Caretaker Selangor MB scraps PJD Link Expressway, stakeholders wonder if decision is valid, binding

The decision by the Selangor government today to scrap the controversial Petaling Jaya Dispersal Link (PJD Link Expressway) raises questions as to whether it is binding, or if it would have legal implications, since it was made by a caretaker government.

Senior lawyer, Datuk Seri Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos said a caretaker government is one that should govern, and not make policy decisions.

“A caretaker government is one that has the lawful authority to govern, but not the political authority, since the exercise of dissolution and the state election is to determine that very question,” said Jahaberdeen.

“It has been a practice that a caretaker government should just govern, and not make policy decisions, or enter into contractual relationships, or make appointments that would bind the government,” he said.

As such, in the case of the PJD Link Expressway project, Jahaberdeen said the state government should have deferred the cancellation to the incoming government, adding that the decision to terminate the project could have severe legal consequences, putting the state government in a bind.

This afternoon, caretaker Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari said the proposed PJD Link Expressway did not meet the conditions set by the state government, and the administration had decided to scrap the project.

Amirudin, in a statement, said the state government had studied several aspects of the project and did not wish to proceed with it. The statement was however, silent as to when the state government had decided on the matter, and whether Amirudin’s statement today was the result of a decision made by the state government prior to the dissolution of the state assembly.

“In the beginning, the proposal to build this highway received principle approval from the Cabinet on Nov 12, 2017,” the statement read.

“It was then brought to the Selangor state economic action council (MTES) on Sept 3, 2020, and a study involving Petaling Jaya residents was carried out.”

Amirudin said the plan was tabled to the Cabinet on Nov 12, 2021 for a conditional approval for the development plan to meet all conditions set by the Selangor government.

“Following that, a concession agreement through the Perikatan Nasional federal government was signed on April 5, 2022, on condition that the developer would carry out a detailed environmental impact assessment (EIA) report, a social impact assessment (SIA) report, and a traffic impact assessment (TIA) report, before the agreement is activated.

“We want a balanced and sustainable development, which will not bring harm to the people of Selangor,” Amirudin said, adding that the state government was not satisfied with the impact assessment reports, especially the SIA, as they did not meet the requirements set by the state government.

“As such, the state government does not intend to proceed with this proposal and has decided to cancel the application for the PJD-Link development,” Amirudin added.

The PJD Link is a proposed 25.4km dual-lane elevated expressway connecting Damansara to Bandar Kinrara.

The announcement by the state government also raised eyebrows with the ‘Say No to PJD Link’ group.

Speaking to Twentytwo13, ‘Say No to PJD Link’ coordinator, Billie Tan, said while the group welcomed the announcement by the caretaker menteri besar to scrap the project, the group wonders if the decision will be binding.

“The menteri besar has said that it is cancelled. But we have to make sure that the project will not be revived via a different name. Kidex (Kinrara–Damansara Expressway), which was cancelled in 2015, was rebranded as PJD Link,” said Tan.

“It has been 10 years since Kidex was first proposed. We don’t think people will have the energy to fight again if it (the highway) comes back under a different name. We must find a way to put an end to this through our local city planning policies.”

Tan said that in the last 10 days, the group had also reached out to MUDA, who are sympathetic to their cause, and are on the same page with them.

“But now, all of a sudden, because it’s the state elections, and the menteri besar issues this statement… it appears as though he is being pressured…”

“I am surprised by the decision today. We have been asking for the state government to say no for so long, as we have always been told to give the developers a chance to submit their TIA, EIA, and SIA reports.

“There has never been an outright ‘no’ from the state government on this project prior to this,” she added.

Sustainable Petaling Jaya Association chairman, T. Chakaravarti said he too, was surprised by the state government’s timing, to suddenly scrap the project.

He said four affected residents had filed a judicial review to obtain the TIA, EIA, and SIA reports submitted by the company, and also for the concession agreement – classified under the Official Secrets Act – to be declassified.

“The case is under case management, with the next case management date being in October,” he said.

Chakaravarti, who is also a lawyer, said the state government has no authority to make such a declaration (cancelling the project), as it was a caretaker government.

“The timing raises a lot of questions as campaigning for the state elections are ongoing. The project can be reinstated at any time, and there is nothing stopping the company behind the project to go to court to say that the menteri besar had acted ultra vires.

“We have been trying to meet the menteri besar for three years, and finally managed to meet him in March this year. We were then told by him that if the project was similar to Kidex, then it would be scrapped.

“The state government had already obtained all the necessary documents in May. So why didn’t it decide then? Why cancel it now?” Chakaravarti asked.

Local government expert Derek Fernandez said the decision to scrap the PJD Link was welcomed, as it was in accordance with the policies in the Petaling Jaya local plans (RTPJ1 and RTPJ2)

“These policies do not encourage elevated intra-city, tolled highways. The Petaling Jaya local plans give priority to mass public transport infrastructure, or smart tunnel, dual-purpose infrastructure that helps water sustainability and flood mitigation.”

He added that elevated highway infrastructure running over mature and dense cities were inconsistent with sustainable development goals, low carbon city goals, and were poor examples of good environment, social, and governance (ESG).

“They often cause far more inconvenience, hardships, and diminution in the quality of life and assets value to local residents and businesses,” Fernandez said.

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