Dozens of Hindu high priests, community leaders and members of the Indonesian Parisadha Hindu Council (PHDI) in Bali have strongly urged the police to return confiscated sacred objects to their original places in several temples across Bali.
The leaders visited the Bali Police headquarters on Monday morning and met with deputy Bali Police chief Brig. Gen. I Gusti Ngurah Rahardja Subyaktha to discuss the possibility of returning all the sacred objects that had been confiscated from several individuals proven to have stolen, sold and bought the objects.
The visit was in quick response to the news that the Bali Police planned to return the confiscated objects to an Italian art dealer, Roberto Gamba, who had previously been imprisoned for his involvement in the trade of the sacred objects.
In 2010, Gamba and a number of local people were arrested for their involvement in art thefts.
Among the seized goods were 100 sacred objects including pretima (small effigies), bronze statues portraying Hindu deities and other items considered sacred by Balinese Hindus.
In 2011, the Gianyar District Court sentenced Gamba to five months in prison.
I Gusti Ngurah Sudiana, PHDI chairman, insisted that the pretima and other stolen objects were the souls of the Balinese people.
“They are our sacred objects and must be returned to the temples or be preserved in a local museum as our precious heritage,” Sudiana said. Meanwhile, Subyaktha told Hindu leaders the police would not return all the seized goods to Gamba.
Sudiana said since 2013, the PHDI had called on the police to return the sacred objects. The PHDI, he added, had even sent a letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono about the crucial issue of the ongoing thefts of sacred Hindu objects.