(File pix) A view of the Bukit Chagar area in Johor Baru. The delayed Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project, which connects Johor and Singapore, is now back on track as the Bukit Chagar land dispute has been resolved. Pix by NSTP/Mohd Azren Jamaludin

KUALA LUMPUR: THE delayed Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project, which connects Johor and Singapore, is now back on track as the Bukit Chagar land dispute has been resolved.

Several sources responsible for scrutinising the matter said restoring the status of the former federal-owned land near the Sultan Iskandar Building Immigration and Quarantine Complex was not something that could be done in a day.

“It will take more than a month. There will be meetings between federal and state agencies involving the city council,” a source said, referring to the 4.5ha land, which would remain under the Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar’s name.

“The land is valued at about RM500 million. Surely it will punch holes in our pockets if we have to buy the plot back. So when the Sultan of Johor was willing to return the land at no cost, it is considered to be a fortunate turn of events.”

While Putrajaya was appreciative of Sultan Ibrahim’s gesture to return the land at no cost, the source said there were complications in facilitating its transfer.

“To a certain point, it will also involve KATS (the Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry) as the matter (land ownership) is under its jurisdiction as well. So, in principle, following the ruler’s agreement, we will get the land back (but it will take time),” a source said.

The RTS is a 4km-long railway line between Bukit Chagar, Johor, and Woodlands, Singapore. Malaysia is seeking a six-month extension prior to commencement of the RM4 billion project to carry out a cost reduction study.

Questions still remained as to how and why it ended up in the sultan’s hands, following his displeasure over the RTS’ design and calls for Putrajaya to conduct a review back in August 2017.

Sultan Ibrahim had expressed disagreement over Prasarana Malaysia Bhd’s involvement, and called for the RTS to be run by a Johor-Singapore joint-venture company. He even voiced his willingness to fund the project.

In September, then minister in the prime minister’s department Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who had an audience with the ruler, was reported to have said he “humbly heeded” Sultan Ibrahim’s views.

In November, Sultan Ibrahim conveyed his agreement after granting an audience to then Land Public Transport Commission chief executive officer Mohd Azharuddin Mat Sah and his senior management team at Istana Bukit Pelangi, where they presented the ruler with several options.

It was then reported that the land ownership had been transferred to the ruler following a realignment of the project.

Former Johor menteri besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin has remained tightlipped over the issue, while Rahman and Azharuddin could not be reached for comment.

Another source said the “reinstatement” of the plot of land as a federal site would take time as it “needed to be done right”.

“By that, we do not mean that it should just be done according to the law, but also with integrity. We know that there are accusations of ‘land grab’ concerning the case. It is understandable that such allegations may have arose from the non-transparent nature of change in ownership.

“But the government is adamant that its return must go according to the book. It must be done according to the rule of law.”

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