Sri Lanka could benefit from the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on the National Policy Framework for Colonial Collections in the Netherlands which has said the country must be willing to return unconditionally any cultural objects looted in former Dutch colonies if the source country so requests.
In the Report released last week, the Committee considers that the first step in developing a policy on dealing with colonial collections is the recognition that an injustice was done to the local populations of former colonial territories when cultural objects were taken against their will.
It also said the Dutch authorities must express a readiness to rectify this historical injustice, which is still perceived as an injustice today, wherever possible and to make this readiness a key principle of the policy on dealing with colonial collections.
“ To contribute to this joint development of policy, the Committee recommends conveying to the countries where the Netherlands exercised colonial authority a readiness to return unconditionally all those cultural heritage objects where it can be demonstrated, with a reasonable degree of certainty, that they came into the possession of the Dutch State subsequent to the source countries suffering an involuntary loss of possession. This should obviously apply to the extent that the source country also wishes for such a return,” the Report said.
Sri Lanka has already begun talks with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in order to facilitate a joined research project which might lead to the return of several objects including a ruby-encrusted canon which was taken as booty following a military campaign by the Dutch in 1765.
The cannon dated somewhere around 1745 which is made of bronze, silver, gold, rubies, and wood. The cannon is encrusted with the symbols of the King of Kandy on the barrel: a sun, a half moon, and the Sinhalese lion.
It is believed to have been seized by the Dutch as booty during a military campaign in 1765 and later it had been presented to the King of their country Stadholder-Prince William V for his cabinet of rarities in The Hague.
The Dutch rule in Sri Lanka was between 1658–1796.