Cave selfie: Sokial (right) and a Heritage Sabah committee member posing for a photo inside the bunker.
KOTA KINABALU: History buffs have “rediscovered” an entrance to a tunnel they believe was used during World War II at a hillside near the city’s downtown area.
It is understood that back in the 1980s, the tunnel was notorious as a refuge for vagrants and drug addicts, leading it to be sealed off and forgotten for more than 25 years.
Heritage Sabah, a state-based heritage activist group, however, dismissed talk of the tunnel containing war treasures.
“The most valuable aspect of this rediscovery is that it is proof of historical accounts in Jesselton (the old name of the capital city) during the Second World War,” said Heritage Sabah president Richard Nelson Sokial.
“This is an exciting discovery for Sabahans, as we now have an opportunity to uncover and validate more information about Sabah’s history,” he said.
Group members are certain the tunnel was part of an extensive network of secret labyrinths used by the Japanese military forces in Jesselton during the war.
Sokial said their research among long-time city residents indicated the Japanese troops occupying North Borneo (as Sabah was then known), had deployed tactical measures, such as bunkers and tunnels in the hillsides of the city as part of their strategic defences.
“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 Sokial, referring to the war tunnels built during the Vietnam War by the Viet Cong resistance against the American soldiers.