KUALA LUMPUR, April 20 — Jalan Sultan landowners have finally received the detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) project after an eight-month long battle.
The landowners told a press conference they finally received copies of the DEIA last Tuesday from MRT project delivery partner (PDP) MMC-Gamuda.
However, they said they needed expert help and were still studying the document as the DEIA was “too difficult” to be understood by laymen.
“We will enlist the help of experts to understand the DEIA, which is quite comprehensive. Once we have studied its contents, we will contact the media,” Lok Ann hotel owner Judy Lam said at a press conference here.
She added she found it strange that, upon reading the report, there was no mention of Jalan Sultan or MRT Corporation within its pages.
The landowners were also quick to point out they had received the DEIA almost one month after the prime minister had issued a directive to the PDP, a delay which they claimed was “cause for suspicion.”
“This is a huge public project, so I don’t see why only now they are giving us this haphazard report,” Gospel Hall representative Jimmy Chock told reporters at a press conference here.
“I am very suspicious why it took them so long to disclose the reports. First thing we heard about this project was the land acquisition notice, not this assessment.”
The landowners present also expressed their concern over the damage that the construction may incur on their property, which Prime Minister Najib Razak has assured will be declared heritage sites.
“Let’s say in the course of tunnelling, any of the buildings collapse and they said that they will make it back. Are they going to build a new building for us, in the same way? I don’t think they are able to do it,” said Khong Kim Lyew, whose building he rents out is almost one hundred years old.
Unhappy landowners along Jalan Sultan and other city locations have mounted a high-profile campaign marked by protests, signature drives and claims that Putrajaya was conducting a “land grab” in order to defray project costs.
The dispute over land acquisition began soon after landowners in Chinatown, Imbi and Bukit Bintang were informed in mid-2011 that the government would acquire lots above the MRT tunnel as owners’ rights extend to the centre of the earth under the law.
Earlier this month, Najib had told Jalan Sultan landowners that the previous land acquisition notice would be rescinded to pave way for a mutual agreement.
But the landowners said today that the Department of Land and Mines have not stopped the land acquisition procedures, and insist MRT Corp is trying to “strong-arm” them into signing a mutual agreement.
Critics have questioned the need for compulsory acquisition of both surface and underground land as the National Land Code 1965 was amended in 1990 to allow underground land to be acquired without affecting surface rights.
The refusal to accept MRT Corp’s latest offer will likely delay further the RM50 billion megaproject that has faced various hurdles since being announced in June 2010.