Thursday, October 17

Mulling policy to better protect Sarawak’s underwater heritage

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Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg

Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg

KUCHING: Collaborative efforts are underway between the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, the Museum Department, Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and the Embassy of Japan to come up with a policy to better protect Sarawak’s underwater heritage site.

Tourism, Arts and Culture minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said he had discussed with MMEA and the Museum Department on plans to mitigate the consequences on the Japanese shipwreck vandalised for its metal.

“In fact, there is an Act that monitors the site which is a wetland park. However, a thorough study needs to be done including enhancing the law and policy before we take action,” he told reporters.

Abang Johari was met at the Gawai Open House of deputy chief minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and wife Datin Amar Doreen Lee Mei Hua at their residence in BDC on Wednesday.

“If the current legislation is insufficient to provide the much needed protection and conservation of our historic environment including underwater wrecks and artefacts, we need to amend it,” he added.

Abang Johari warned intruders not to disturb the historic shipwrecks and associated relics as they were precious and valuable to Sarawak.

“I also ask that the relevant enforcement agencies monitor the area to prevent any unwanted acts of vandalism,” he said.

The underwater historical site, located 28km offshore from Santubong, is a popular diving destination.

It is home to the remains of Japanese warships Katori Maru and Hiyoshi Maru as well as destroyer IJN Sagiri.

Divers regard the area as the ‘best shipwreck diving site in the country — remnants of the true history of Borneo during World War II’.

A group of divers recently discovered that the historic shipwreck had been severely damaged by unscrupulous metal salvagers.

Only debris and scraps of metal were left scattered all over the barren seabed where the ship once rested, surrounded by coral and marine life.