Sunday, June 23, 2013

Looting in Lanka

The Poson Festival, typically held on the first full moon in June (Poson), celebrates the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. On this occasion the Srilankan Sunday Times has an editorial article "Poson reflections: Save our heritage", Sunday, June 23, 2013 devoted to the question of looting and antiquity smuggling and the involvement of criminal gangs in the activity.
There is heightened awareness among these criminal networks about the monetary value of ancient artifacts especially in the international market. Sri Lankan Buddha statues are openly traded on the internet with little or no information about their source. Oriental artifacts are a rave in Western homes. [...]  For the most part, this mania over antiques is a continuation of that European tendency to collect and hoard that has led them to deprive poor nations of their heritage for centuries. Diplomats in the past smuggled out valuable artifacts in their luggage, which passed unchecked through Customs. Much before that, colonialists, notably the British, freely plundered territories under their control. Even today, these governments refuse to return stolen property to their rightful owners.
The article is strangely silent about where the author thinks the items being currently looted are ending up. A recent London sale, ignored by Srilankan authorities there is, however, mentioned:
 The auctioning by Bonham’s of London in April of a “sandakadapahana” or moonstone believed to be of the Anuradhapura period has added to the frenzy at home. Although a Sri Lankan expert based in Britain dismissed the moonstone as a replica, it fetched a massive £553,250 or about Rs. 110 million. Not two months later, a group of robbers “disguised in military clothes” walked into the Herath-Halmillewa Raja Maha Viharaya in Kebetigollewa and spirited away its moonstone after gagging and binding the local guards. This was no random act. Police later claimed to have found its remains, after the robbers had broken it apart to search for treasure. 
 It sounds to me like claiming it was a fake was just an excuse for not taking any action. 

No comments:

Post a Comment