INDONESIA, December 17, 2012 (Jakarta Post): After months of fruitless investigation and mounting public pressure, Bali Police announced on Sunday that investigators had smashed a ring believed to be responsible for most of the thefts targeting sacred objects kept in Hindu temples across the island.
The first burglary of sacred objects this year took place in March. Since then, 30 burglaries have been reported to the police, with the three most recent cases taking place on Saturday in Melaya, Jembrana.
The police had been under a lot of pressure to solve the thefts, which for Balinese not only desecrated their places of worship but also insulted them. Following a visit from scores of noted religious and community leaders, Bali Police deputy chief Brig. Gen. I Ketut Untung Yoga declared the formation of a special team to hunt down the suspects.
At the Sunday press conference, senior-ranking detective Adj. Sr. Comr. Hari Hariadi disclosed that the police had arrested four individuals, who were allegedly directly involved or implicated in the thefts at up to 16 temples. The police said that they were now hunting several individuals, who had allegedly bought the stolen items from the suspects, as well as other rings believed to be responsible for the remaining unsolved thefts.
The temples' sacred objects, in particular the pretima, or small statues made of precious woods usually bedecked with gold and gemstones, are very valuable items for Balinese Hindus because they serve as the earthly, physical presence of their gods. The loss of a pretima cuts deeply into the psyche of the community, which feels violated by the theft and, at the same time, abandoned by the grace and protection of their deities. Creating a new pretima would be expensive for communities, and they would also have to conduct a series of major rituals to purify and enshrine the object.