Thursday 6 June 2013

Sri Lanka "There’s very little left to plunder"

It seems a previously neglected "source country" for Asian antiquities is Sri Lanka, where instances of looting are currently on the increase.
Massive holes in national heritage as unholy, unchecked and unabated desecration of archaeological sites by moneyed ‘investors’ continues with impunity. Hundreds of archaeological sites, the majority of them Buddhist temple complexes, are plundered every week by organised gangs scouring for ancient treasure. The depredation is so acute that 122 offences were reported to the Archaeological Dept in the first five months of 2013 alone. This amounts to around 25 incidents a month, or six a week. Last year, 370 violations were reported. It was the highest total in five years. 
In the digging modern machinery such as backhoes, are widely used.
“Very little is done by hand now,” explained Inspector (IP) Rohana Chaminda, Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of the Department’s Antiquities Protection Division in Colombo. This confirms the presence of moneyed ‘investors’ among the pillagers. [...] It is my belief that at least 75% of sites have already been dug up,” said archaeology enthusiast Dr Niroshan Edirisinghe, based in Polonnaruwa. “I think there are very few places left for anyone to plunder. I have seen how treasure hunters have destroyed sites that the Dept hasn’t officially identified yet.” [...]  there is heightened vigilance now. And, yet, the pillaging continues. Could it be that influential vested interests don’t want it to stop?
I suppose in a country where the government (according to Human Rights Watch) is turning a blind eye to much else, we should not be surprised that they are not putting more resources into combating looting and the illicit antiquities trade either.  That explains why the High Commission in London was not a bit interested in the flogging off of Sri Lankan sculptures in London the other week.

Looting in Sri Lanka

 Namini Wijedasa, "There’s very little left to plunder" (Sri Lanka) Sunday Times, Sunday, June 02, 2013.

Human Rights Watch: “‘We Will Teach You a Lesson’: Sexual Violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan Security Forces”,

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