KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — Putrajaya promised today buildings on Jalan Sultan will not be demolished to make way for the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) project, but stopped short of guaranteeing that prime land in the capital will stay in the hands of current landowners.
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Ahmad Maslan told Parliament today the government will protect the buildings in the historic Chinatown area even though they “are not gazetted as heritage sites.”
But the Pontian MP refused to guarantee that land on Jalan Sultan and Bukit Bintang will be returned to landowners after tunnelling for the multibillion megaproject is complete.
He said project owner “MRT Co is in negotiations with private landowners” to come to a solution where “they only vacate the buildings during tunnelling and receive compensation so return of land does not arise.”
Ahmad also denied accusations led by former MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat that MRT Co officials gave “not one chance” to Jalan Sultan traders to present their alternative routes, which would see their properties saved.
He said that the alignment proposed by landowners did not allow for integration with the existing Pasar Seni LRT station, and that curves on the suggested route were too sharp.
“There was no alternative,” he said.
“There was no alternative,” he said, when answering a question in Parliament by Alor Gajah MP Tan Sri Fong Chan Onn.
The ongoing land rights dispute between the MRT project owner and city traders here has turned into a political hot potato that could delay the country’s most expensive infrastructure project.
Jalan Sultan and Jalan Bukit Bintang traders — backed by former MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat and DAP’s Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun — are threatening to take their grouses directly to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
MRT Co last week gave the landowners clear indication that it was not willing to budge from its planned acquisition of prime properties located along both the iconic streets.
Regulators Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) said last month that Putrajaya had decided to acquire both surface and underground land in the interest of expediency.
Chief executive Mohd Nur Kamal denied accusations levelled by critics who claim the land acquisition exercise on Jalan Sultan in the heart of the capital was just a cover for a land grab.
But he stressed that the government was “in no position to make guarantees of the return of these properties”, saying that the details were still being ironed out.
Construction of the Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) MRT line will start in November and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016, with services starting in January 2017.
The SBK line will cover 51km, of which 9.5km — including seven of the 31 stations — will be underground.
Deputy minister Ahmad said today that 500 lots of land over75 hectares were set to be acquired.