[Malaysiakini] Cheras residents in stand-off to protect toll-free road
by Syed Jaymal Zahiid & Chan Kok Leong
About 1,000 residents from Bandar Mahkota and surrounding areas in Cheras today gathered to stop highway concessionaire Grand Saga from rebuilding a concrete barrier in an alternate toll-free road.
mahkota cheras road barricade problem location of barricade 300408The residents started gathering since afternoon after hearing that Cheras-Kajang Highway operator Grand Saga Sdn Bhd would be starting work to put up the three-feet high barrier, to replace one which was removed by the residents on April 21.
Their valiant attempts however failed as the highway operator managed to put up a replacement barrier, but not before the residents put up a tough fight.
In the process, at least two residents were arrested. And now there are talks that they would try to dismantle this new barrier soon.
Grand Saga wanted to re-erect the concrete barrier to force the residents to use their tolled highway.
This resulted in residents having to travel an additional six kilometre and pay Grand Saga 90 sen toll for every trip [see Google map below].
When workers belonging to Grand Saga started their work to rebuild the barrier this afternoon, the residents moved in to stop them.
Some of the residents snatched away the key of a bulldozer belonging to the workers.
The work was however stopped when an enforcement official from the Kajang Municipal Council urged Grand Saga to put off their work. He said he was asked to convey the message by the Malaysian Highway Authority.
In the meantime, about 100 Federal Reserve Unit personnel were also stationed on the site and they have erected roadblocks to stop vehicles from entering the area.
At about 6.45pm, the police asked the residents to disperse, which the residents failed to adhere.
The FRU personnel then tried to push back the residents away from the police barrier, causing some tension and small stand-offs between the police and the residents.
It was in this process that the two residents, both men, were arrested.
"This is a blatant transgression against the residents' rights. The police should be with the rakyat and not for the interest of businesses," said Cheras MP Tan Kok Wai.
Following this Grand Saga workers then proceeded to place concrete barriers to make the toll-free road inaccessible again.
After the removal of the barrier by the residents, Grand Saga business development and corporate affairs executive director Zainal Abidin Ali had said traffic had become chaotic following the “illegal” removal of the barricade.
Selangor state exco Ean Yong Wah who was present at the scene, also blasted the police for being "bias and ridiculous".
"I had shown the document issued by the Hulu Langat Land Department which clearly stated that the barricaded land belonged to the state government but yet the Selangor chief police officer Khalid Abu Bakar would not believe us and acted on behalf of Grand Saga instead," he said.
Ean also said that he would ask the Kajang local council to remove the newly placed barrier tomorrow.
The police left the scene at about 8.20pm while the residents also slowly dispersed although some were still seen mingling about.
Khalid looking for a solution
Meanwhile, during a press briefing in Shah Alam, Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim was asked about the Mahkota Cheras toll issue.
"These are among the many ongoing crises which we've had to look into ever since taking over. Here, you have two conflicting parties.
"One party wants the access road and not pay toll while the toll concessionaire feels if everyone uses this road, their toll collection will be reduced.
"But the Selangor government is of the opinion that if the barrier is owned by the state government then the barrier cannot be allowed," he said.
He said that exco member Ronnie Liu would be leading a state team for a meeting with concessionaire Grand Saga and the Public Works Department before the end of the month.
"While privatisation is a necessity, this must not be done at the expense of the local residents or be a burden to them. As such, we are suggesting a dialogue to find a workable solution for all the parties involved.
The article above is taken from Malaysiakini
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