FT minister says not an ‘apologist’ for Taman Rimba Kiara developers, only trying to save public money

Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya May 16, 2019. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana
Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya May 16, 2019. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana

PUTRAJAYA, May 16 — Khalid Abdul Samad today denied favouring developers amid the ongoing controversy over Taman Rimba Kiara, one of the last green lungs in the glass-and-concrete national capital.

The federal territories minister said he only wanted to reduce unnecessary spending of taxpayers’ money.

“I’m not an apologist to developers, but rather I’m trying to save public funds.

“As FT minister I must be responsible for DBKL money and make sure it’s not used simply,” he told a news conference in his office here.

The Shah Alam MP came under fire yesterday from two prominent civil society leaders and even a lawmaker from his own Pakatan Harapan coalition for allegedly being on the side of the developers over plans to develop Taman Rimba Kiara.

“If you say I’m an apologist, I will defend myself. Why would I want to meet the developers so many times to renegotiate this deal?” he posed to the press.

Khalid also said he was never approached by Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh or members of Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) to discuss Taman Rimba Kiara.

He expressed disappointment that his critics went to the media before seeking him out directly, resulting in inaccurate and confusing news reports.

“I don’t know how many times you’ve met the residents but you have never even come to see me for a minute,” he said.

Detractors had accused Khalid of mimicking predecessor Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor in the latter’s proximity to developers while the FT minister.

For this, Khalid expressed dismay with his critics for attacking him before seeking clarification, asserting that many of the claims made against him were “baseless” and “embarrassing” as some were prompted by what he called incorrect news reports.

“I don’t want to point out all the errors in their reports but please get your facts right and come and see me,” he said.

Khalid pointed out that the Taman Rimba Kiara project was approved under Tengku Adnan and that he is simply trying to resolve a problem he inherited.

Khalid said he began negotiations with the developers in September last year and reached an agreement for RM150 million in compensation to scrap the project.

However, C4 and Yeoh insist the value should be RM115 million.

Khalid, in turn, said the RM150 million figure was decided in court and not plucked from thin air, adding that this could rise and even double if the matter goes back to litigation.

“I don’t want to take the risk of this happening and having to pay so much more than what we originally agreed upon,” Khalid said when stressing it was his duty to protect public funds.

The minister also disputed continued claims that the development would encroach into the park, noting that the proposed longhouse would be built on the car park land.

Saying the TTDI Residents Association (TTDIRA) was behaving as though they were the landowners, Khalid said their uncompromising attitude was complicating matters.

“They do have rights as residents of the area but they don’t own the park.”

Khalid said his team is preparing a presentation in Cabinet, which will be sent first to the attorney-general for vetting as Yeoh and C4 suggested.

“Not only the AG but we will send our findings to all the ministries for scrutiny and feedback. This is the standard operating procedure,” said Khalid.

He said he will also append Yeoh’s own studies to the presentation, adding that the whole process may take a month.

The minister also urged opponents in the matter to be reasonable and accept the Cabinet’s decision in the matter.

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