KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Friday (May 3) the government will take back the land meant for the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) project if its ownership had indeed been transferred.
Dr Mahathir’s comment come amid media reports 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.
Dr Mahathir said the government has not received a full report on whether the land was bought by the Sultan of Johor.
“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,” Dr Mahathir told a press conference after chairing the Pakatan Harapan (PH) Presidential Council meeting on Friday.
The prime minister said anyone who wants to acquire land must go through the due process.
“Yes ... we will demand the land back. If there was a transfer by any party they must go through the due process,” 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 was expected to be completed by December 2024.
Dr Mahathir said the government was willing to buy back the land from the Sultan of Johor if he had already paid for it.
“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 back … it is our land. We require that land for the purpose of building necessary building,” he said.
“There’s no tension, what tension?” he said.
When 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 belonged to us."
Earlier Dr Mahathir explained that the government had requested the six-month extension to review whether the RTS project should continue or if the government should submit another proposal.
“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 in Johor Bahru and Woodlands in Singapore, with the capacity to ferry 10,000 passengers per hour.