US provides US$20,000 to restore vandalised artifacts in national museum

The United States has provided a financial assistance of US$ 20,000 (MVR 308,400) to the National Museum to help restore and repair artifacts placed in the museum.

The assistance was provided from the Ambassador’s fund and was handed over to the government of the Maldives by the newly appointed Ambassador to Maldives and Sri Lanka Michele Sison.

Speaking during the ceremony, Sison stated that the financial assistance represented the importance that the United States gave to the museum.

The national museum was not only important to tourists, students and visitors who frequently visit the museum.

“This museum is also very important to researchers and scholars therefore it is very important the relics be preserved,” she added.

Deputy Director General of the Heritage Department Ali Waheed told local media that when the museum first opened in July last year, it was not in the best conditions and therefore some amount of the funding would be spent on upgrading the facilities.

He also said the museum is talking with the US to send some of its staff abroad for training. The restoration of the damaged artifacts was also a priority.

Waheed said that on February 7 a group attacked and vandalised the artifacts in the pre-Islamic section, and the hall which was used to display the artifacts had to be closed for repairs.

Speaking to Minivan News, Assistant Curator of the Museum Ahmed Ashraf told Minivan News that they had not yet confirmed “how the funds will be spent, but most likely it will be used to repair some damaged artifacts, bring in technical expertise as well as train the staff working here in the museum.”

“We sent the proposal to get funds before February 7. However following the damage incurred to the artifacts during the mob attack on February 7, they took a report from us about the damages. The funding includes the repairing of the damaged artifacts on February 7 and other artifacts as well,” Ashraf said.

He added that there was a “lot of damage done to the artifacts” on February 7 and “unfortunately some of the artifacts were totally destroyed and cannot be recovered.”

”Most of the artifacts were made from limestone and it is not as easy as fixing something made of wood. So a lot of work needs to be done,” he said.

The Buddhist statues were destroyed by mob in an act of vandalism a museum official described at the time as causing “unimaginable damage” to Maldivian heritage.

A group of five to six men stormed into the building twice, “deliberately targeted the Buddhist relics and ruins of monasteries exhibited in the pre- Islamic collection, destroying most items beyond repair.”

“This is not like a glass we use at home that can be replaced by buying a new one from a shop. These are originals from our ancestors’ time. These cannot be replaced ever again,” the official exclaimed.

According to a source, a coral stone Buddha head, an 11th century piece recovered from Thoddoo in Alifu Atoll, was smashed up by the attackers. It was one of the most significant pieces at the museum.

In May the Maldives Police Service (MPS) forwarded a case to the Prosecutor General against four persons suspected of destroying the historical artifacts.

Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News at the time that no information could be revealed regarding the identity of the four suspects. A number were detained at the scene following the incident, however no formal arrests were made.