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In Bali, it Takes a Village

The Village is the Law in Bali Traditional Settings.

(4/12/2010) A leading professor from the law faculty of Bali's Udayana University, Professor Dr. Wayan P. Windia, say that Bali's traditional villages have a strategic role to play in solving numerous regional problems in Bali.

Quoted by the national new agency Antara, Windia says, "if personal, family or community problems arise, these can all be sorted out in the first instance by the leaders of the traditional village." He went on to explain that if such problems cannot be arbitrated on a face-to-face basis they can be brought before the entire community for resolution in village hall meetings. Individuals who violate traditional norms and refuse to submit to the community's decision can face penalties. "Those penalties range from simple demands for a public apology to the more severe remedies of isolation and exile from the village," Windia explained.

According to the esteemed law professor, once a punishment is decided by a village council the matter is over with no room for further consideration, "the idea of further appeal, tears shed by the victim or allegations of denied human rights mean nothing to a traditional village."

He underlined that what's important to traditional village inhabitants is that a punishment has been meted out and, after that, it is not a matter for further discussion by the villages or even neighboring communities. Village problems are dealt with internally by the concerned community in accordance the "awig-awig" (rules) that govern daily life.

Delving further into the social dynamics at play in a Balinese village setting, Windia explained that villagers unhappy with the rulings, punishments and decisions rendered by his fellow villagers will generally remain silent, with resentment only bubbling to the surface at a later date, usually when the village is in an unstable state of flux. "For example, when there is a death in the village and the corpse is being escorted to a grave or in other unfortunate situation, a problem that has for years remained dormant will re-emerge. This factor makes the final resolution of internal village disputed problematic," according to the professor.

In the end, says Windia, such deep-seated resentment cannot be extinguished via village meetings and consultation with local elders, making it possible that unanticipated social unrest can break out at any time on the island of Bali.