KUALLA LUMPUR, Feb 24 — Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat accused MRT Corporation today of employing the “typical government knows best” mindset when it refused this afternoon to consider realigning the Sungai Buloh-Kajang line of the Mass Rapid Transit project.
The former transport minister railed against the decision on his Twitter account, saying there was “no reason” why the project owner could not reroute the MRT line, which proposes to cut below properties along Jalan Sultan where he grew up.
“MRT Co is still adamant 2 snub d realignment call by d community caring 4 d Jln Sultan heritage. Typical ‘govt knows best’ mindset!
“No reason y MRT Co can’t listen 2 d community’s call 4 realignment in d past 6 months,” he wrote using his Twitter handle, @talk2otk.
“MRT realignment call serves 2 preserve d Jl Sultan heritage building not d owners’ interests.
“MRT boss promised 2 preserve heritage but is stubborn 2 do tunnelling under d old building,” the Pandan MP added.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had famously promised shortly after he took office in 2009 that the “era of government knows best is over”, a move aimed at promoting his administration’s openness towards dissenting views from the public.
The Jalan Sultan land issue has been raging for months now, as several traders occupying lots along the iconic street are insisting that the government realign the MRT’s proposed MRT line, claiming construction works would affect their livelihoods.
They have suggested an alternative route that would see the line rerouted from Jalan Sultan to Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock and include integrated terminals with the LRT Pasar Seni station and KTMB line, and another with the Puduraya bus terminal.
The group claims that their proposed route would help reap more benefits in terms of attracting more tourists to Chinatown, reviving Plaza Rakyat beside Puduraya, improving inter-transport connectivity and saving the heritage structures along Jalan Sultan and Jalan Bukit Bintang.
But in a press conference this morning, MRT Corp chief executive officer Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid noted that realignment was no longer an option as the proposed line was viewed as the most optimal.
MRT Corp has been attempting to strike mutual agreements with the Jalan Sultan lot owners, under which the group would continue to hold rights to their property provided they agreed to vacate the area for six-months to facilitate tunnelling works for the project.
The agreement also states that the lot owners would be compensated for any loss of business during the six-month period.
Azhar pointed out that the controversy first started last year when traders received letters from the Land and Mines Office informing them that their properties would be acquired to make way for the MRT.
But he said the mutual agreements, if consented to, would override the compulsory land acquisition process moved by the government office.
At present, traders have been given until the month’s end to decide if they will accept the mutual agreement proposal, failing which Azhar said the government would have to initiate the compulsory land acquisition process under Section 8 of the Land Acquisition Act.