Perak to conduct study of limestone hills and caves after Gua Mat Surat vandalised

Perak Tourism, Arts and Culture Committee chairman Tan Kar Hing speaking to the press at the SJKC Phui Ying in Simpang Pulai, Ipoh February 17, 2020. — Pictures by Farhan Najib
Perak Tourism, Arts and Culture Committee chairman Tan Kar Hing speaking to the press at the SJKC Phui Ying in Simpang Pulai, Ipoh February 17, 2020. — Pictures by Farhan Najib

IPOH, Feb 17 — The Perak government will conduct an in-depth study of the state’s limestone hills and caves to preserve their heritage, history, archaeology and geological values.

This came after Gua Mat Surat — one of the oldest limestone caves here and which features large stalagmites and stalactites as well as aboriginal drawings — was vandalised with graffiti and turned into illegal worship site.

State Tourism, Arts and Culture Committee chairman Tan Kar Hing said that the state government already approved the study in principle.

“We have been informed that there are at least 35 limestone hills and caves around Kinta district alone. We also have a few in Manjung and Pengkalan Hulu districts.

“At the moment, there is no special or specific policy to reserve the limestone hills and caves in the country. Even if the hills or caves has been reserved, it’s only under a normal policy.

“So we wanted to study whether we can actually allow the public to use the caves and hills or not. But, of course they have to follow with technical rules, which focuses on safety, geological and a few other aspects,” he told a press conference at the SJKC Phui Ying in Simpang Pulai here.

File picture showing Kepayang Assemblyman Dr Ko Chung Sen with a group of volunteers from the Ventrex Outdoor Recreation during a conservation and cleaning programme at Gua Mat Surat in Ipoh after illegal idols were found in the cave. — Picture by Farhan Najib
File picture showing Kepayang Assemblyman Dr Ko Chung Sen with a group of volunteers from the Ventrex Outdoor Recreation during a conservation and cleaning programme at Gua Mat Surat in Ipoh after illegal idols were found in the cave. — Picture by Farhan Najib

He said a committee, which will be formed for the study, will also identify unexplored hills and caves in the state.

On February 11, Kepayang assemblyman Dr Ko Chung Sen warned that the Gua Mat Surat’s natural beauty and historical value was at risk 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, the lawmaker found graffiti and detritus at the location.

Dr Ko said 11 idols of Chinese deities were placed at various spots inside Gua Mat Surat and stressed that these were all installed illegally.

Today, Tan said he is waiting for the report from the Perak State Park Corporation, whose officers visited the Gua Mat Surat, and will take the necessary action based on the report.

Tan also explained that it is difficult to secure the perimeter of the limestone hills and caves in the district as jurisdiction varied by location.

“Therefore, we need to standardise and put it on a proper arrangement to regulate the entry,” he said.

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