Australian tourist Samuel Lockton was caught climbing a sacred Banyan tree at a temple in Bali. Videos and photos of Lockton climbing the sacred tree went viral on Saturday 11th June. Eye witness accounts stated that he refused to come down from the tree for over half an hour. When he did eventually come down he was taken in for questioning by local police and the community.
Lockton told police that he did not know that the tree was of religious significance and that he did not intend to hurt or offend Balinese people. He claimed that climbing trees was his hobby and that he climbed the tree to make content for his social media.
The banyan tree in question is at the Dalem Dakdakan Temple, Abiantuwung Village, Kediri Tabanan. Lockton is thought to have driven himself there on a rented moped and was not accompanied by a tour guide. Police have confirmed that Lockton entered Bali on a visitor visa on arrival and that he came to Bali for a holiday.
His vacation is about to be cut short as his case has now been handed over to Denpasar Immigration who is arranging for his deportation back to Australia.On Wednesday 15th June, the Head of the Regional Office of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights of Bali Province, Anggiat Napitupulu told local reporters that as for his ‘deportation process, the plan is no later than two days.
What changed is unclear as initially seemed like the Bali police, immigration, and the community was satisfied with Lockton’s commitment to attend and pay for a cleansing ceremony.
Although Lockton did as he was told, it seems that authorities are not prepared to take the risk of allowing him to continue his stay. During questioning Lockton also admitted to climbing two other trees in the Canggu area. Local reports suggest that although Lockton was told by authorities that he must attend and pay for a cleansing ceremony at Dalem Dakdakan Temple, he wanted to return to the temple to apologize to the community himself.
He is said to have offered IDR 150,00 (USD 10), although there is no set price for a cleansing ritual, people who have been caught up in similar situations before have been able to contribute more.
Village leader I Gusti Ngurah Astawa told local reporters that the community had wanted to conduct the cleaning ritual on Kuningan Day, 18th June, but that police had requested that the ceremony be conducted as soon as possible so as not to delay Lockton’s deportation.
During the ceremony, Lockton wore appropriate clothing, including a sarong and smart shirt. The temple’s priest did not invite Lockton to pray, since he is not Hindu, but did include him in the cleansing ceremony and asked him to ask for forgiveness in alignment with his beliefs.
Following a series of incidences like this since borders reopened in February, authorities in Bali are cracking down hard on tourists who disrespect Balinese culture. In May authorities in Bali arrested and deported two tourists who had disrespected Balinese culture and outrightly broke Indonesian laws on nudity in public.
Alina Fazleeva was deported after she was caught posing naked in the roots of a sacred Banyan tree on temple grounds. Jeff Craigen from Canada was deported after he posted a video of himself doing the Haka at the summit of Bali’s holy Mount Batur.
An Estonian model narrowly avoided deportation by taking the opportunity to leave Bali before police were able to call her in for questioning. Valeria Vasilieva was in Bali for the Miss Global beauty pageant when she was pulled over by traffic police and ordered to pay a fine.
Vasilieva then posted a video on her Instagram accusing police in Bali of corruption which caused outrage from authorities and locals. Although she issued an apology she left Bali earlier than planned and local police told reporters that they were exploring options for banning any potential return by Vasilieva.
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