PUTRAJAYA, April 16 — A total of 140 former Kampung Gatco settlers lost their legal battle in the Federal Court today over a land in Bahau, Negri Sembilan.
This followed a decision by a three-man bench led by Chief Justice Tun Raus Sharif to dismiss the settlers’ application to seek leave to appeal against the appellate court’s ruling which did not rule in favour of them.
Raus said the first legal question posed by the settlers’ counsel related to the High Court’s decision to summarily dispose their lawsuit without full trial.
He said cases can be dismissed after a full trial or without a trial and the judge could make a summary ruling, adding that there was no reason for the case to go for full trial.
Raus said the settlers could not argue that they had proprietary right over the disputed land as the issue had been decided.
Raus who presided with Federal Court judges Datuk Seri Balia Yusof Wahi and Tan Sri Aziah Ali ordered the settlers to pay RM10,000 costs to Gatco’s liquidators K. Jayapalasingam and Yong Yoon Shing and another RM10,000 to Thamarai Holdings Sdn Bhd.
In 1977, the Negri Sembilan State Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) leased the land to Great Alonioners Trading Corporation Bhd (Gatco).
The settlers claimed that they were at all material times National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW) members and in 1977 NUPW incorporated a company called Gatco with its principal objective to undertake a land development scheme to plant sugarcane which was later changed to rubber.
The settlers paid RM7,600 each as deposit before working on the land but the scheme failed and Gatco was forced to take loans from two finance companies.
On November 21, 1996, Gatco was wound up on a petition presented by one M. Karupanan Trading for an alleged debt of RM135,000. Despite the company being wound up, the appointed liquidators sold the land to Thamarai Holdings.
The settlers sued the two liquidators and Thamarai Holdings over the land seeking for damages and other relief deemed fit by the court over the sale of the 4,600 acres of property for RM16 million in 2004.
In 2016, the High Court dismissed the suit filed by the settlers only on questions of law and there was no trial. Last year, the appellate court dismissed the settlers’ appeal. — Bernama