KUCHING: Sarawak hopes to get the famous Niah Caves in the state listed as a Unesco world heritage site in less than five years.
However, Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said they have to upgrade the facilities at the caves first.
He said the permit for quarry operations nearby will also be cancelled or Unesco will not give the recognition, he said after launching the “Night at the Museum” programme here today.
According to him, Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg had also instructed his ministry to prepare a Cabinet paper on ways to upgrade the caves first.
“This reflects our commitment and interest to turn the caves into one of the world’s heritage sites and draw more tourists.”
Karim said Sarawak was also in the midst of getting back the human skeletal remains excavated at Niah Caves by scientists from the United States.
More than 100 human skeletal remains were taken to Nevada in the United States for research by a university there, he said.
“Studies have already been done there and now that we are turning the Niah Caves into a historical site, the skeletal remains deserve to be brought back here,” he said.
“So far, they have agreed to the arrangement.
“We just need to pay for the transportation. Hopefully, all arrangements will be done by the end of this year.”
Karim also said a researcher from New South Wales, Australia, had discovered that the Niah Caves had actually been inhabited by humans about 65,000 years ago, instead of 40,000 years, as revealed in initial research.
“This discovery will change the history in the region,” he added.
Earlier, in his speech, he said he hoped the “Night at the Museum” programme, which involved its participants spending the night at the museum, would educate them on the importance of historical preservation.
He said such efforts will encourage the conservation of Sarawak’s cultural identity, unique heritage and historical treasures.