Monday, July 05, 2010

Anwar: Malaysia could have kept Tanjong Pagar

July 05, 2010
Anwar accused the federal administration of capitulating to Singapore’s demands. — file pic

MUAR, July 5 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim continued to pour scorn on the Najib administration’s recent land-swap deal with Singapore, saying Malaysia could have retained ownership of Tanjong Pagar had it wanted to.

“Tanjong Pagar is our land... this land is KTM land,” the de facto PKR chief said last night after a meeting with Johor party leaders here.

“As long as KTM trains go to Tanjong Pagar, that land belongs to KTM, meaning Malaysia,” said the former deputy prime minister.

He said “the law was clear” and that Malaysia should have sent a train every week from Kuala Lumpur or Johor Baru to Tanjong Pagar just to fulfil that condition.

“Who decides [whether the train goes to Tanjong Pagar]? We decide... To protect our land, we can send [a train] once a week,” Anwar said.

The railway land was acquired under a 1918 colonial ordinance specifically for use by Malayan Railway (KTM) for a period of 999 years. That same ordinance limits the use of this land.

The land swap has been contentious since the Malaysia-Singapore Points of Agreement (POA) was signed in 1990 over the issue of the future of the railway land. The POA was signed between former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and former Malaysian finance minister Tun Daim Zanuddin.

Under the agreement, KTM was to vacate its historic station at Tanjong Pagar and move to Bukit Timah while all of KTM’s land between Bukit Timah and Tanjong Pagar would revert to Singapore.

But the key contention was the interpretation of the agreement as Singapore insisted the agreement meant KTM had to move its terminal from Tanjong Pagar to Bukit Timah within five years of its construction, when the republic moved its railway immigration in August 1998.

Putrajaya, however, said it would only be effective once it decided to move the station.

The land at Tanjong Pagar would be handed over to a private limited company for joint development, of which its equity would be split 60 per cent to Malaysia’s Khazanah Nasional Berhad and 40 per cent to Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, according to the POA. Anwar said that while Johor had to maintain good ties with neighbouring Singapore, that did not mean it had to accede to every demand by the island republic.

“We have to be good to Singapore. We want them to invest here and we want to invest there... But does being good mean you have to give everything to them?” he told the 400-strong crowd who came to hear him speak.

The former finance minister said he had no problem with Singapore wanting to negotiate with the Malaysian government but stressed that the agreement should have been looked at more closely.

“When you talk to our friends in Singapore, they are smart, they are serious... that’s why before I went, I examined [the POA] in detail. [I had a] full understanding,” he said.

“This country has the resources. But now, it’s all gone... so how do you go on to respect the leadership of this country?”

Malaysia will soon re-locate its railway and Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex to the Woodlands train checkpoint.

The relocation, to take place on July 1 next year, marks a major step in resolving a number of outstanding bilateral issues between the two countries, as first reported by The Malaysian Insider last Sept 29.

The two governments will also form a company to jointly develop parcels of land now owned by KTMB.

Both countries also announced that a company, known as M-S Pte Ltd, will be established no later than Dec 31 this year to jointly develop the parcels of land.

The three parcels of land in Tanjong Pagar, Kranji and Woodlands, along with another three pieces of land in Bukit Timah, will be vested by M-S Pte Ltd for joint development, which in turn could be swapped on the basis of equivalent value for pieces of land in Marina South and/or Ophir-Rochor.

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