By Shannon Teoh
KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — Landowners affected by the construction of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) project in the city centre today denied signing an agreement with project owner MRT Corp to vacate their property.
The company has made an offer for property owners to vacate their premises during tunnelling works that guarantees there will be no land acquisition, and that any damage will be repaired and loss of income compensated.
The finance ministry said yesterday all but two landowners in Jalan Sultan, one of three areas here affected by the project, have either accepted the offer or agreed to sell their land to MRT Corp.
But the Committee to Preserve Jalan Sultan and Jalan Bukit Bintang (PJSJBB), which represents the landowners, told a press conference in the Parliament lobby today not a single landowner has accepted the deal.
“Until today, no landowner in Jalan Bukit Bintang, Jalan Sultan or Jalan Inai has signed a mutual agreement. They have only signed points of agreement (POA) which are not legally binding,” committee co-chair Yong Yew Wei said.
Yong, who is also Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) secretary general, said this was because their lawyers were still negotiating with MRT Corp over “a lot of conditions we find unacceptable.”
Putrajaya said yesterday its offer to guarantee the income of Chinatown landowners while they vacated their premises for Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) tunnelling work is like giving them a paid holiday.
But the PJSJBB said the issue of compensation was irrelevant until a social impact assessment to study the effect on the daily lives of up to 30,000 residents, and a soil investigation report to ensure construction works will not damage property, were completed.
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.
Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chief executive Mohd Nur Kamal has said landowners could then apply for stratum titles but added there was no guarantee Putrajaya would re-alienate the surface land back to them.
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.
Unhappy landowners had mounted a high-profile campaign marked by many protests, signature drives and claims that Putrajaya was conducting a “land grab” in order to defray project costs.
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.
Datuk Seri Najib Razak also said two weeks ago the government was prepared to declare buildings in Jalan Sultan as heritage sites, assuring owners that their shophouses will not be affected by the planned infrastructure project.
Yong also said today he had met Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz over letters issued by MRT Corp instructing Bukit Bintang landowners to vacate their premises by the end of the month.
He said that Nazri, who has taken charge of land issues with regards to the project, assured him no one needs to vacate their property and to wait for a response from the prime minister.