KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Friday (May 3) that his government is keen to take hold of a 4.5ha plot of land in Bukit Chagar in Johor, to build the rapid transit system (RTS) to Singapore.
He was responding to a report in Malaysiakini, which quoted sources, that the piece of land is allegedly now owned by the Sultan of Johor, though it was earlier owned by the Malaysian government.
The previous Malaysian government and Singapore had agreed to build the railway link from Bukit Chagar - near the Johor Baru checkpoints, immigration and customs (CIQ) building - to the upcoming Woodlands North MRT station.
The Woodlands North station is on the Thomson-East Coast MRT line or TEL.
The year-old Pakatan Harapan government on March 27 requested for a six-month deadline extension for it to respond to Singapore on matters related to the RTS project.
This was because Malaysia wanted to review "the RTS Link Project's scope, structure and costs previously agreed between the two countries", Singapore's Ministry of Transport (MOT) in a statement on April 4.
Speaking about the Bukit Chagar land, Tun Dr Mahathir told a news conference, as quoted by Malay Mail news site as saying: "We will demand the (return of) the land. If there was a transfer by any parties, they must go through the due process.
"We have not received the full report, just rumours from the press that the land was taken by the Sultan of Johor."
Asked if the Johor palace had paid for the land, Dr Mahathir said he was unsure.
But he added that the government will reimburse the Johor palace if it had bought the land. Malay Mail said the plot is valued between RM495 million and RM693 million.
"If he has paid, of course, we have to buy back," Dr Mahathir said, referring to the Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar. "But if he hasn't paid, we won't buy back, it is our land. We require that land for the purpose of building necessary buildings."
The Prime Minister added, according to the Malay Mail: "I don't think his royal highness would have just seized the land. We will have to file claims for the land."
Speaking about the RTS, Dr Mahathir said the rail link will not resolve traffic congestion often experienced at the two land links between Johor and Singapore.
"If we build the train, the train cannot carry all the passengers going to and from Singapore. And it cannot carry all the motorcycles. The train is limited in terms of capacity," he said.
About 400,000 Malaysians work and live in Singapore, with most of them making the daily commute from Johor and returning in the evening.
Previous reports sat the RTS link can carry up to 10,000 passengers per hour in each direction.