The Melaka Gateway Project is cancelled again! According to the Edge Markets, the Melaka state government terminated their RM43 billion contract with KAJ Development Sdn Bhd. The Edge notes that this mega project had been cancelled before. In 2018, KAJ Development’ had their licence to operate the port and terminal revoked by the Federal Ministry of Transport, to be reinstated in 2019, following court proceedings. Curiouser than Alice’s Wonderland, FMT reports that Melaka Chief Minister Sulaiman Md Ali has, even after this second cancellation, pledged to continue the project, thereby providing the circumstances under which the project might be canceled yet again!
The Melaka Chief Minister is reported to have indicated that the project now falls under the state’s new economic corridor called the Melaka Waterfront Economic Zone. Sulaiman is supposed to have said, “The development will continue, but we have some technical issues that we need to fix,” which might be read as a criticism of KAJ Development. The Melaka Waterfront Economic Zone or M-WEZ which was announced on the 10th of October 2020 refers to a 15,000-acre sea reclamation area running from Umbai to Tanjung Bruas. This 22km stretch includes the area covered by the Melaka Gateway land reclamation.
The above image from the Kaza Nunteng Porta series was shot in the Portuguese Settlement, Melaka. I made my way out onto a rickety fishing jetty to raise my Rajinikanth flag with the Melaka Gateway development behind me, obscuring the horizon as well as the fishermen’s access to the sea. The rest of the series was shot in Belem, Lisbon at the sites of two monuments, one of which includes the depiction of the fall of Melaka to Alfonso de Albuquerque.
After my Dari Pusat Tasek performance in Lumut, Perak, I went to meet Sara Frederica Santa Maria in the Kampung Portuguese Settlement, Melaka. We are planning to work together as a part of my Kaza Nunteng Porta performance series which links the Settlement with Lisbon, Portugal. We are planning to create an engagement on the street and perhaps on stage in Lisbon, bringin the Kristang language, music, dance and food home to Belem, the harbour district from which the Portuguese mariners set sail on their adventures of discovery and conquest.
‘Kaza Nunteng Porta’ is Kristang (Melaka Portuguese) for ‘House Without a Door’. It is the title of the 9th series of Koboi Project which addresses notions imperialism, globalization, migration, miscegenation and tourism as a part of the wider Koboi Narrative. The project is ongoing and thus far impromptu photo-performances have been held at the Alfonso De Albuquerque Monument and the Discoveries Monument in Belem, in 2018 and 2019.
According to the entry in Cruise Tracker, the offshore islands Besar, Undan and Upeh are part of Malacca state and accessible by jetty from mainland Malaysia. These ‘islands’ are in fact reclaimed or man-made and are part of the massive Melaka Gateway development which is part of the the port cities push to become ‘more important’ with its location on China’s ‘Maritime Silk Road’. This development has caused great disruption and upset to the fishermen of the Portuguese settlement whose access to the sea has been severely affected. The New Pakatan Harapan Government had campaigned on the basis that this Melaka Gateway development was contrary to Malaysia’s interests but it seems clear, given the continuance of the project under its auspices, that this was merely election rhetoric. Indeed, according to The Star Newspaper, piling has begun for “the RM682mil Melaka International Cruise Terminal, which is part of the Melaka Gateway project, [and] is expected to be completed by September next year.” The Eleven Media Group reports that this will be “the largest cruise jetty in Southeast Asia … occupying 8.3 acres (3.36 ha) … big enough to accommodate four cruise ships … and … 20,000 passengers.” This report specifies that the Melaka Gateway development plan as it stands today still, involves the cruise ship jetty, a yacht terminal, a ferry terminal, a cargo jetty, a deep sea jetty and a business / financial hub.
‘Kaza Nunteng Porta’, significa ‘Casa Sem Porta´ em Kristang (língua Portuguesa Malaca). É o título da nona série do Projeto Koboi. Nesta série, o Koboi aborda as conexões culturais, históricas e sociais entre Lisboa e Malaca, enquanto tenta colocar esta relação no contexto dos movimentos de diáspora e globalização. As fotografias desta série foram tiradas em Belém, Lisboa e Ujong Pasir, Malaca. Belém é o porto de qual os portugueses partiram nas suas aventuras marítimas pioneiras, enquanto Ujong Pasir é o local do Assentamento Português em Malaca, o último vestígio de uma das tais aventuras.
Kaza Nunteng Porta’, means ‘House Without a Door’ in Kristang (Malacca Portuguese language). It is the title of the 9th series in the Koboi Project. In this series the Koboi addresses the cultural, historical, social and connections between Lisbon and Malacca, while attempting to set this relationship within the context of diasporic movements and globalization. The photographs in this series were shot in Belem, Lisbon and in Ujong Pasir, Malacca. Belem is the port from which the Portuguese set sail on their pioneering maritime adventures and Ujong Pasir is the site of the Portuguese Settlement in Malacca – all that remains of the legacy of one of those adventures.
According 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?
Photographs on Sabine’s Happy Trails show how the Melaka Gateway project is causing silting in the Portuguese Settlement in Ujong Pasir, Melaka. Sabine notes that this reclamation and development of man-made islands by KAJ Development Sdn Bhd, has violated expert advice from both the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) and the SIA (Social Impact Assessment). According to Michael Singho, President of the Malacca Portuguese-Eurasian Association (MPEA), the distance of the reclamation is supposed to be kept at a minimum of 750 meters from the settlement shoreline. Sabine notes that it now appears to be less than 500 meters.
The late Papa Joe Lazaroo and the late Uncle Noel Felix, elders of the Malacca Portuguese Settlement explaining the contiguity of Papiah Kristang and modern Portuguese language, and most interestingly, how Kristang is a misnomer for their language – which is best termed Portugues Antigo (Ancient Portuguese).