Waythamoorthy: State should help Gatco settlers

waytha 25thPETALING JAYA: Hindraf chairman P Waythamoorthy yesterday criticised the Negeri Sembilan state government for allegedly conspiring with politicians, state authorities and the Lotus Group to cause terror on Gatco estate settlers in Jempol, Negeri Sembilan.

“Seeing things going the way they were going, Menteri Besar Mohamad Hassan could easily have invoked provisions in the Land Acquisition Act and bought the land off the Lotus Group and returned it to the settlers.

“Instead, the state government turns up intervening, for the rich and powerful Lotus group of companies and has become a party to all this terror unleashed upon its people,” said Waythamoorthy.

He urged for the state government to immediately reverse their decisions and to start the process of helping these settlers regain their lands.

The settlers’ representative C John meanwhile declared that “we have had six elections so far where the contesting BN representative would promise us a solution to our land problems each time, but nothing has happened.

“If nothing happens to finally solve our problems before the coming elections, we plan to campaign around the state which has over 14 percent Indian voters and work to throw this government out, once and for all. Who needs a government that does not take care of its people?” he said.

On Nov 29, Rela members were brought into the Gatco estate along with heavy machinery to uproot the rubber trees on the land in dispute, a 4,000-acre land disputed between Syarikat Thamarai (Lotus Group) and the settlers.

There were some scuffling between Rela members and the settlers that went on for two hours. The Rela members were armed with thick batons and went after screaming women and beat male settlers who put up a fight with them.

The 400 settlers had purchased the land in the late 1970s in a land resettlement scheme administered by Gatco corporation. In 1987, the settlers obtained a High Court declaration, after not being satisfied with Gatco for not giving them their land titles.

In 1998 Gatco went bankrupt as a corporation. In 2004 the land was put up for auction. The settlers put up the necessary “Earnest Deposit” money of RM 320,000 for the auction. However they were not allowed to participate in the auction and the land was then auctioned to the Lotus Group of companies for RM16 million.

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