Heritage and the Politics of Culture
The Melaka Gateway is a $43 billion ringgit (¥1.19 trillion) project to construct a series of off-shore islands, including a deep sea port, cruise ship terminal and eco-resorts off the coast of Melaka, a mid-sized city on Malaysia’s southwestern coast. This is part of China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative, also known as the ‘new silk road’ which would connect China with the rest of Asia and Europe through a series of marine and land based infrastructure. The project not only has a number of social and environmental impacts, but also has implications for Melaka’s UNESCO World Heritage designation, as it would overshadow the historic town center, compromising its significance. Not only would it shift the city center from the historic old town to the new coastline, it also aims to reconstruct a ‘Heritage Esplanade’ on the reclaimed islands. It also intends to reclaim Melaka's 'glory days' as a major shipping hub in the Southeast Asian region, which is one of the selling points for local politicians. Given that the development is intended to eclipse the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Malacca’s old town; the research questions the importance of heritage conservation in relation to urban (re)development from the State's perspective. In reviewing this project, the paper intends to analyze the various competing visions for the future of Melaka, and what implications would these have for local residents, the environment, and broader urban landscape.