KTM tells squatters to get out


The Straits Times
29 March 1998

By Jasbir Singh

The Malayan Railway (KTM) yesterday began serving eviction notices on illegal squatters on its railway land, posting 110 notices at sites in Kranji and Woodlands.

It put up the documents, which were laminated and struck on wooden stakes, at about 100 lots off Woodlands Road. The land is beside the railway line.

About 100 foreign workers were found to be staying there, when The Straits Times visited the site yesterday.

But it was clear that the lots were being used mainly as storage and repair yards for heavy equipment and construction material. At least one served as a cement and sand dump.

Excavators, tower cranes, bulldozers, cement-mixers, heavy-duty trucks and pick-ups were among the vehicles parked there. All had Singapore license plates.

KTM lawyers here, Joseph Tan Jude Benny & Scott, said they could not identify immediately the nationality or nationalities of the squatters.

But one signboard at a squatter site bore the name of a Malaysian-registered business, said Mr Jude P. Benny.

Bangladeshi worker Mohamad Nezam, 30, said in Bengali: “Every night, these machines roll in from construction sites and park here. Then their owners disappear.”

He was one of about 100 Bangladeshi and Thai workers staying in makeshift container quarters there. None of the people who maintain the lots was there to receive the eviction notices.

Mr Abbas Ali, lawyer for KTM, said when he returned last evening with three armed Cisco officers, some signs had been pulled down or damaged.

Mr Benny said more eviction notices will be put up today and tomorrow. He would not say where.

He said the eviction move was not sudden. KTM and the Urban Redevelopment Authority had been looking at the problem of its land use in the last year, he said.

KTM owns about 200-ha here, including the 16-ha railway station at Tanjong Pagar, and others in Queensway and Bukit Panjang.

Its blitz comes two weeks after Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said his government was facing problems trying to retain ownership of KTM land here and that Singapore had been pressuring Malaysia to give it up.

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said at a press conference in Laos on Tuesday that Malaysian media reports on this had some inaccuracies which suggested that Singapore had been very unhelpful in resolving problems.

Singapore officials would write to them to point out the inaccuracies and thereby correct the misperceptions, he said.