Silting-up the Settlement 3

gatewayAccording to FMT Dr Mahathir Mohamad has in the past described the Melaka Gateway port project as a sign that Najib’s former government was ceding sovereignty to China for short-term political gains. In an interview with South China Morning Post (SCMP) in March 2017, Mahathir is reported to have said, “We already have enough ports and the necessary infrastructure to attract tourists. This [Melaka Gateway] is unnecessary.” Indeed, while the economics of the port is questionable, there is no doubt of the strategic importance of the Malacca Straits to China.

As he questions Beijing’s true motive for this 10 Billion Dollar investment, which includes a deep-sea port,  Thomas Maresca writes in USA Today, “Neighboring Singapore has long had a close defense relationship with the United States, which has deployed naval combat ships there since 2013. Analysts see China’s closer economic ties with Malaysia as an opportunity to strengthen its own maritime footprint in a crucial region”. Maresca cites Johan Saravanamuthu of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University, “There’s the argument that China is not getting favorable treatment from Singapore, so why not try Malaysia? …. With the Malacca Strait on one side and the South China Sea on the other, Malaysia is quite crucial.”

Given that the work on the Gateway Project had already caused severe silting in the Melaka Portuguese Settlement and that the demise of this community goes against all logic in the context of heritage and tourism, I hope the new State and Federal governments hear the people’s protestations. Now that Mahathir has successfully displaced Najib, and is seated as Malaysia’s Prime Minister once again, will he follow through with actions that show us that he was not speaking simply to undermine Najib?



Kabali Da! 4

back in tokyo.png
Like our Thailavar Tun Dr Mahathir, I too am back (in a much more modest way of course!) I AM BACK IN JAPAN after about 20 years .. On my first trip in 1998, I saw our Rajinikanth beaming down at me from a cinema hoarding .. and thus was the seed sown that has flowered into the Koboi Balik Kampung roadshow that I am now taking round the world! I used to be a regular visiter to Japan in the late 1990’s under the auspices of the Japan Foundation and the Fukuoka Art Museum and I am really happy to be back here for Cowboys and Indians: Tokyo Edition. Please come … all are welcome!


コートヤード HIROO:2018年5月11日午後7
〒106-0031 東京都港区西麻布4-21-2
Courtyard HIROO : 7pm 11th May 2018
4-21-2 Nishiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-0031 JAPAN
Tel. +81-3-6427-1185


Kabali Da! 2

920x920In August 2015, in a conversation that my friend, journalist Ismail Lim that he later developed into his Do You Want Mahathir to Shut Up piece in Free Malaysia Today, I had said ”Mahathir is the father and mother of modern Malaysia. Without him, the Malays would still be struggling to get out of the backwater and everyone else without exception would be in a sleepy Third World idyll” ….

…. years later, just yesterday, on the eve of GE 14, in a conversation with another friend who will remain annonymous, this idea was picked up and developed. This friend said, “If anyone can liberalise the conservative Malay mindset it is Mahathir. He tried to help them adapt to modernity even before his 22years as PM. His “Malay Dilemma” showed how he was acutely aware of the toll that the 21st century would take on the feudal structures and simplistic protectionist relflex that the Malay psyche. What he did not foresee was the extent to which his greedy knights would end up looting the kingdom jewels and mortgage the realm – He pampered his barons by pandering to their need to dress up for the pendekar roleplay, undermining his own cauase … and now it may be too late …

… As I said in 2015, Mahathir may not be all good, but he is nearly all smart. And he’s taking responsibility for the political monster he created. The ‘old man’ is a player and Malaysians need to play hard ball now to get out of this mess … I think Mahathir’s principle is success and not necessarily goodness or fairness. Malaysia must succeed. If not, he will bring the skeleton back to the dock anyhow”

I was responding then, to Ismail’s reference to the allegory of the fish from Hemingway’s The ‘Old Man’ and the Sea. … Last night, on June 7th, Mahatir gave his last speech of what has been a most amazing campaign for any man, let alone an ‘old man’ of 90 plus years. What can I say … , Mahathir has done his all. He has played ball with the stamina and verve of a much younger man. Thank you Dr M … right or wrong, win or loose, you have done your part!!!


Kabali Da!

I have always liked Mahathir Mohammed … the way I liked Muhammed Ali I guess … whether it is against great fighters like Frazier or Foreman or underdogs like Bugner … I was always with Ali …  same with Mahathir … I like his style, his guts,and his perfect poise … like a surfer or Jazz improviser .. he reacts with the most natural grace …  To paraphrase or restate an idea from Miles Davis ( I think it was Herbie Hancock who explained this lesson from the Master) … its not the right note or the wrong note … its just the next note … and its up to you to make it work … Good Luck Dr M.

Kabali Da!


skyharapanSometimes the quirks of life provide better expressions of truth then the constructs of the best artist. The job of the artist in such instances is to read and re-present these signs. The above image is a crop/edit from a larger image in the mass media that has been seen, by those who believe that the ruling party pulls the levers of the supposedly independent Elections Commision, as a counter productive attempt by Barisan to supress the images of the two main opposition leaders in the coming elections. Regardless of the independanceof the commision, I would take this analysis further in a most objective fashion – the excision of one of the leaders of the opposition from a hoarding turns the resulting lacuna into an image of both of them. Further, in this instance (and from this angle) it gives the public an image of the sky which carries all the possible connotations of ‘Hope’ or Harapan! I really do not think there will be many more instances of official iconoclasm of this kind ,if the government does indeed have a grip on the Elections Commision (and assuming, of course, that the party knows what it is doing)!




As the May 8th polling date approaches in Malaysia, there has been an interesting turn of events with regard to the use of images. According to the Straits Times of Singapore, the Election Commission just issued new guidelines stipulating that, other than the photograph of the candidate standing for election in a given constituency,  the only other photographs can be used on campaign materials are photos of the candidate’s party president and deputy president. This effectively removes images of Dr Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim from the iconography of the campaign. Reflecting on the power of images in the contemporary media, and the interdiction against images in Islam in this context might be quite enlightening ……. as might pondering on the Superstar Cutouts that populate the box-office and polling landscapes of Asia!

Image composite from : and