Khalid says not decided on Taman Rimba Kiara project yet, was merely giving opinion

Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad attends a press conference at Kuala Lumpur City Hall Training Institute (IDB) November 19, 2018. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad attends a press conference at Kuala Lumpur City Hall Training Institute (IDB) November 19, 2018. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 28 — There is no decision yet on whether a controversial development project at parts of Taman Rimba Kiara will be retained, Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad clarified today.

Khalid said reports stating that the project cannot be cancelled and could be scaled down were merely his current view, confirming that he is still open to any solution that took into account the interest of all parties.

“They said I have made up my mind, that's not true. This is my current position.

“(If you) come up with a solution which takes into account the interest of all parties, of course I can consider,” he told Malay Mail when contacted today.

Khalid was asked if his comments this week that the condominium project could be scaled down instead of cancelled contradicted his agreement in a townhall meeting last week to have a joint committee to review the project.

Khalid explained that he was merely repeating his previous opinion that he also shared in the November 23 townhall meeting with Taman Tun Dr Ismail residents who were seeking the project's cancellation and the preservation of Taman Rimba Kiara as a public park.

“That is the same view I expressed in the townhall meeting. I didn't go to the meeting without an opinion, I'm open to other opinions,” he said.

“Whatever it is, I must take into account four groups. Number one, I must take into account the longhouse residents, we want to settle that. Number two, I need to take into consideration the (TTDI) resident associations' opinion.

“Number three, the position of developer, where they already have agreement to proceed, with DO (development order) signed. Number four, I got to take into account the interest of DBKL, I have to balance all this,” he explained.

Khalid said his proposal for the project to be scaled down would result in the former estate workers living in longhouses finally getting their permanent housing and the private developer would not sue DBKL for compensation.

“Number three, if (TTDI) residents are willing we scale down the project, where the area is just footprint of current longhouse, temple, maybe one or two acres that will have to be sacrificed as compared to total of eight acres, so this is a profit or gain for residents and we will gazette all around that into green area.

“The balance, we will gazette it as what it was, as open area,” he said.

Khalid said he is still open to having discussions about the project in Taman Rimba Kiara, but expressed hope that the discussions would be done with an open mind.

“I am still open to the formation of the joint committee...we are to discuss, not to give ultimatums, sticking to opinions without change.

“We must take into account the interest of all parties. Whether you like it or not, you have to acknowledge developer has legal right to projects, we have to follow the rule of law.

“That's my position currently, residents have their position, come to the meeting with willingness to discuss so we meet and discuss, but we must discuss and be willing to compromise,” he said.

Khalid clarified that he had not previously said that he hoped the developer would withdraw the project, saying: “What I said is I'm hoping developer will be willing to discuss and negotiate to scale down the project.”

Khalid noted that the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) which is under his ministry's purview would have to pay about RM155 million for what the developer spent if the latter agrees to cancel the project, but said the final sum could be higher if the developer claims for interest and loss of profits.

“I would rather use the money with DBKL — rather than to pay developer — for widening roads, repairing drains, ensuring facilities for residents. Why should I pay the developer?

“So many things we can use RM200 million for or RM150 million for than to pay the developer,” he said, adding that the government would in that scenario still be stuck with the problem of having to provide housing for the longhouse residents and still have to pay millions in ringgit more to do so.

He said it was not likely that building housing for the longhouse residents would only cost RM15 million, referring to the sum that TTDI residents had said would be sufficient to provide townhouses for the 100 families there.

As for when the joint committee for discussions on the project would be formed, Khalid said he had agreed to the proposal to form the committee but indicated that it would be formed after the court decides on an ongoing lawsuit.

“If the court decides the development order is illegal, elements of corruption, then the decision is made, no need to discuss,” he said, noting that the issue would be settled if the court decides the development order is not legal and the developer would not be able to claim for loss of profit.

“If court decides the development order is legal, we go (to the) second stage, discuss with the developer,” he said.

The High Court in Kuala Lumpur has fixed hearing for the lawsuit for today, tomorrow and two additional dates in December.

On August 11, 2017, TTDI Residents’ Association chairman Abdul Hafiz Abu Bakar, the management bodies of five condominiums and four other TTDI residents had filed for judicial review against the Kuala Lumpur city mayor and DBKL in a bid to stop the condominium project by quashing both DBKL’s February 28 conditional planning permission and July 13 development order for the project.

The disputed project’s landowner Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan, property developer Memang Perkasa Sdn Bhd, and the longhouse residents association led by V. Sunderam have since then joined the lawsuit as respondents.

TTDI residents had said the project site would take up almost half of the 25-acre Taman Rimba Kiara that was meant to be a public open space, also claiming that close to 800 trees are estimated to be located on the proposed project's site.

The project planned under the joint venture by Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan and developer Memang Perkasa is for the construction of over 2,000 units in the nine blocks of high-rise buildings, including one tower with 350 units designated for the longhouse residents.

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