The 4.5-hectare plot in Bukit Chagar: Is ownership in dispute?

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4 May 2019

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PETALING JAYA: The Sultan of Johor has expressed regret over reports suggesting that ownership of a plot of land involved in the construction of the Rapid Transit System (RTS) to link Johor Bahru and Singapore has been transferred to him.

Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar said he has never been informed of any change of title for the 4.5 hectare plot, one of five plots which were part of a land swap deal between the state and the federal government.

“But, His Majesty Sultan Johor has decreed that if indeed his land in Bukit Chagar is part of the RTS project, he is prepared to surrender it to the government free of charge,” said a statement issued by the sultan’s private secretary Jama Mohd Noah.

“On condition that the RTS project is resumed immediately because His Majesty understands the difficulty faced by the people going to and from Singapore,” the statement added.

I’ll give back Bukit Chagar land for free on one condition, says Johor sultan

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3 May 2019

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 — Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today the government will demand that the 4.5-hectare piece of land in Bukit Chagar, Johor be used for the Johor Baru Rapid Transit System (RTS) if a transfer really did taken place.

Speaking during a press conference today, Dr Mahathir added that currently there is a six-month study on the project to see if it will be continued.

“We will demand the (return of) the land. If there was a transfer by any parties, they must go through the due process. We have not received the full report, just rumours from the press that the land was taken by the Sultan of Johor,” said Dr Mahathir.

When asked if the Johor palace had paid for the land, the PM admitted he was unsure.

However, Dr Mahathir did say that Putrajaya will reimburse the Johor royals if they had actually purchased the land, which is valued between RM495 and RM693 million.

“If he has paid, of course, we have to buy back. But if he hasn’t paid, we won’t buy back, it is our land. We require that land for the purpose of building necessary buildings.

“I don’t think his royal highness would have just seized the land. We will have to file claims for the land,” said Dr Mahathir.

Dr Mahathir also pointed out that the RTS will not be able to solve the traffic congestion between Johor Baru and Singapore.

“If we build the train, the train cannot carry all the passengers going to and from Singapore. And it cannot carry all the motorcycles. The train is limited in terms of capacity,” he said.

Dr Mahathir also dismissed claims that there was tension between the Johor royals and Putrajaya.

Earlier, it was reported that the land was transferred to Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government between 2017 and 2018.

In 2012, the plot was one of five lots received by the federal government as part of a land swap deal to construct the new Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex in Johor Baru.

A source familiar with the matter said the federal government stumbled upon the “problem” that one of five plots of land for the RTS Link project has been transferred to Sultan Ibrahim as it was reviewing the project.

“The land was one of five plots that the federal government received from the Johor government in 2012 as part of a land swap deal to build the then Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex (CIQ) in Johor Baru,” said the source to Malay Mail today on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the issue.

This came as Transport Minister Anthony Loke on April 20 gave his assurance that Malaysia is committed to ensure that the Johor Bahu-Singapore Link project will be continued.

The source said it was initially unaware of the land ownership status as it was set to review the RTS Link project with the construction of the 4km rail link between Johor Baru and Singapore.

Checks revealed that the land, that is also located next to the Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex, has now been leased out until November 2020 for a company to operate a parking lot.

Malay Mail is also waiting for an official reply from the Johor state government on the matter.

Putrajaya’s review of the plans to construct the Rapid Transit System (RTS) from Johor Bahru to Singapore had hit an unexpected snag, according to sources.

It was discovered that a plot of land in Bukit Chagar, which the federal government was supposed to own, was now in the name of Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar instead.

Those familiar with the matter told Malaysiakini that the Johor Department of Land and Mines discovered this on Jan 28.

The land was 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 unclear when or how the sultan acquired the land but sources believe the title for the 4.5-hectare plot was transferred under the previous BN administration sometime between 2017 and 2018.

Sources told Malaysiakini this means Putrajaya would have to fork out around RM495 million in compensation to acquire the land which it was supposed to own.

“So now the problem is the cost. That land was supposed to be federal land but now there is an additional cost to deal with,” said one person on condition of anonymity.

Malaysiakini is seeking a response from the Johor palace.

