Village leaders and Island intellectuals recently met to discuss ways in which Bali's desa adat or traditional villages might be used to avoid unrest in the period leading up to the national elections in 2004.
The gathering, held in mid-December at the Wantilan Pura Samuan Tiga in Gianyar, featured two main speakers: the Chief of Police for Bali, Inspector General I Made Mangku Pastika, who spoke on the evaluation of security and strategies to secure Bali's future; and Mr. Wayan P. Windia who provided an historical overview of traditional conflict in Bali.
The discussions as reported in the Indonesian-language daily Kompas, included some 50 leading figures of Bali drawn from the island's 9 regencies and the Capital City of Denpasar.
The Need for Neutrality
The Editor of the local cultural magazine Sarad, Mr. Ketut Sumarta, commented that everyone was aware of the need for the traditional villages or desa adat to remain neutral during the coming election period in order to avoid inter-village and intra-village conflicts. On that basis, all agreed that not only should the desa adat remain neutral but should introduce the additional step of forbidding the display of campaign flags/banners and other attributes from all political parties.
According to the participants, there exists an historical basis for such a dramatic step in order to avoid local political conflict. For example, when villages realized that the traditional mass ogoh-ogoh processions held on the eve of each Balinese New Year were a source of conflict among local youths, many traditional villages outlawed the processions as a necessary step to preserving public peace.
The Role of Pecalang
Also discussed at the meeting was the role of the traditional village security forces or pecalang. Those in attendance agreed that in the future pecalang should only be deployed on traditional village business and forbidden from undertaking other roles such as acting as security forces at political rallies or as guards at public non-religious events.
The Need for an Adat Council
The local leaders attending the meeting suggested there exists a need for a provincial adat council to rule on cases concerning traditional village issues. Many expressed the view that such a council would encourage peaceful resolution of community conflicts while helping unite the people of Bali.
The meeting adjourned with those in attendance endorsing a statement entitled the Temu Wirasa Mulat Sarina summarizing the participants' views on the function and future role of the desa adat.
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