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Netherlands returns treasures looted from SL in colonial era


Colombo, Aug 29 (IANS) The Netherlands officially returned historically valuable ancient treasures ‘looted’ from Sri Lanka during the Dutch colonial occupation in the country from 1658 to 1796.

Visiting Dutch Secretary of State for Culture and Media Gunay Uslu signed an agreement in Colombo on Monday to officially return six colonial-era artefacts taken during the period of Dutch rule in Sri Lanka two centuries ago.

“This is a historic moment. We’re following recommendations of the Committee to give back objects that should never have been brought to the Netherlands,” said State Secretary Uslu after signing the agreement with Cultural Affair Minister ViduraWickremanayake.

Originating from Kandy, the last kingdom of Sri Lanka’s central hills, the artefacts include gold and silver ceremonial swords (kastanes), two rifles, a Sinhala knife, and a cannon cast in bronze which is also known as Lewke’s canon.

The 275-year-old cannon inlaid with gold, silver, bronze and rubies was believed to have been a gift from Sri Lankan aristocrat Lewke Disava (chieftain) to the then king of Kandy around 1745-46 and it had been seized by troops of the Dutch East India Company during the 1765 siege and the plunder of Kandy.

The artefacts planned to be returned are in the custody of the Rijksmuseum, the national museum of the Netherlands which has had historical artefacts since 1200. The return of Sri Lanka’s artefacts followed the recommendations of the Dutch government-appointed commission looking into illegal Dutch colonial acquisitions and returning 478 cultural objects taken from Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

Taken over from the Portuguese (1505 to 1658), the Dutch ruled the South Asian island nation for 140 years from 1658 to 1796 until they were expelled by the British in 1796.


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