KAJANG, Nov 19 — On-going land acquisition issues may delay the completion of the RM40 billion Klang Valley Mass Rail Transit (KVMRT) by up to six months, Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid said today.
The MRT Corporation chief executive officer said that the public may need to wait until July 2017 for the project to be completed, adding that his company was still trying to meet the original 2016 deadline.
“This is, of course, a worst-case scenario. We add on about six months due to the existing land issue concerning Jalan Sultan, Bukit Bintang, Jalan Inai,” he told reporters here.
MRT Corp and traders from Jalan Sultan and Jalan Bukit Bintang have been quarrelling over the proposed acquisition of prime properties along both iconic streets to make way for the MRT’s Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) line.
Earlier this month, Azhar (picture) declared the fight was close to an end as a majority of landowners had purportedly turned friendly to his proposal to resolve the dispute.
The Malaysian Insider understands that despite strong objection from some traders, lawyers are now drawing up agreements for MRT Corporation and a “majority” of landowners in Jalan Sultan, Jalan Inai and Bukit Bintang, with an aim to end the land acquisition squabbles by month’s end.
The Malaysian Insider learnt that “all landowners in Bukit Bintang and Jalan Inai” and a majority from Jalan Sultan, “save for three”, are now formulating “term sheets” detailing terms and conditions set by both parties to facilitate the construction of the MRT project.
“The discussions are still on-going, it is not settled yet, but we are talking about mutual agreement. Hopefully this can be settled by end of this year or January,” Azhar said when asked to state the progress of MRT Corp’s agreement talks with the traders.
He said the government could save a lot of money if it could avoid buying land in areas like Jalan Bukit Bintang.
“We want to avoid land acquisition. We just want to find ways to improve, impact your livelihood,” Azhar added, referring to the traders.
He said however that some landowners, especially traders from Jalan Bukit Bintang, have been very co-operative so far and have shown “willingness” to find a workable solution to the situation.
“We are grateful for their willingness to sacrifice and to discuss ways and means to work with us,” he said,
In the proposal for Jalan Sultan, he had promised to leave all properties and land rights untouched, on condition the traders agreed to vacate for six months during construction of the multibillion ringgit rail project.
He also pledged to compensate for any loss of business during the period, to avoid construction during Chinese New Year and to settle all legal fees involved in drafting the mutual agreements between MRT Corp and the traders.
For Bukit Bintang, the project owner had claimed that due to the tight work space, it would have no choice but to demolish 21 lots along the street to facilitate tunnelling work but promised to rebuild the properties “brick for brick” upon completion of the project and compensate the traders for any loss of business.
Azhar had previously admitted that several landowners were still hostile to his proposals but said for this “minority group”, MRT Corp would have to proceed with acquisition using provisions under section 8 of the Land Acquisition Act.
In response, the Committee for Preserving Jalan Sultan and Jalan Bukit Bintang, which claims to represent traders from both areas, accused Azhar of making “false and misleading” statements claiming most had agreed to vacate premises during the MRT’s construction in exchange for surface rights.
Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun had also joined the group in criticising Azhar, saying the latter was using “divide and conquer” to split the traders and wrangle an agreement in his favour.