Published on: Wednesday, March 05, 2014
It said its volunteers uncovered the WWII bunker - believed to be part of an extensive network of secret tunnels used by the Japanese military forces in Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) during WWII - while checking on information given by the public.
According to sources, the Japanese troops occupying North Borneo deployed tactical measures such as bunkers and tunnels in the hillsides of Jesselton as part of their strategic defence.
"The rediscovery of this wartime military shelter could shed further light on WWII history in Jesselton as well as be a potential tourist attraction for Kota Kinabalu, just like the Chu Chi tunnels", said Heritage Sabah President Richard Nelson Sokial, referring to the world famous war tunnels of Vietnam, built during the Vietnam War by the Viet Cong resistance against the US soldiers.
He said the bunker's passageway into the hill where it was located is currently blocked by soil erosion due to last year's torrential rains.
"What we plan to do for now is to clear the site of unwanted man-made debris and invite war historians and experts who can work with us to see how far this bunker's tunnel goes and how it was used", he said.
"We hope in time that we may be able to share more of our discoveries with the general public."
Heritage Sabah aims to create more public awareness and appreciation among Sabahans for local historical sites and buildings and has been actively retracing old trails and marking paths used by early Jesselton town folk from the pre-war and post-WWII era in an attempt to shed more light on the study of Kota Kinabalu's city history.
Back in the 1980s, the rediscovered bunker was known as a refuge for vagrants and drug addicts, leading it to be sealed off and its location forgotten for almost 26 years.
Heritage Sabah refuted any speculative rumours that the tunnels may yield some hidden WWII treasure, believing it is highly unlikely that there is any hidden treasure in there.
"The most valuable aspect of the WWII bunker rediscovery is that it exists as proof of past historical accounts of wartime events that occurred in Jesselton during WWII. Through the efforts of Heritage Sabah volunteers, we are slowly but surely putting together more pieces of Sabah's untold war history," says Sokial.
"With government support, we may be able to excavate and investigate how far this tunnel goes.
This is without a doubt, an exciting discovery for local Sabahans, as we now have an opportunity to uncover and validate more information about Sabah's true history that is not mentioned in our nation's history books", he said stating that this discovery confirmed narratives told by several of KK city's elder folk that the network of war tunnels built during WWII ran all the way through the city," he added.
n FOOTNOTE: Daily Express in a report on 23.3.1997 did reveal the existence of a mysterious "tunnel" along the sides of Signal Hill near the Kota Kinabalu Community Centre, whose entrance was blocked by debris.
Daily Express Chief Reporter Chris Maskilone accompanied Army Recruiting Officer Capt. Mohd Yazid Abdullah to find out where it led but were only able to crawl no more than a metre inside because it was too dark and dangerous.
It was speculated that since the sea in the early days crept right up to where the 1920s-built Sabah Tourism building was, the place could have been a hideout for pirates.