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Man donating ancient Javanese manuscripts accused of theft

An Australian man wanting to donate 3,000 ancient Javanese manuscripts to institutions in Indonesia has found himself accused of having stolen them almost 30 years ago.

A researcher of Javanese literature at Monash University in Melbourne, John Paterson denied the theft charge put forward by a local daily newspaper, the Solopos, and told a press conference on Tuesday that he took the scrolls to Australia to rescue them from certain ruin. “I was concerned about their future,” he said.

Paterson first came into contact with the scrolls in 1980, after studying Javanese literature and culture at Sebelas Maret University Solo’s School of Letters, when he was writing his doctoral thesis on the development of Javanese literature since the 19th century. He said he received most of the manuscripts as a grant from Suranto Atmosaputro, the school’s then dean of Javanese literature, who passed away several years ago.

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