Jakarta Globe, Hangga Brata | February 04, 2012
Sragen. In a country full of ancient sites with precious items, the loss of three 15th century Majapahit-era statues in Sragen, East Java, has spurred criticism from civil society groups over the consequences of government inattention for such national treasures.
The three Hindu statues had been missing for several days before some locals, who in the absence of any official presence have long taken it upon themselves to guard the Sragen site, realized they had disappeared.
“We don’t have formal security personnel to guard the site. Some of us voluntarily patrol the area,” said Agus Widoyo, one of the locals who frequently guards the site, which is located at the Ngunut water spring complex in Sragen’s Jetis village.
Agus said he had reported the case to the local Art and Cultural Agency, but to no avail.
Agency head Poedarwanto confirmed he had received the report, but he said his office was powerless to act.
“It is not included as a conservation site,” he said.
Poedarwanto did say he had proposed to his boss that the area become a conservation site. “But we haven’t received any feedback,” he said.
The lack of government protection has cleared the way for rampant theft of statues and other ancient artifacts in many regions in Indonesia, civil society groups say.
In the last year alone, police have uncovered a series of thefts in Central and East Java, where the Majapahit established the biggest empire in the archipelago’s history, and in South Sumatra, where the Buddhist Sriwijaya reigned.
Early last year, Central Java Police uncovered a syndicate that had stolen 32 ancient statues from Plaosan Buddhist temples in Klaten, near Yogyakarta, and arrested the three men responsible for the theft.
Later that year, several men broke into the Sonobudoyo Museum and stole 80 gold artifacts. The collection included a gold mask, 19 gold plates, a gold statue and jewelry.
Media also reported recently that a Sriwijaya dynasty bronze statue of the Buddha was stolen recently in South Sumatra.