More Flip-Flops

By Tony Pua

Yesterday, Dr Chua Soi Lek proudly told all affected property owners in Chinatown as well as reporters after his meeting with Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat (SPAD) Chairman, Syed Hamid Albar that the land acquisition controversy has been resolved.

Chua told the reporters that “an agreement in principle had been reached” after a one-hour meeting this afternoon with the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).

According to Chua, the compromise will see the government acquiring only the strata title for the property 100 feet below ground required for the MRT tunnel, while the buildings, many of which are nearly a hundred years old, and land above ground will remain in the current owners’ hands.

His role as a hero was unfortunately a most short-lived one, for Syed Hamid has given the MCA President a figurative “tight slap in the face” by insisting that Chinatown would be acquired to make way for the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (KVMRT) and there was no guarantee at all that it would be returned to the owners.

Chua has turned from hero to zero within 24 hours but what is perhaps most telling is how shocking flip-flop and ad-hoc decisions are being made by this administration on a daily basis which affects the lives and livelihood of the man-on-the-street.

Syed Hamid has reverted back to the “original” argument that compulsory acquisition of the Jalan Sultan lots – where the KVMRT would run underground – was necessary because under land law, landowners also owned the land that lies below ground.

Once again, this is complete and utter nonsense. The National Land Code 1965 had been specifically amended in 1990 to allow for the acquisition of underground land without affecting surface property by inserting Part Five (A) (section 92A to 92G) under Clause 3. The amendment enables the disposal of “underground land”, which can then either be alienated or leased for the use to construct tunnels, car parks and to lay pipes.

Even Dr Chua agreed with the above after I raised it earlier in the media. Clearly Prasarana is attempting to hijack the land affecting the heritage shop lots in Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown for the purposes of profit and not for the purposes of MRT construction works 100 feet underground. Such action for profit is clearly bad faith on the part of the Government.

The Government must not abuse the powers in its hands to profiteer at the expense of the existing property owners and is against the spirit of the law. Given that it is possible for Prasarana to acquire the use of land underground without having to acquire property on the surface, it must immediately withdraw its order to the affected landowners without causing any further inconvenience to them.