The debate on illegal villas and hotels built within a 5 km radius of Bali's sacred temple of Pura Uluwatu continues to intensify. The controversy encapsulates a multitude of topical issues including protecting Bali's religious and cultural heritage, the rule of law, and determining how the Island wishes to address development issues.
Here are some of the latest developments.
Class Action Suit Threatened
Local press reports in Bali suggest the Council of Hindu Affairs (PHDI) is preparing expert witnesses and religious leaders to participate in a possible class action suit against Badung's Bupati, A.A. Gde Agung, whose administration issued the permits and licenses for the private villas and resorts standing within the 5 km "no-build" zone around the temple.
In a public meeting between the Chairman of the PHDI, I Gusti Ngurah Sudiana, and a member of Commission I of the Regional House of Representatives, Si Ketut Mandira Natha, Sudiana who heads Bali's most prominent Hindu organization declared the 5km "no build" zone represented a "battle to the death issue" ("harga mati bagi kami") for Hindu followers.
Sudiana said that if is proven that the building and villas violate existing rules they must be demolished. Sudiana warned that his flock would not allow themselves to be swept aside and would respond resolutely if calls for dialogue and accountability are ignored by Badung's regional officials.
Natha, an elected legislator for Badung Regency, was no less adamant in his statements, threatening to mobilize the masses in Bali if the Executive fails to take stern action against the illegal villas. "Don't fault us if we demonstrate; this is to protect the purity of Bali," warned Natha.
Bupati Prepared to Meet all Legal Challenges
Quoted in Nusa Bali, Badung's Bupati A.A. Gde Agung said he is prepared to meet all legal challenges to his administration's decision to grant permits and licenses for buildings and businesses within the 5 km radius of Pura Uluwatu. Saying he respects the legal process, Agung insisted that any permits issued by the Regency conformed to the zoning laws of 2005.
A Demonstration in Support of Buildings Within the 'No-Build' Zone
Radar Bali and Bali Post both report that some 150 demonstrators marched on the Badung House of Representatives (DPRD) on Thursday, May 8, 2008, demanding changes be made to zoning rules to allow buildings within 5 km of Pura Uluwatu. The demonstrators, largely comprised of property owners with land within the 5 km radius, criticized the leaders of the PHDI, insisting that "purity" in Bali is not a mere matter of distance from a major temple.
The Demonstrators carried posters and placards demanding justice; saying the current rules punished the people; and asked why the 5 km "no-build" zone was also not being enforced in other areas near public temples in Bali, such as Tanah Lot, Pura Batur, Pura Besakih and Pura Sakenan.
The demonstrators delivered a letter to the local legislators asking for the 5 km rule to be abolished and for people owning land within the zone to be allowed to build villas, hotels and restaurants. According the reports in Radar Bali, when Sudiana in his capacity as Chairman of the PHDI acceded to demands and came to the site of the demonstration, some of the demonstrators threatened the religious leader with physical violence.
Land Owners within the 5 km radius of Pura Uluwatu have complained bitterly that they hold certificates on land rendered largely useless due to the "no build" rule while at the same time being compelled to pay high property taxes on these "non-productive" lands.
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