KOTA KINABALU: Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) is working towards transforming the Kampung Kopungit hill here into a historical tourist attraction following the discovery of wartime military shelters.
Talks on the existence of Japanese army bunkers on the hillside have been going around for many years but it was not until 2015 that locals discovered two man-made tunnels hidden among the rocks and bushes.
One of the tunnels was about 18-metres long and one-metre high. The word “Jepun” carved on the rock surface was clearly visible at the small entrance to the tunnel. It was, however, unsure whether it was carved by Japanese soldiers during the World War 2.
To access the narrow tunnel, one is required to squat or crawl from one end to the other. The other tunnel, hidden in the bushes, is big enough to accommodate at least 10 people standing abreast.
Yesterday, the DBKK tourism committee, led by director-general Datuk Joannes Solidau, visited the tunnels to assess the site. Also present were Sabah Museum director Mansur Assun, Kampung Kopungit village chief Kiun Solidau, and Sabah Tourism Board (STB) representatives.
“We believe there were many similar bunkers here but were buried under landslides over the years. These bunkers need to be repaired if we want to make this area a historical site.
“The repair works will require huge costs so we need to discuss this with the Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry and STB to find methods on how this area can be developed into a tourist attraction,” he told reporters.
Joannes said the tunnels were made by Japanese soldiers due to its characteristic and elements, stressing that the locals had no means to build such bunkers.
“Bunkers or underground tunnels were used by the Japanese soldiers during the war to hide and take shelter. Built on the hillside, the location of these bunkers was very strategic for these soldiers to monitor movement and defence,” he added.
He also noted there had been no reports of wartime artefacts or discovery of explosives from Kopungit hill thus far.
“However, we would not know for sure because people had come to this area before to take soil for sea reclamation. Maybe they found artefacts and took them, but it was not reported to the government.
“Now, this hill has become a recreational place for the public so the people are aware of these tunnels already. Therefore, DBKK is trying to find a historical tourist site to add more attractions within the city.
“We are looking at Kopungit hill because the location is very strategic, with a beautiful birds eye view of the Kota Kinabalu and Penampang districts,” said Joannes.
Meanwhile, Kiun said he first became aware of the tunnels when hikers alerted him to the discovery three years ago.
“This is my second visit to these tunnels after 2015. I welcome the move to transform this place into a tourism destination because it is suitable, and it has a five-star view,” he said.
The team had earlier inspected another two Japanese wartime tunnels near the Kota Kinabalu Community Hall.
It was reported that the bunkers had been used by vagrants and drug addicts in the 1980s before they were sealed off. The tunnels were rediscovered few years ago and was highlighted in 2014.