Arbitration's the right way, says Shanmugam

Arbitration's the right way, says Shanmugam

Resolving the issue of whether development charges were payable on former Malayan Railway land through third-party arbitration was the right step, Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said.

"The process, and the way we did it, is the right way to do these things," he said yesterday. An international tribunal gave its decision on the matter last week.

Singapore accepts the decision and it will move on, he said of the arbitration tribunal's decision that a Malaysia-Singapore joint venture will not have to pay taxes on these three parcels in Tanjong Pagar, Kranji and Woodlands.

Mr Shanmugam, who is also Law Minister, noted that both countries are now collaborating on many projects on both sides of the Causeway that are "benefiting the people of Malaysia and Singapore".

"We have developments now, joint ventures in Iskandar, and they have (projects) here, all being done together. It encourages people-to-people movement, more commercial activities," he added. "The two countries (are) such close neighbours, we have to find sensible ways of moving forward."

His comments yesterday came two days after Singapore and Malaysia jointly announced the tribunal's decision on Friday.

The issue of development charges for the three parcels of former railway land in Tanjong Pagar, Kranji and Woodlands was left over from a 1990 Points of Agreement (POA) between both countries over the relocation of the railway station and the freeing up of the land the line occupied.

The implementation of the POA had been held up over differing interpretation of its clauses until a landmark 2010 land swop deal.

Under the land swop deal, the three plots of railway land and three additional plots in Bukit Timah would be exchanged for four land parcels in Marina South and two parcels in Ophir-Rochor.

The deal saw the POA being implemented and the last train left Tanjong Pagar Railway Station in 2011. Trains from Malaysia now stop in Woodlands.

The Malaysia-Singapore joint venture M+S was set up to develop the new plots, with Malaysia's investment arm Khazanah Nasional owning a 60 per cent stake and Singapore's Temasek Holdings 40 per cent.

Malaysia agreed for M+S to pay development charges - taxes levied by the Singapore Government when permission is given to develop land that appreciates in value - for the three Bukit Timah plots, but not the original three parcels.

The matter was sent for arbitration in 2012. The tribunal ruled on Thursday that M+S will not have to pay the $1.47 billion in levy that Singapore sought.

Mr Shanmugam was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an active-ageing carnival in Nee Soon GRC, where he is the anchor minister.

tohyc@sph.com.sg

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