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PJ residents should beware Kidex highway

 | January 4, 2014

FMT LETTER: From Mak Khuin Weng, via e-mail

2014 promises to be a challenging one as the price of goods are steadily going up. One of the contributing factors to inflation is the increase in toll rates. On the surface, Pakatan Rakyat appears to be against tolled highways and has even presented a credible argument why public transport is a preferred solution to traffic woes.

Despite their policy on tolled highways, the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat government also appears to be supportive of the Kinrara Damansara Expressway (Kidex), an elevated tolled-highway approximately 13.5km long.

Evidence of support

A total of 3,784 land lots located along the highway’s route may be forcibly acquired under the Land Acquisition Act to enable the project to take off, with the emphasis on ‘may’ as the project has supposedly not been approved.

Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim has stated that the state government has no objection to the project but “has no qualms about pulling the plug on the project if it is found to be not feasible.”

It is certainly well within Khalid’s power to provide better assurances on the project’s viability, as the project cannot proceed without the implicit approval of the Selangor government. Section 3 of the Land Acquisition Act 1960 states that the State Authority may acquire any land which is needed:

a) for any public purpose;

b) by any person or corporation for any purpose which in the opinion of the State Authority is beneficial to the economic development of Malaysia or any part thereof or to the public generally or any class of the public; or

c) for the purpose of mining or for residential, agricultural, commercial, industrial or recreational purposes or any combination of such purposes.

In the case of Kidex, clause (a) and (b) are applicable reasons for acquisition of properties along the highway’s alignment.

Unfortunately for the property owners, the Selangor government is indeed of the opinion that the project is of public importance and has published in a government gazette identifying all the land lots that may be needed for the project and authorised the acquisition of the identified land lots and any adjacent land lots.

Khalid has also mentioned that the only thing holding back the project is “alignment issues that has to be resolved with the planning departments involved.”

The Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) appears to be resolving those alignment issues, as MBPJ mayor Alinah Ahmad said in a recent news article; “Kidex will be following our alignment, which we have shown them.”

Compensation

With no word from the authorities that public feedback would be sought for the highway, the affected property owners will not have much recourse once the project is given the green light.

Unless a property owner can argue that the project is not in the public’s interest (and that is a very vague term to argue about), there’s nothing a property owner can do to stop the government from acquiring the property once the state government gives consent. The only matter that can be argued is the quantum of compensation.

Even then, the issue of compensation is not so straightforward for leasehold property owners; and many properties along the proposed highway alignment are leasehold. In promoting the Selangor government’s RM1,000 leasehold renewal scheme, Local Government, Studies and Research Committee chairman Teng Chang Khim explained that;

A lease is a contractual agreement entered into by the lessee and lessor (owner) for the use of an asset.

“A residential lease, therefore, is an arrangement where the asset is real estate and is used for the purpose of living in. Teng said a residential lease requires the tenant (lessee) to pay (ground rent) to the landlord (lessor), in this case the state, for the occupation of the property for a term.”

If the relationship between leasehold property owner and the state government is indeed as described by Teng, then compensation for the forced acquisition goes to the land owner, which in this case would be the Selangor government. The leasehold property owner, being just a mere tenant, cannot claim compensation for the land. Indeed, it certainly does not make sense for the Selangor government to acquire land that it already owns.

It can be argued that the house situated on the land belongs to the leasehold title owner and some compensation is still due, but that still places the leasehold property owner at a disadvantage. How would the compensation even be calculated: on workmanship and building materials?

There are certainly other legal interpretations that are more charitable on the rights of a leasehold property owner, but the state government would have to be taken to court to get them to recognise such interpretations.

Speaking up

Before things escalate to the point of a lawsuit however, Petaling Jaya residents who are affected by this project can and should speak up and oppose the project.

And this is an issue that all PJ residents should be concerned about because the highway project is a Federal Government initiative to alleviate traffic congestion in Petaling Jaya. Traffic has steadily increased over the years because numerous development projects were approved without careful study of whether the present road systems can handle the additional traffic and the highway is the solution.

Even if the Kidex highway resolves the traffic problem at the expense of a few thousand properties, it does not mean that traffic problems will not recur. MBPJ has approved numerous projects that are underway and the effects of those developments will mean more traffic for PJ, which would only incentivise a new highway as a solution to the traffic problem again.

A proposal for another elevated highway for Petaling Jaya is already there in the form of the Damansara-Shah Alam Elevated Expressway (Dash), and such highways simply mean that your property may be next on the state government’s acquisition list.


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