BY MAZWIN NIK ANIS
JOHOR BARU: The Johor government agrees that there is a lost city in the state but is disputing its name.
As the mystery of the site deepens, Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman said there was a historic city in Johor located within the deep jungles of Kota Tinggi but it was not Kota Gelanggi.
He said based on historical facts and archaeological finds over the past 10 years by the state heritage foundation Yayasan Warisan Johor, there was evidence that the historic city in Kota Tinggi is Kota Klang Kiu or Ganggayu.
The search for the lost city drew nationwide interest after The Star broke the story last week, prompting the Federal Government to say it would be given top priority.
When he first responded to the report, Ghani had stated that it was a fantastic development for the state, something that would enrich the history of Johor and the nation.
Yesterday, however, he said historical facts showed that the Kota Gelanggi mentioned by independent researcher Raimy Che Ross was situated in Pahang and not in Johor.
“I do not know how Raimy came to the conclusion (that Kota Gelanggi is in Johor),” he said.
He added that the researcher was not part of the state’s team in searching for historical sites.
Ghani said apart from what was written in Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals), a discovery by English scholar Quaritch Wales of a temple known as Candi Bemban along Sungai Madek and other artefacts there strengthened the belief that a government had existed way before the Johor-Riau-Lingga sultanate.
He said the foundation, led by prominent archaeologist Prof Datuk Nik Hassan Suhaimi, had, since 1996, carried out excavation work and study in the area.
“We believe that until today, some parts of the city are still standing somewhere upstream from Sungai Johor,” he said, referring to records in the Sejarah Melayu that after conquering Gangganegara, Raja Suran of Thailand had sailed to Ganggayu.
He declined to disclose the site of the lost city in Johor but said the area could be “somewhere within the 14,000ha site of the forest reserve where Sungai Madek and Sungai Lenggiu are located.”
Ghani said the whole area where the historical artefacts were found and the possible site of Kota Klang Kiu had been gazetted as forest reserve.
“No one is allowed to enter the area without the state authorities' go ahead,” he said.
To a question, Ghani said Federal agencies had no jurisdiction over the area until there was a discovery and that any expedition work, study and excavation would be under the state's purview.
“However, we have no problem working together with the National Museum on this matter,” he said.