MRT Co backs down from land row
UPDATED @ 07:04:43 AM 14-10-2011
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — MRT Corporation CEO Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid pledged today Jalan Sultan properties will not be acquired for the Klang Valley Mass Rapit Transit project, as long as businesses and landowners vacate their premises temporarily during tunnel construction.
“We are not touching your property, we are not going to take over your property, I don’t understand why realignment becomes an issue.
“I would acknowledge to you today that the biggest challenge would be in Bukit Bintang area because the area is so tight that we cannot get to the underground tunnel done without demolishing buildings at the top,” he said today.
The newly appointed chief of the MRT project owner said Jalan Sultan traders would be compensated for six months loss of income, of which the value would be determined by an independent third party firm, and to put them up at another location if necessary.
He also promised to put construction on hold during the Chinese New Year celebration, and guaranteed that the traders could resume business as usual at the end of the six month period.
Azhar said the Jalan Sultan and Jalan Bukit Bintang traders and shop owners were supposed get back to him on whether they had reached a mutual decision yesterday, but they had decided to have a press conference Instead.
The traders — backed by former MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat and DAP’s Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun — threatened to raise their grouses directly with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak if their demands are not met.
The ad hoc committees encompassing traders from both streets have also banded together to form the “Committee of preserving Jalan Sultan and Jalan Bukit Bintang”, a special joint taskforce aimed at pressuring the government into considering a realignment to the MRT’s Sungai Buloh-Kajang line.
Today, Azhar said the message based on yesterday’s media report is that they are not in agreement, “unless I am wrong”.
“To say that MRT Co takes a high-handed approach in making decisions, I don’t think it is a fair statement.
“But I’m getting the impression that even that offer on the table, that gesture on the table is not good enough. So there is really nothing that I can do a part from just leaving it to due process,” he said.
Azhar said they were trying to find a mutual way to solve the problem without having to go through the full land hearings.
“But unfortunately the way things are today, I’m slowly convinced that maybe there is no other way,” he said.
He said he had met with the traders and land owners from Jalan Bukit Bintang only once and said that “they were not up for any discussion”.
“My proposal to them was to give us possession of the land temporarily for us to construct the underground, at the bottom, and MRT Co will commit through an agreement to make good whatever we have demolished or destroyed so that things can be as close as possible to what it is today.
“I even went as far as saying I will even put it back brick by brick. Of course except the area where I will probably need the entrance and exit, the ventilation shaft, the safety shaft and all that. The rest, we have no intention of taking the land away, we have no intention of doing any development there ourselves,” he said.
Azhar said he had also met with landowners from Jalan Inai and is still waiting to hear from them. As for residents at Taman Tun Dr Ismail, he said he will meet them next week to “find a middle ground”.
When asked about Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Ahmad Maslan’s refusal to guarantee that prime land in the capital will stay in the hands of current Jalan Sultan landowners today in Parliament, Azhar said he can only speak for himself, the CEO of the project owner.
“I am speaking as CEO of MRT Corporation. MRT Corporation is trying to find creative alternative ways of getting to the same place however if this approach doesn’t work, we don’t have a choice but to allow due process to take place and believe me the approach that I am taking right now and the team at MRT Corporation is taking right now is unprecedented,” he said, because they “emphathise” with the landowners.
He also pointed out that the final MRT route has been approved by the government and signed off by the prime minister in June.
“MRT Corporation guarantees that it has no intent to take over the land, MRT Corporation guarantees that it has no intention to demolish the building. What MRT Corporation is concerned about that during the construction process, because of geography of the area, we want to make sure that people’s safety is safeguarded.
“But if MRT Corporation is not successful at sitting down with the affected land owners and making sure that we can go for this mutual agreement to allow the tunnel to be constructed, then I don’t have the choice but to leave it as i said to the authorities to decide for me. You are taking it out of my hands,” he said.
Azhar said MRT line 1 will be completed by July 2017 with 51km long route, 41.5km elevated and 9.5km underground, 31 stations, 24 elevated and seven underground, and there will be 16 park and ride facilities.
As for the for the 9.5 km underground tunnel, he said it is just to put an endorsement on their land title that says should anything happen at the top, it should not jeopardise or injure the underground tunnel.