Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar is ready to surrender his plot of land in Bukit Chagar to the Malaysian government for free to be used for a planned rail link with Singapore.
The monarch was responding to recent news reports which claimed that the Rapid Transit System (RTS) project was delayed because the federal government may have to compensate the palace to acquire the plot.
The parcel of land originally belonged to the federal government.
Sultan Ibrahim, in a statement issued by his private secretary Jaba Mohd Noah yesterday, said that he was never informed that the land would be involved in the project.
"However, His Majesty decreed that if the land owned by His Majesty in Bukit Chagar is really involved in the RTS project, then His Majesty consents that it be surrendered to the government without cost," he said.
On Friday, the Malaysian media had reported that the title for the 4.5ha plot, which is one of five parcels needed to build the RTS, was transferred to Sultan Ibrahim sometime between 2017 and last year, under the former Barisan Nasional administration.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had said on Friday that the government would attempt to reclaim the plot from the Sultan if he had not paid for it.
"(But) If he (Sultan Ibrahim) paid for the land, then we have to buy (it) back," he told reporters.
Citing government sources, news portal Malaysiakini also reported that another 2.4ha of undersea land to be used for the project is also owned by the Johor Sultan, and that it would cost the government RM694 million (S$229 million) to buy back both parcels of land.
Sultan Ibrahim said yesterday that the rail link project must be continued as he understands the plight of many people who travel from Johor to Singapore daily.
"As has always been emphasised, the people and government's interests are always His Majesty's priority..." he said.
More than 300,000 people are estimated to cross into Singapore from Johor daily.
The RTS was planned to run from Bukit Chagar - near the Johor Baru checkpoints, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) building - to the upcoming Woodlands North MRT station in Singapore.
Sultan Ibrahim had in August 2017 criticised the height of the elevated bridge and curved rail track for the RTS, insisting he was to be consulted on a revised plan.
In November 2017, he agreed to a realignment of the RTS.
According to a report yesterday in news site Malaysiakini, the 4.5ha plot was transferred to the ruler two days after he consented to the realignment.
Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim defended his father yesterday, saying that the Johor royal family was a victim of character assassination.
"How much land has the Johor Sultan given to the people and the government until now? Millions have been given to the government. How many millions were given to foundations? News of his good deeds were not publicised," he tweeted.