Melaka Gateway Update

489-large-f748f16d6990e284e5bf9abdaa5e8addPlease visit Koboi Project series  – Kaza Nunteng Porta at

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.


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?



Silting-up the Settlement 2


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.


Silting Up the Settlement 1


In 2016, President of the Malacca Portuguese-Eurasian Association, Micheal Singho, described the fate of his community in the face of the ongoing Gateway development.

Here is what he wrote in the New Straits Times on October 2, 2016 –

“RECENTLY, there have been reports on China’s RM30 billion boost to the Melaka Gateway project with a signing of a memorandum of understanding.

The approval of the project will snuff the life out of the Portuguese Settlement by depriving it of its life, spirit and culture-sustaining sea.

The Melaka Gateway development will rob the settlement of the open sea and replace it with a waterway that will turn it into a silt-filled, polluted, stinky and dead swamp if the design contours are not altered to studied specifications in the 1997 macro-Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.

Is this morally right and responsible?

Even the basic 750m distance is not adhered to, with portions of the design coming as close as 250m to the settlement.

The project, coupled with the Pulau Melaka project, increases the level of siltation as it does not allow adequate flushing, and impedes vital current flows and tidal movements.

Even the channel between the two man-made islands is narrow and ineffective.

The project is still without a Social Impact Assessment report. Fishermen, whose income are affected, have not been compensated. These violations resulted in a stop-work order issued by the Department of Environment in March last year.

At the last meeting with government agencies and the developer, representatives of the Portuguese-Eurasian community forwarded a proposal that adhered to the tenets of the 1997 macro-EIA report and called for the channel to be a functional waterway free of pollution.

They are still waiting for a response.

MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, who is also transport minister, has voiced his support and interest in the project.

But, will this come at the cost of a living, profound and contributing legacy falling victim to development?

Liow must recall how the Chinese fought for the preservation of Bukit Cina, a place that provided sanctuary for their dead.

The sea is our Bukit Cina, but with a little difference, as it sustains the living.

Nothing should be allowed to rob whatever is left of the sea and the seafront of the Portuguese Settlement. There are other options that will spare the settlement.”


Kristang Protest


The Melaka Portuguese community staged a coffin protest at the Melaka Gateway site office on the 17th May 2018. Melaka Gateway is a gargantuan land reclamation and development project that is a part of China’s One Belt One Road initiative. It will include a deep-sea port that is being built by Chinese companies in a joint venture with Malaysia’s own KAJ Development Sdn Bhd’s (KAJD). According to a report in the STAR newspaper, the Chairperson of the Portuguese Village Community Management Council, Jacinta Lazaroo, alleged that the developer failed to comply with the macro EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) report of 1998. This non-compliance seems to have resulted in severe silting which has affected the livelihoods of the members of this largely fishing community. The STAR also reported that according to Melaka Gateway’s developer, Hasbullah Zakaria, KAJD Maning Director, the company had not received any memorandum of protest nor any demand for compensation from the community.