Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Harsher Punishment for Artefact Thieves in Sri Lanka

Looting of archaeological sites for saleable 'artworks' (ie dugup artefacts and knocked-ff bits of monuments) is endemic right across Southern Asia. Sri Lanka intends to get tougher with culprits, the Archaeology Department submitted a draft Bill for the amendment of the Antiquities Ordinance, to the Cabinet, with provision to mete out harsher punishment for artefact thieves and treasure hunters. For example those charged will not be granted bail, and  there will be the introduction of a two- year jail term mandatory for "those who commit artefact thefts or destroy ancient archaeological sites for treasures". It is proposed to raise the fines and sanctions for those engaged in illegal excavations for treasure (suggestions to raise the present fine for artefact crimes of Rs 250000 to  Rs two million).  
According to Archaeology Department sources, over 125 treasure hunting and artefact theft cases, including the Colombo Museum theft, have been reported during the year. Asked if they were satisfied with the investigations carried out by the police into these incidents [Archaeology Department Museum and Maintenance Deputy Director M A J R Madagammana] told the Daily News: "They have been helpful in arresting those who have committed these acts." "For the most part, these are villagers who have been drawn into illegal excavation by some moneyed bosses. It appears that they somehow get away," he said. 

Chamikara Weerasinghe, 'Harsher punishment for artefact thieves', Sri Lanka Daily News, 28 August 2012

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