Published on: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Its President, Richard Nelson Sokial, said it should also include other professional bodies such as Sabah Malaysian Architect Association (PAM) as well as NGOs such as Heritage Sabah to oversee matters related to the identification, preservation and enhancement of heritage places and structures in Kota Kinabalu.
The NGO was among organisations that were invited to participate in a series of workshops and discussions held by City Hall and subsequently tasked to make proposals on policies, definitions and controls for places of historical and cultural value so as to be incorporated into the Draft KK Local Plan 2020.
Sokial said Heritage Sabah believes that the Heritage Task Force is a crucial component to be incorporated into the Draft KK Local Plan 2020 in order to bring the right set of skills together and come up with effective mechanisms and guidelines to address heritage issues in Kota Kinabalu.
"Within a short duration of three weeks and with a structured research methodology, we managed to do a preliminary investigation and shortlisted 49 potential heritage places within Kota Kinabalu City.
"While some have already been gazetted under the state heritage laws namely the Antiquities and Treasure Trove Enactment 1977 and the Cultural Heritage (Conservation) Enactment 1997, many others are not protected and are in danger of being destroyed," he said.
He said that the comprehensive exercise undertaken by the organisation's unpaid volunteers only reflects the NGO's commitment in protecting Sabah's heritage places and to ensure that the proper guidelines and policies to protect them are put in place by the local authorities.
"Now, in return, we urge City Hall to show its equal commitment to the people of Kota Kinabalu and set up a Heritage Task Force to review and formulate the best policy and guidelines on how to protect and edify these heritage locations," he said.
The Heritage Task Force, he said, would be responsible to keep track of the shortlisted heritage places and assess its heritage values based on a set of criteria to rate its significance as a heritage place so that the appropriate design controls and guidelines can be applied to it.
The NGO, he said, is keen to share the list of 49 recommended heritage places with the public but can only do so after the Task Force is established by City Hall so that a proper endorsement of the listed sites and buildings can be initiated.
Sokial also urged City Hall to keep the public updated on the progress of the Draft KK Local Plan 2020.
"We will also continue to request that all minutes of recent meetings with City Hall on this particular matter be made available to all invited representatives," he said.
Nevertheless, he thanked City Hall for organising previous meetings with public shareholders, which showed its positive response to Heritage Sabah's call for better transparency between the public and local authorities.
"This shows that City Hall is now evolving into the responsive and diligent city custodian that the city needs.
"The setting up of the Heritage Task Force as suggested by us will be a show of true commitment from City Hall in its efforts to protect the 114-year-old historical legacy of Kota Kinabalu," he said.
The 49 heritage places recommended by Heritage Sabah, he said, open an exciting new window into the history and heritage of Kota Kinabalu and Sabah as a whole.
"But we need City Hall to show its commitment first now that we have provided comprehensive recommendations for them to take action," he said, adding that the NGO's volunteer efforts to investigate potential heritage sites in Kota Kinabalu yielded some surprising historical discoveries.
Heritage Sabah volunteers, he said, rediscovered an old freshwater well located on Signal Hill that can be traced back to the early town community of Jesselton.
The old well, he said, played a vital role in the survival of the town's folk in the aftermath of the Allied bombings during World War II (WWII).
"We also found an old colonial house in Kota Kinabalu dating from 1930s which according to archive records was the architectural reference to the design of the famous Agnes Keith House in Sandakan," he said.