Former Johor menteri besar Khaled Nordin, meanwhile, told Malaysiakini that the question should be referred to the Land and Mines Department.

The disputed land is currently being used as a public parking lot.

Besides the land in Bukit Chagar, sources said Putrajaya might also have to acquire an underwater plot of land at the Johor straits said to be worth around RM198 million from the sultan.
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In other words, the federal government would need to compensate the sultan to the tune of RM693 million for the two plots.

https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/474725

KUALA LUMPUR: A new problem over a plot of land linked to the construction of the 4km rail link between Johor Bahru and Singapore is threatening to open up another frontier in Putrajaya’s ongoing spat with the Johor palace.

This followed the discovery that one of five plots of land for the Rapid Transit System (RTS) project has been transferred to the Johor sultan, reliable sources told FMT.

Documents sighted by FMT among others stated that the change of title for the 4.5 hectare plot took place under the Barisan Nasional administration.

They also reveal that the land has now been leased out for three years till November 2020 for a company to operate a parking lot.

A source said the federal government would have to buy back the land, although it was part of a land swap deal with the state for the construction of the Johor Bahru Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Complex (CIQ).

“This means Putrajaya would now have to pay up to half a billion ringgit in compensation for the land which was supposed to be owned by the federal government,” the source told FMT.

He added this will incur additional cost to the taxpayer to build the RTS.

The plot would have been part of the planned RTS, which will connect Bukit Chagar in Johor Bahru to Woodlands in Singapore, a project aimed at easing the congestion on the Causeway.
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The government had said previously it was looking for options to ensure the RTS linking Johor Baru and Singapore remains on track, although both countries have agreed to suspend the project from April 1 based on Malaysia’s request.

In August 2017, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar criticised the RTS’ design of the curved tracks and the height of the elevated bridge, saying they would disrupt the Johor Bahru city skyline.

Three months later, he consented to the construction of a 25-metre-high RTS bridge straight across the Strait of Johor, following submission of three options on the RTS alignment based on his proposal.

Poser over land for RTS threatens to reignite Putrajaya’s spat with Johor palace

Excerpts from:

Asia Sentinel

Behind Malaysia’s Royalty Challenge, A Long History

By: John Berthelsen

The issues behind the fight for primacy between Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Johor royal family have to do more with reducing the family’s rich gravy train than regal supremacy, according to sources in Kuala Lumpur.

Presumably the squabble stems from the argument by the Johor crown prince, Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, over the right to name the state’s chief minister. Osman Sapian stepped down last week under pressure from both the royal family and the government. Ismail tweeted that his father, Sultan Ibrahim Ismail, has the right to name the new menteri besar.

But the issues go far beyond that, back even to Mahathir’s earlier stint as prime minister, when he staged a years-long campaign to limit the royalty’s power, at least partly because of the antics of the then-Johor sultan. It is power that the sultans regained during the years of rule by former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who saw in the royalty a useful foil to keep the opposition in line.

Under the Barisan Nasional government headed by Najib, the family, which campaigned openly for him, were allowed into major projects including the Forest City land development across from Singapore, were selling sand to Singapore for the island republic to reclaim and expand its land base, and seized a large mangrove island called Pulau Kukup.

When the Pakatan Harapan coalition came to power, headed by Mahathir, the mining of sand, illegal because of the damage to the environment, was stopped. When the royalty, headed by Sultan Ibrahim, continued the mining, the Royal Malaysian Customs Department impounded barges operated through a company named Benalec, headed by a royal crony named Daing A Malak Daing A Rahaman, and stopped the transfer.  The sultan is also said to have had a financial interest in the Chinese government-backed high-speed rail project from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore that Mahathir cancelled.

In addition to the seizure of Pulau Kukup, the royal family also permitted encroachment on another national park, allowing a mainland Chinese company to build a golf course in in it. After a major public outcry, the sultan returned Pulau Kukup to the state.

“The Sultan and his son, well known for land grabs, have found that they cannot do what they did any more and this has compounded the problems with the Mahathir regime,” said a well-wired political analyst. “Since the new government came into power, they find they don’t have the same access.”

For the rest of the article:

https://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/behind-malaysia-royalty-challenge-long-history/

 

 

 

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