Culture Minister José Herrera appears to have changed his mind about seeking the return of a 23-million-year-old fossilised shark tooth presented to Britain’s Prince George last week, now saying it is not Malta’s intention to pursue the matter any further.
The shark tooth was presented to the seven-year-old prince by veteran broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough. He had found it in Malta during a family holiday in the 1960s.
The announcement drew a wave of indignation by commenters when it was reported in Malta.
Asked by Times of Malta whether there were plans to add the find to the nation’s heritage collection since the origins of its discovery were made public, the minister said he would “get the ball rolling”.
But that position has changed.
A spokesman for the ministry said the minister’s initial comments were based on the related national legislation in particular the Cultural Heritage Act, 2002 which superseded the previous legislation being the Antiquities (Protection) Act of 1910 and the Antiquities (Protection) Act of 1925.
“The minister would like to note that with reference to this case, it is not the intention to pursue this matter any further,” he said.
The ministry also explained that although Malta’s national collection of historic artefacts is an extensive one, as showcased in various museums and heritage sites, one must note that there are numerous other artefacts of a considerate value that originally belonged to Malta which are currently in different countries.
“As a nation, we are extremely fond of our history and hence through our national heritage agencies we are always actively looking at avenues to acquire artefacts that have intrinsic value to the Maltese islands.”
The minister’s comments on Monday had also drawn a backlash, with some arguing that there were more important matters that the minister could pursue, including the disappearance of taxpayer's money through corruption.
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