Dutch to return stolen Sri Lankan treasures

The Netherlands returned formal ownership to Sri Lanka of six colonial-era treasures on Aug. 28, including a more than 275-year-old cannon inlaid with gold, silver, bronze and rubies.

At a ceremony at the cultural ministry in Colombo, Dutch deputy minister for culture, education and science, Gunay Uslu, signed over the ownership of the objects to Sri Lanka, local officials said.

Sri Lanka's national museum in return granted authority to Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum to hold the artifacts until they are transported to Colombo in December.

The first batch set to return to Sri Lanka - under a 2021 Dutch policy to restore cultural objects stolen from former colonies - includes Lewke's Cannon.

Believed to have been a gift from Sri Lankan aristocrat Lewke Disava to the king of Kandy around 1745-46, it was seized by Dutch troops in 1765.

After being displayed around the Netherlands, the cannon was eventually placed in the Rijksmuseum.

The other items -- two gold and silver swords, two guns and a knife - are also from a period when the Dutch ruled the South Asian island, from 1658 to 1796.

The decision to return objects followed recommendations by a government-appointed commission looking into illegal Dutch colonial acquisitions.

The commission was set up after a request by Indonesia for the return of some art pieces and natural history collections by its former colonial ruler.

Sri Lanka has also requested its stolen treasures be returned.

The Portuguese ruled the island from 1505 to 1658, followed by the Dutch, and finally the British before independence in 1948.

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