Imbi landowners cede underground rights in coup for MRT Corp

Azhar during an exclusive interview with The Malaysian Insider, from TMI pic files.Azhar during an exclusive interview with The Malaysian Insider, from TMI pic files.

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 — Imbi landowners have agreed to surrender a portion of their underground land rights to MRT Corp for Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (KVMRT) tunnelling works, sources revealed.

The deal represents a major victory for new project owner MRT Corp, which inherited from Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd (SPNB) on September 1 the difficult task of negotiating with disgruntled landowners.

A source told The Malaysian Insider that a points of agreement was signed earlier today between MRT Corp and at least three-quarters of landowners on Jalan Kamuning, Jalan Inai and Jalan Bukit Bintang whose lots will be affected by tunnelling work.

Another source familiar with the deal said the land titles would remain with their respective owners but with an added restriction to limit enjoyment of underground land rights, to a depth to be determined soon.

The points of agreement will pave the way for a more comprehensive mutual agreement, expected to be inked next month.

“It’s a good deal. The landowners will retain the titles but surrender them for an endorsement so everyone knows there’s a tunnel underneath. That’s another way of saying there are limits to the rights underground,” the source said.

MRT Corp chief executive Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid confirmed the deal when contacted but declined to elaborate on the terms. MRT Corp is expected to issue a statement on the matter tomorrow.

The agreement appears to be a coup for Azhar, who is under pressure to resolve the ongoing land acquisition issues which he has warned may delay the completion of the KVMRT by up to six months.

The dispute began soon after landowners in Chinatown, Imbi and Bukit Bintang were informed that the government would acquire all lots lying above the KVMRT tunnel as owners’ rights extend to the centre of the earth under Malaysian law.

Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chief executive Mohd Nur Kamal said landowners could then apply for stratum titles but added there was no guarantee Putrajaya would re-alienate the surface land back to them.

Many 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.

Unhappy landowners have mounted a high-profile campaign marked by numerous protests, signature drives and accusations that Putrajaya was conducting a “land grab” in order to defray project costs.

The RM40 billion KVMRT, meant to ease traffic congestion in the Klang Valley, is Malaysia’s most expensive infrastructure project to date.

Five landowners from Bukit Bintang and three from Imbi have also challenged the acquisition in court and were granted leave to seek judicial review of the federal gazette by the High Court here.

It is understood that the application for judicial review filed by the Imbi landowners on September 6 has been “put on the backburner” following today’s agreement with MRT Corp.

Construction of the Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) line of the KVMRT will begin in the second or third quarter of next year and is scheduled to be completed by end-2016, with services commencing in January 2017.

The SBK line will cover a distance of 51km, of which 9.5km — including seven of the 31 stations — will be underground.




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