Malaysia

MRT Corp confirms no binding deal yet with KL landowners

KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 — MRT Corporation confirmed today that no formal deal has been struck to resolve the dispute over 23 Jalan Sultan properties but said the Points of Agreement (POA) inked with one owner last month was a step towards formulating a final, binding mutual agreement (MA).

For the 21 lots in Jalan Bukit Bintang, another iconic street affected by the construction of the Klang Valley MRT’s Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) line, a source from MRT Corp told The Malaysian Insider that “almost all” the property owners there have signed the POA.

The source, however, acknowledged that the POA was not a legally-binding agreement, agreeing with the point made by Committee to Preserve Jalan Sultan and Jalan Bukit Bintang (PJSJBB) co-chairman Yong Yew Wei during a press conference in Parliament yesterday.

But, the source stressed, it is the POA that sets the parameters for the MA, which would include the finer details of MRT Corp’s deal with each respective landowner.

“So it is not about saying that nothing major has been agreed on. The POA sets the parameters and from there, we work towards the MA on details like how much of income would be lost, how much compensation should be paid and so on,” the source said.

On March 2, an owner of six Jalan Sultan properties signed the POA with MRT Corp, appearing to break ranks with the others, some of whom are still lobbying for the realignment of the SBK line.

The POA terms, which will be incorporated in the MA, had included the withdrawal of any land acquisition plans by the government; a guarantee that no existing building would be demolished; the relocation of occupants for a maximum six-month period; and the endorsement of land titles to state the existence of an MRT tunnel beneath the six properties.

The MRT Corp source said that apart from this landowner, two others from Jalan Sultan have agreed to have their properties acquired at a fair price for compensation.

Only two owners, the source added, are opposing outright any effort towards negotiation.

Owners of the remaining 13 lots are still locked in discussion with MRT Corp “to a certain extent”, the source said.

“We are dealing here with many lawyers. Each one has their own style. And, of course, everyone is putting what they want on the table,” said the source.

The source, however, denied that negotiations have resulted in major disagreements over certain conditions, saying it was common in such discussions to hit some stumbling blocks.

“Of course, when it comes to compensation, they will be fighting for more money. But it is not so easy... how do you count profit? There are a thousand and one ways to do that,” said the source.

Of course, when it comes to compensation, they will be fighting for more money. But it is not so easy... how do you count profit? There are a thousand and one ways to do that.

But the source gave a reminder that the compensation money would come out of taxpayers’ pockets and as such, it was MRT Corp’s “duty” to ensure the few landowners would not “fleece the government”.

“So do you consider this a big disagreement? I don’t think so,” the source said.

At PJSJBB’s press conference yesterday, landowners had denied signing an agreement with MRT Corp to vacate their properties for the construction of the KVMRT.

“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,” Yong had said.

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.

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