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By Nigel Edgar
KUCHING, Feb 8: The famous Niah National Park will be recognised as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) heritage site within five years.
Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said there was still a lot of work to be done before that could happen, but once all necessary improvements had been made, including to the cave, it would get the recognition.
“It will take quite a while. It is not something you submit and automatically get recognised. There will have to be things to do with all those things that we submit to make it deserving to be recognised as a Unesco heritage site.
“I’m giving it probably less than five years, but in the meantime, we have to do a lot of improvements on the place, walkways and activities there.
“We have to stop the quarry permit nearby,” he told reporters after officiating at the Night at the Museum programme here this afternoon.
Abdul Karim said there was a quarry near the Niah National Park. To satisfy the conditions to be recognised as a Unesco heritage site, the whole area had to be preserved, which meant the quarry would have to be decommissioned.
“Otherwise, we will not be given that kind of recognition.”
Abdul Karim said the more reason why Niah should be recognised by Unesco is due to the recent discovery of an ancient burial site in Niah Cave that predates to more than 50,000 years ago as discovered by archaeologists and scientists from University of New South Wales, Australia.
On that, he said more than 100 ancient human skeletons were excavated from the site in the cave and were brought to Nevada in the United States of America (USA) to be further studied.
“I think the study (on the ancient skeletons) has been done. We feel that now that we are bringing up Niah into a historical site, those artefacts deserved to be brought back here,” he said.
Abdul Karim said negotiations with scientists and researchers in the USA had been very fruitful as they also agreed to return the ancient skeletons back to Sarawak.
These skeletons would be stored and displayed at the Sarawak Museum.
“There are still some ancient burial sites in Niah Cave. The 100 plus that was excavated and studied were only a portion of it.” — DayakDaily