MRT Jalan Sultan land acquisition – who is telling the truth: Chua Soi Lek, Hamid Albar or Idris Jala?

Lim Kit Siang

Flip flop in a matter of dayshas become the byword for the present Najib government, whether on its mishandling of the Bersih 2.0 peacefull rally for free and fair elections on July 9 or the parliamentary select committee on electoral reforms.

There is now the latest addition to the Najib government’sFlip Flop List” – the controversy over the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (KVMRT) land acquisition of Jalan Sultan properties.

Only three days ago, the MCA President Datuk Seri Chua Soi Lek had announced that the government had backtracked from its decision to acquire the land and 31 buildings around Jalan Sultan in Kuala Lumpur to make way for the MRT mega project.

Chua said that after discussion with Land Public Transport Commission (SPAN) chairperson Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar,an understanding and agreementhad been reached whereby as acompromise, the government will only acquire 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.

However, the residents may have to vacate their property during the six months or so of tunnelling works, while the government will also be required to strengthen the heritage buildings should they be affected by the works underground.

The cost of the strengthening and the compensation to the owners will be detailed later,Chua said.

Chua’s announcement of government backtracking on MRT’s Jalan Sultan land acquisition did not survive 24 hours as the very next day, Hamid not only rubbished Chua’s talk of government strata title for the property 100 feet below ground but reiterated compulsory acquisition of Jalan Sultan’s land and 31 buildings.

Hamid delivered a greater shocker when he declared that there was no guarantee that the acquired Jalan Sultan properties would eventually be returned to the owners although the authorities were working on a solution to allow traders to return to their Chinatown lots being acquired for the KVMRT.

The Jalan Sultan traders were delivered another shock when it is revealed today that the Pemandu chief Datuk Idris Jalan had written to the Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Malaysia (ACCIM) president Tan Sri William Chen to justify the government pursuing arail-and-propertymodel as it would not be able to recover the cost of the first KVMRT line between Sungai Buloh and Kajang through fares alone.

The affected Jalan Sultan traders and the Malaysian public are entitled to askWho is telling the truth about the MRT Jalan Sultan land acquisition: Chua Soi Lek, Hamid Albar or Idris Jala.

The Najib administration must be reminded of its grandiose promises of various transformation programmes to act with transparency and integrity, and that it bears the onus to satisfy the affected Jalan Sultan traders and owners as well as the Malaysian public the responsibility to establish that the MRT project owner Prasana Nasional Bhd is not attempting to hijack prime land in Jalan Sultan, Kuala Lumpur affecting heritage shoplots for the ulterior motive of profit as the 1990 amendment to the National Land Code had specifically provided for the MRT needs ofunderground railwaysdevelopment.