KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 — Ten Jalan Sultan landowners signed Points of Agreement (POA) with MRT Corporation (MRT Corp) today, moving the firm closer to resolving its protracted land dispute with traders along the iconic street.
MRT Corp said in a statement today that the signing marked a significant point in its efforts towards securing a final, binding Mutual Agreement (MA) with the landowners.
Today’s signing increases the total number of owners who have inked the POA with MRT Corp to 16 out of 24.
“From the first day of MRT Corp, I have taken the position of getting the owner’s mutual agreement, instead of mandatory acquisition,” MRT Corp chief executive Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid said in the statement.
“To that end, we engaged the property owners through a series of activities to explain to them exactly what we were doing.”
Among the assurances MRT Corp had made to the Jalan Sultan landowners was that no private property would be either acquired involuntarily or demolished throughout the construction of the MRT.
MRT Corp also said it was confident owners of another four lots along the street would be signing the POA soon, as they were now in the “advanced stages” of discussions with the company.
Another two landowners have already agreed for their properties to be acquired.
Commenting on Sunday’s protest held on Jalan Sultan, Azhar expressed doubts about the motives and said its leader, Stanley Yong, was aware of “the state of discussions”.
“If he says we shouldn’t take down Klang Bus Stand, Plaza Warisan, and UO Superstore, these are government-owned property. We have the owner’s approval to redevelop the area.
“We are acting within the boundaries of the law,” he said.
Unhappy landowners along Jalan Sultan and other city locations have mounted a high-profile campaign marked by protests, signature drives and claims that Putrajaya was conducting a “land grab” in order to defray project costs.
The dispute over land acquisition began soon after landowners in Chinatown, Imbi and Bukit Bintang were informed in mid-2011 that the government would acquire lots above the MRT tunnel as owners’ rights extend to the centre of the earth under the law.
Last month, Najib had told Jalan Sultan landowners that the previous land acquisition notice would be rescinded to pave way for a MA.
Critics have 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.
The refusal to accept MRT Corp’s latest offer will likely delay further the RM50 billion megaproject that has faced various hurdles since being announced in June 2010.