IPOH, Feb 11 — Few cities can boast of having limestone caves that are naturally beautiful and rich in history within their borders. Gua Mat Surat in Perak’s capital is one of them.
Located near the famous Gunung Lang Recreational Park, it is also the oldest limestone cave here and features large stalagmites and stalactites as well as charcoal drawings on its walls by the aboriginal people of peninsular Malaysia depicting curious animals and a life gone by.
However, Kepayang assemblyman Dr Ko Chung Sen has warned that the limestone cave’s natural beauty and historical value is in danger from trespassers.
Alerted by residents from a village nearby and invited to visit the site by a group of volunteers from the Ventrex Outdoor Recreation during their conservation and cleaning programme over the weekend, the lawmaker was aghast at the graffiti and detritus left trespassers on the government preserved land.
“This is a government land. This cave, which is in the middle of the city, has a natural beauty and is totally preserved.
“However, some individuals have trespassed and put up some idols in the cave. They also burned incense and papers there that has destroyed the natural beauty of the cave,” Dr Ko said when met at Gua Mat Surat on February 9.
He noted that some 11 idols of several Chinese deities had been placed at various spots inside Gua Mat Surat, and two shipping containers just outside the cave that looked like they had been converted into cabins.
“We don't know the purpose of it. We hope this place will not be turned into an illegal temple,” he said.
Dr Ko said the placement of the idols in the cave was illegal as the grounds are owned by the government.
He said the authorities have yet to identify those responsible for putting the idols there but the state Land and Mines Office had put up a notice at the cave entrance urging the trespassers responsible to remove the statues.
“We have given them two weeks to clear all the idols. If they fail to respond, then the authorities will remove the idols,” Dr Ko said.
Residents nearby told Malay Mail that they have repeatedly complained to the authorities about trespassers who had turned the road along the entrance to Gua Mat Surat into a dumpsite, but said little had been done.
“The road is the only way into the village. We had complained to the authorities several times, but people are still dumping rubbish here,” said Zaiton Jafar, 70, from Kampung Gunung Mat Surat.
Another village resident, Mohd Jamil Miswadi, 71, urged the government to construct a paved road leading to the village and also light the area leading to the cave with street lamps.
“At the moment, it's too dangerous to use the road at night,” he said.
Others said they hoped the government could preserve the limestone cave and were confident it had historical value that developed right, could become a popular draw for heritage buffs and contribute to the state economy.