Light at end of tunnel over KTM’s Singapore land

(The Malaysian Insider) – The contentious bilateral talks over the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) land in Singapore appears to have moved forward with a proposal to swap it for valuable land near the island state’s first casino in Marina South, instead of scattered pieces across the tiny republic.

Government sources said Singapore has submitted a proposal to Wisma Putra last month for a joint-venture company that will develop the new piece of land. Malaysia will hold 60 per cent equity in the company while Singapore will hold the balance, both through their respective sovereign wealth funds.

“The ball is now in Wisma Putra’s court,” a source told The Malaysian Insider.

It is understood that Malaysia has already appointed private valuers to ascertain the exact land value of the site, which is in lieu of the 217 hectares that KTM now owns in Singapore.

“Singapore claims the new site is in the heart of the most ‘happening’ place in the city, with massive new developments earmarked around the area,” he added.

The site is near the Marina Bay Sands, which was due to open end 2009 but has now moved its opening launch to early 2010. It also overlooks the Singapore F1 race track comprising streets in the republic’s priciest commercial zones.

The source said Wisma Putra is now mulling the proposal but foreign ministers from both neighbours are unlikely to meet anytime soon because of the on-going United Nations (UN) General Assembly sessions. It will mark Malaysia’s Datuk Anifah Aman’s debut in the UN.

However, the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) is scheduled to meet in mid-October and could discuss the proposal.

The land swap has been contentious since the Malaysia-Singapore Points of Agreement (POA) was signed in 1990 over the issue of the future of the railway land. The POA was signed between former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and former Malaysian Finance Minister Tun Daim Zanuddin.

Under the agreement, KTM was to vacate its historic station at Tanjong Pagar and move to Bukit Timah while all of KTM’s land between Bukit Timah and Tanjong Pagar would revert to Singapore. The land at Tanjong Pagar would be handed over to a private limited company for joint development — of which its equity would be split 60 per cent to Malaysia and 40 per cent to Singapore — as it is in the latest proposal.