asking for an eight-acre piece of land that was promised.

“It is a reduction from the earlier promise of 10 acres.

“What is not acceptable to them is the offer of four acres by the state government.

“The BN administration betrayed the settlers and when Pakatan Harapan won state power in Negeri Sembilan in 2018, they thought that their woes might be finally over.

“They have been mistaken; the land dispute is still dragging on with no end in sight,” he said.

PSM deputy chairperson S Arutchelvan (back to camera) assists the villagers to meet with the Negri Ssembilan menteri besar

Last year, Ramasamy’s DAP colleague, Negeri Sembilan executive councillor for Health, Environment, Cooperatives and Consumerism S Veerappan, had said that following Harapan’s victory, the new state government came to know that the land has been purchased lawfully via public auction by a third party and the land was duly transferred to them.

Veerappan said that the third party had also paid the full purchase price to the liquidator concerned and that it had obtained the best possible deal for the settlers.

Ramasamy said that he felt nothing is settled in the Kampung Gatco land matter.

“I must thank PSM and in particular deputy chairperson S Arutchelvan for assisting the settlers for a long time.

“PSM is doing an excellent grassroots service in the fight for justice among the working class,” he added.

Source: Malaysiakini.com

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