KUCHING: The waiting game continues as to whether the Niah Caves will eventually be recognised as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) world heritage site or otherwise.
Minister of Tourism and Heritage Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, said that the ministry had forwarded a proposal to declare the caves at Niah National Park in Miri a heritage site.
The application, however, was still subjected to studies and approval, he told reporters who had asked for an update (on the status) here yesterday.
“The proposal was submitted in the middle of last year. It is now being assessed by both Malaysian and international panels. We have no result on the matter yet,” Abang Johari who is also Housing and Urban Development Minister told a press conference, after chairing the state 2011 Merdeka Day Celebration committee meeting at Wisma Bapa Malaysia here.
In October last year, Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud suggested that the Niah Caves be made a world heritage site for its uniqueness.
Taib, who spoke at the launch of an international seminar on Borneoan Archaeology here, added that by being recognised as a world heritage site, Niah Caves could enhance the state’s status in the world stage even more, following similar accolade given to Mulu Caves.
The Gunung Mulu National Park, which boasts the world’s largest natural cave chamber, is a certified Unesco World Heritage Site.
The main cave at the Niah National Park – Niah Great Cave, is located in Gunung Subis and is made up of several voluminous, high-ceiling chambers. The Great Cave lies in a large limestone block about a kilometre long and half-a-kilometre wide, detached from the main Gunung Subis complex by a valley of 150 to 200 metres wide.
The Niah Caves in the Niah National Park is an important archaeological and historical site where one of the oldest human remains dating over 40,000 years were found. It is also considered the oldest recorded human settlement in East Malaysia.