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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chinatown traders mulling judicial review to halt land acquisition


September 01, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 — Jalan Sultan traders, whose properties will likely be torn down to make way for the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (KVMRT), are considering filing for judicial review to halt compulsory acquisition of their land by the government.

Jalan Sultan committee spokesman Judy Tan told The Malaysian Insider a decision on whether to go ahead with the legal challenge could be made known as early as next Friday, if not “within these (next) few days”.

File photo of two residents of Chinatown with posters protesting against the proposed acquisition of their property for the MRT project last month.
“It has to be agreed among all of us because it will be stronger if we come in as a group,” she said, adding that not all the 31 landowners who were served notices last month have given their reply.

The Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) had reportedly told traders whose land would be acquired for the underground KVMRT line between the proposed Pasar Seni and Merdeka stations they could hold on to their property at an August 23 meeting brokered by MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.

The commission had earlier insisted it would have to demolish buildings within the corridor of the planned Petaling Street station and tunnel prior to construction to ensure public safety given their age and uncertain soil conditions.

“The government will proceed with acquisition but also strengthen the buildings that are affected for safety of the household,” Dr Chua had told reporters after the meeting, calling it a win-win situation.

But SPAD chief executive Mohd Nur Ismail Kamal told The Malaysian Insider the next day there was “no guarantee” the 31 Jalan Sultan landowners affected by the acquisition there will be able to return to their property, while stressing that the regulator was still working on a solution.

Outgoing KVMRT project owner Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd (SPNB) has also said 20 lots in Bukit Bintang, the capital’s main shopping district, will have to be acquired to make way for tunnelling works and an underground station.

Putrajaya’s powerful efficiency unit admitted, in a letter to Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Malaysia (ACCCIM) president Tan Sri William Cheng, that Putrajaya needs to acquire and develop land along the MRT route as it cannot afford the multi-billion ringgit project otherwise.

In a letter obtained by The Malaysian Insider, Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) chief Datuk Seri Idris Jala told Cheng that the government was pursuing a “rail-and-property” model as it would not be able to recover the full cost of the first line between Sungai Buloh and Kajang through fares alone.

Disgruntled landowners and critics, including Cheng, have accused the government of abusing the Land Acquisition Act 1960 to acquire prime land for commercial purposes.

But Pemandu has denied the allegation, stressing that private land acquired will only be used for stations, car parks and other infrastructure necessary for the KVMRT.

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