Govt will not buy back RTS land if Johor Sultan did not pay for it

KUALA LUMPUR (May 4): Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pictured) said the Government will not buy back the land to be used for the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) project if the Johor Sultan had not paid for it.

According to Bernama, when Dr Mahathir was asked whether the Government was willing to buy back the land in Bukit Chagar from the Sultan of Johor, the Prime Minister replied: “If he (Sultan of Johor) has paid, of course we have to buy it back but if he hasn’t paid then we won’t buy is our land. We require that land for the purpose of building necessary building.”

The Prime Minister also dismissed the notion that the issue would reignite tension between the Government and the Johor palace.

“There’s no tension, what tension?” he said.

The Prime Minister said anyone who wants to acquire land need to go through the due process, Bernama reported.

“Yes ... we will demand the land back. If there was a transfer by any party they must go through the due process,” he told a press conference after chairing the Pakatan Harapan (PH) Presidential Council meeting here yesterday.

Dr Mahathir said this when asked to comment on claims that one of the five plots of land for the RTS project was transferred to the Sultan of Johor during the reign of the Barisan Nasional Government.

Asked whether the land was bought by the Sultan of Johor, he said the Government did not receive a full report on the matter.

“We (the government) heard the rumours from the Press that the land has been taken over by the Sultan of Johor. About payment we do not know,” he said.

The PH government in early April applied for a six-month extension until September from Singapore to decide on the RTS project.

The bilateral agreement on the project was signed in January 2018 during the previous administration.

The project was initially scheduled to commence this year and expected to be completed by December 2024.

Asked whether the six-month extension had anything to do with allegations of the land ownership by the Sultan of Johor, Dr Mahathir said: “I don’t think His Highness would want to seize Federal land. We will have to file claims to show that it belongs to us."

Earlier Dr Mahathir explained that the Government had requested the six-month extension to review whether the RTS project would continue or the Government would submit another proposal.

“... but the RTS clearly does not solve the traffic congestion between Singapore and Malaysia. If we build the train it can’t carry all the passengers who are going to and from Singapore and it can’t carry all the motorcycles. The train is limited in terms of capacity,” he said.

The RTS project if implemented will include a 4km rail linking Bukit Chagar, Johor Bahru and Woodlands, Singapore, with the capacity to ferry 10,000 passengers per hour.

Earlier today, Malaysiakini reported that the plot of land which the Federal Government was supposed to own was now in the name of the Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar.

Malaysiakini said the Johor Department of Land and Mines discovered this on Jan 28.

The land is one of five lots in Bukit Chagar that Putrajaya received from the Johor government in 2012 as part of a land swap deal to build the Johor Bahru Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex (CIQ).

It is not known when the Sultan acquired the land but it is believed the title for the 4.5-hectare plot was transferred under the previous BN administration sometime between 2017 and 2018, Malaysiakini reported.

The piece of land is said to be worth around RM495 million. —

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