05 Mei 2010

Cirebon sultanate deplores planned auction of artifacts

The Cirebon Kasepuhan Sultanate has opposed the government’s plan to auction off thousands of historical artifacts recovered from a 1,000-year-old shipwreck in waters off Cirebon, West Java.



The artifacts are thought to originate from China and the Middle East.

The sultanate’s authorities said the artifacts were part of the nation’s history and heritage and therefore too valuable to be sold off to overseas buyers.
“We urge the government to act wisely and cancel the auction. It would be better if the artifacts remained in Indonesia and became part of the country’s collection of invaluable assets,” said Cirebon Kasepuhan Crown Prince Pangeran Raja Adipati Arief Natadiningrat on Tuesday.
The auction will be held May 5 under the coordination of the National Committee of Excavation and Utilization of Precious Artifacts from Sunken Ships.
The collection includes around 271,000 items dating from the 10th century, including pottery, jewelry, gemstones and crystal ware.
The loot was recovered from a sunken ship in the Java Sea from 2004 to 2005, some 70 miles off the northern coast of Cirebon. The auction’s value is estimated at Rp 1 trillion (about US$100 million).
Pangeran Arief said the items were part of the country’s history and should be submitted for research rather than auctioned off.
“They can serve as a reference for research into the country’s history, which would be more valuable than auctioning them off for the sake of the economy,” he said.
The sultanate, Arief added, had deplored the auction in a letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudho-yono dated April 3.
The letter, which was forwarded to the fishery and maritime affairs and cultural and tourism ministers, the state secretary and the West Java governor, was personally signed by Cirebon Kasepuhan ruler Sultan Sepuh XIII H. Maulana Pakuningrat.
“However, we have yet to receive a reply from the government. We hope for a positive response so that the artifacts do not leave the country,” Pangeran Arief said.
The sultanate said the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization had also called on the government to scrap the auction, citing that an auction would go against the principles of the United Nations Convention on Underwater Cultural Heritage.
“The government should se-riously consider the call by UNESCO. We support their move,” Arief said.

The auction’s value is estimated at Rp 1 trillion (about US$100 million).

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