An Australian tourist has been bought in for questioning by Bali police and immigration teams after he climbed a sacred Banyan tree in the graveyard of a Balinese temple. Samuel Lockton was caught by the temple’s pecalang team (traditional community security) as he was climbing the weeping branches of the Banyan tree.
Lockton was topless and barefoot and had managed to climb 10m into the tree before the Banjar told him to come down. The incident happened at 2.30 pm on Saturday 11th June and a video of Lockton’s antics went viral over the weekend.
Local reports suggest that Lockton refused to come down from the tree for over half an hour. He was instructed to come down by the pecalang team, the temple staff, and other people from the community who came to the scene when they heard what was happening. According to local reports, a government representative from the Tabanan Government offices was also on the scene but still Lockton refused to come down.
Once he came down he was bought in for questioning by the head of the village and local police. The ancient banyan tree sits in the graveyard of Dalem Dakdakan Temple, Abiantuwung Village, Kediri Tabanan. Lockton was informed that he must pay for and attend a mareresik ceremony, a cleansing ceremony, that was set to take place on the morning of Monday 13th June.
According to local reports, Lockton agreed to return to Dalem Dakdakan Temple to take part in the cleansing ritual and that he would also be escorted by officers from Denpasar Immigration. Speaking to reporters the Head of the Kelod Kelaci Traditional Village I Gusti Made Astawa said ‘he didn’t really bring any money. Only gave IDR 150,000 (USD 10).
Although the temple may be disappointed by Lockton’s donation, the cleansing ceremony has been completed and he has returned to Denpasar Immigration for further questioning.
Although Lockton was topless, he was not naked, and the tree sits in the graveyard of the temple, not inside the temple grounds itself. Immigration has said that there was no criminal intent, in fact when questioned as to why he decided to climb the tree he said it was to ‘create content’ for social media.
Lockton claims that he did not know that the tree was sacred, nor that it was not to be climbed. He has not issued a statement, following further questioning police and immigration teams will decide whether Lockton will be kept in custody and deported or whether he will be permitted to complete this stay in Bali as per his original plans under close monitoring of Bali police.
Police, Immigration, and local communities in Bali are taking a stand against tourists who disrespect or defame sites of spiritual, cultural, or historical importance. Following an increase in incidences such as this as Bali reopens its borders. In recent weeks two tourists have been deported and blacklisted from Indonesia after disrespecting sacred sites and breaking Indonesian laws around nudity in public.
In May a Russian yogi and influencer Alina Fazleeva were deported after she posed naked in the roots of a sacred Banyan Tree in Bakakan Temple Tua Village. A Canadian actor and influencer Jeff Craigen was also deported in May after he posted a video of himself doing the Maori Haka while naked on the top of the sacred summit of Bali’s Mount Batur.
In light of these events, temples and sacred sites across Bali have installed CCTV cameras, increased security, and improved signage to ensure that tourists from all parts of the world respect Balinese culture and heritage. Police in Bali have urged the public, local and foreign, to report any incidence like this to local police to ensure that Balinese culture is respected and that sacred, historical and culturally important spaces are conserved in the right way.
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