PETALING Jaya (PJ) will see yet another highway snaking through it, with construction of the Kinrara Damansara Skyway (Kidex) expected to begin in early 2015. Kidex will be a 14.9km elevated highway starting at the New Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE)’s Damansara toll plaza and terminating at the Bukit Jalil Highway. Its proposed route will pass by or above Tropicana City Mall, SSTwo Mall, Section 14, Hilton PJ, the Jalan Templer roundabout, Taman Dato Harun, Taman Medan Baru and Bandar Kinrara.
Much has been said about the need for Kidex and how it will alleviate PJ traffic woes and reduce congestion on the Damansara-Puchong and Sprint highways. Many PJ residents, however, especially those whose homes will be compulsorily acquired or affected by depreciation in property value, oppose the project.
Pakatan Rakyat (PR) Members of Parliament (MPs) and state assemblypersons have been speaking out on residents’ behalf against Kidex, calling for more information. But isn’t the PR Selangor government involved in the approval of the highway? And won’t its cooperation be required to compulsorily acquire land for the project?
A perusal of the Kidex Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment Report (PEIA) reveals the social impact of the project. The PEIA has already been approved by the Federal Department of Environment on 28 March 2013, about a month after its submission.
Kidex will be constructed over heavily built-up residential areas in Petaling Jaya and will pass very close to schools, houses and places of worship. It will pass just 5m away from two schools – Bukit Bintang Boys Secondary School and Sri Petaling Primary School. Its distance from the Tun Abdul Aziz Mosque in Section 14 is listed as 7m and from St Paul’s Church as 18m. Houses in parts of Sections 2, 4, 7 and 8 will be just 10m from the highway (PEIA, pages 5-15).
The report estimates that close to 300 private homes will have to be compulsorily acquired under the Land Acquisition Act. The report summarises all affected lots and lists numerous residential properties affected, including terrace houses in Sections 17 and 19, and houses along Jalan Penchala in Section 8.
For property owners living close to the highway who are not forced to sell, they will face increased noise pollution. High-rise buildings that have been identified include:
Ameera Residences Condominium
Damansara Bistari Apartment
Jasmine Towers Condominium
Tun Hussein Onn Eye Hospital
Flat Taman Sri Manja
Some property owners will also face a drastic drop in property value due to the “noise and vibration from being at close proximity” with the highway and the negative perception attached to that.
Other adverse impacts that should alarm residents living along the Kidex highway corridor can be found in the 232-page PEIA report.
Kidex was one of several new highways proposed by the federal government and was first announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on 15 October 2010 during his 2011 budget speech. At the time, no details were available and it was simply known as the Damansara-Petaling Jaya Highway.
A concession agreement was signed on 15 November 2013 between the Malaysian Highway Authority, a statutory body overseen by the Works Ministry, and Kidex Sdn Bhd.
PR elected representatives, including Bukit Gasing assemblyperson Rajiv Rishyakaran and PJ Utara MP Tony Pua, have expressed dismay at the lack of information on the project from the concessionaire and the federal government. A group of DAP assemblypersons have urged Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low to disclose the Kidex concession agreement and prove he is not a “lame duck transparency minister”. PJ Selatan MP Hee Loy Sian has also questioned the federal government in Parliament on the absence of public hearings, and lack of information on the houses and commercial buildings involved.
But the PR representatives would do well to question the PR Selangor government on this proposed project since it requires the state government’s involvement to proceed. Crucially, the power to compulsorily acquire land lies solely with the state government.
Selangor government involved
The Selangor government’s involvement is apparent from available documentation. Shortly after the May 2013 general election, the Selangor government published a gazette under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act freezing 3,784 land lots from being traded on 18 July 2013. These land lots are within 100m of the highway’s proposed corridor (see attachment A). This was subsequently amended to 3,723 land lots.
At a protest over Kidex in September 2013, Rajiv referred to a letter from the Jabatan Ketua Pengarah Tanah dan Galian (Persekutuan) dated 31 July 2013 referring to possible compensation for affected residents. This letter, however, is from the Jabatan Ketua Pengarah Tanah dan Galian (Persekutuan) Negeri Selangor – a department under the purview of the Selangor government (see attachment B).
On 12 Nov 2013, Works Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof responded to a question from Hee on the status of Kidex. Fadillah stated that the Kidex project had been presented to the Selangor government, and the proposal for the project had been agreed to by the state government in a letter dated 23 Feb 2012 from the Selangor Economic Action Council (MTES).
And on 11 April 2014, Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim announced that the state government has agreed to allow the project to proceed.
By agreeing to the highway proposal, the Selangor government was in blatant disregard of the PR’s collective election manifesto known as Buku Jingga, where the coalition promised to abolish tolled highways.
By agreeing to the project in February 2012 and subsequently publishing Buku Jingga promising to abolish tolled highways, while not informing voters about the impending highway, the PR essentially lied to PJ residents to gain votes.
Some PR representatives have at least seen it fit to point out this hypocrisy. “Promises made to the people during elections form the basis upon which governments are given their mandate to govern. These promises, reduced into election manifestos such as the Pakatan Rakyat Manifesto 2013, must be respected and fulfilled,” said Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo.
Sadly, Gobind’s views have not been shared or repeated by other PR elected representatives who have simply sought to redirect the blame to the federal government or concessionaire. Calls on the federal government for transparency should be accompanied by similar calls on the Selangor government. For a start, the Selangor government could disclose the MTES meeting minutes from February 2012, where the state government agreed to the project in principle.
Meanwhile, Menteri Besar Khalid has assured the public that feedback will be sought and that all information would be made public. However, no commitment on the timeline or mechanism on how these promises would be kept has been provided.
The calls by PR representatives for more transparency and accountability over Kidex would be more effective if the Selangor government itself demonstrated these attributes in its dealings with Kidex. Until then, the rights of affected residents are being trampled on by both the Barisan Nasional and PR governments because of this project.
KW Mak is a committee member of the Say No to Kidex pro tem group and was an independent candidate for the Bukit Gasing state assembly seat in the May 2013 general election. He has no property along the highway corridor but believes in upholding affected residents’ rights.