Students Protest Over Failure to Return Stolen Sacred Objects


BALI, INDONESIA, July 6, 2013 (Jakarta Post): Dozen of Indonesian Hindu Students Association (KMHDI) members protested against the provincial administration’s lack of attention to the fate of confiscated sacred objects currently in storage at the government-owned warehouse.

The protest, held in front of the Bali Legislative Council building in Denpasar on Friday morning, called on the Bali government to process the stolen goods and to return them to their places of origin or display them in local museums. “The confiscated sacred objects have been in storage for three years without any follow-up actions. We are afraid the kept objects will be taken away by Roberto Gamba,” the students protested.

Hundreds of sacred objects that were stolen from various temples in Bali were confiscated during a police raid in 2010. A number of locals were arrested for involvement in the thefts. Italian citizen Robert Gamba was also arrested for buying and storing the stolen objects. The police legally processed the case, confiscated the stolen goods and stored them in a government’s warehouse on Jl. Ratna in Denpasar.

Most of the stolen objects were pretima, or small effigies made of precious wood, usually bedecked with gold and gemstones. Balinese Hindus consider these items valuable as they believe they are an earthly, physical presence of their gods. For Balinese Hindus, the loss of a pretima cuts deeply into the psyche of the community, which feels violated by the theft and, at the same time, abandoned by the grace and protection of their deities.

The students also questioned the capability and willingness of the Bali Police to solve the theft of sacred objects, which is now thriving again. A massive number of sacred objects have been stolen from 16 major temples across the island since January 2013. Similar cases occurred in 2012 and have yet to be solved.

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