Monday, February 04, 2008

Indonesia demands historic stone back

AN ANCIENT Indonesian carving given to a British diplomat almost 200 years ago as a gift has become the latest relic involved in intricate discussions about its repatriation. Government ministers in Jakarta have confirmed they are negotiating for the return of the four-tonne Minto Stone, on which is carved in ancient script of the history of the island of Java. It has been part of the Minto family estate near Hawick, Roxburghshire, since 1812, after it was given to the 1st Earl of Minto by explorer Stamford Raffles, and is now overseen by the family's Minto Trust.

Repatriation has increasingly become a major issue in Scotland after ministers called for the return of the Lewis Chessmen from the British Museum. Nine Maori heads held by Marischal Museum at the University of Aberdeen were returned to New Zealand last year. And last month, the National Museum of Scotland announced it would return an aboriginal skull to Tasmania.

There is no legal requirement for the repatriation of items that are not human remains. In Indonesia last week, officials said the stone - known as the Sanggurah Stone or Batu Minto - was an important historical artefact and belonged in the capital's national museum.

And last night, the 7th Earl of Minto, Timothy George Lariston Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, confirmed discussions were continuing with the Indonesian government.

But the father of four, 55, who heads stationery firm Paperchase, denied the issue had been dragging on for a long time. He confirmed: "We have received an approach from a representative of the Indonesian government and we are prepared to continue discussions." The Minto Stone was carved in AD982. It was taken from its site near the town of Malang in East Java by Stamford Raffles after he became governor of Java in 1811. He gained the post thanks to the patronage of Gilbert Elliot, the 1st Earl of Minto, and gave him the stone in thanks.

But the monolith is considered a valuable record of the Javanese kingdom of Mataram, which grew to power between the 7th and 10th centuries. Last week, Hadi Untoro Drajat, of the Indonesian culture and tourism ministry, said: "We are in negotiations to return the Sanggurah Stone back to Indonesia. It is an important historical artefact. Upon its return, it
will be placed in the national museum in Jakarta.

"The Indonesian government has been attempting to secure the return of the artefact since 2004, but government-to-government negotiations have proven difficult because the relic is currently in the custodianship of Minto trustees."

Hashim Djojohadikusumo, an art dealer who was caught with five antique statues in his home last November but never charged, said he was negotiating the return of the Minto Stone. He said: "The Indonesian government has a policy of not paying for the return of ancient artefacts, but we are ready to cover the transfer costs and compensation to the Minto Trust. So far, it hasn't determined the amount. The Minto Trust are willing to discuss it in a family meeting." And he added: "The Minto Stone is a heritage that has been handed down for

Theft of ancient artefacts is said to be rife in Indonesia, home to ruins of Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms that flourished from the seventh century onward. Also, at one point, there was a Minto family museum of historic items held in Fatlips Castle on Minto Crags, near Jedburgh in the Borders. But they were all removed after the site was plagued by continuing vandalism.

By Tristan Stewart-Robertson

1 comment:

  1. It's July now. Has the Batu Minto been returned to Indonesia?


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