Monday, June 17

Museum Dept to discuss conservation of heritage assets

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KUCHING: Better policy and collaborative efforts are needed to safeguard and conserve the historic environment as well as cultural heritage assets of Sarawak from any disturbance, loss and depletion.

State Museum Department director Ipoi Datan said his side would be holding more meetings after the Gawai holidays to discuss ways to enhance collaborations with relevant authorities and bodies on heritage conservation and protection.

“We will meet with ministries and authorities to discuss this matter soon,” he told The Borneo Post yesterday, in reference to reports about the plundering of World War II (WWII) shipwreck of Katori Maru.

The underwater historical site, located 28km offshore Santubong, is a popular diving destination. It is home to the remains of the Japanese warships Katori Maru and Hiyoshi Maru, as well as destroyer IJN Sagiri.

Divers regard that area as the ‘best shipwreck diving site in the country — one with the true history of Borneo during the WWII’.

However on Saturday, a news report highlighted that unscrupulous metal salvagers were responsible in turning the historical underwater site into an underwater ‘scrap metal yard’.

In a statement, an officer from the Museum Department emphasised the importance of safeguarding and conserving the historical environment, which comprised buildings, monuments, sites and landscapes that reflected Sarawak’s history for the benefit of present and future generations.

“The department is in the midst of reviewing the Sarawak Cultural Heritage Ordinance 1993, upon which amendment will be made to strengthen the law and expand the field of cultural heritage protection, including enforcement.

“Once the report is compiled, it will be sent to the State Attorney-General. We need a stronger policy to give greater protection to our historic environment.”

At the moment, the Museum Department officer could not comment about the destruction of Katori Maru as it was not under the department’s purview. However, he stressed that more needed to be done through collaborative solutions to address the shortcomings from the legislative’s side.

“More importantly, we call the community to play a greater role in supporting the department’s efforts in protecting and promoting Sarawak’s precious and vulnerable historic environment.

“We are all responsible for protecting and conserving history.”