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Surly Temple Dispute at Tanah Lot

Local Villagers Surrounding Tanah Lot Temple Demanding Management Control of Iconic Bali Tourist Object.

(4/2/2011) A group calling itself the Youth Congress of Beraban Village, Kediri District held a meeting on Sunday, March 27, 2011, declaring their solidarity in a fight for a larger share of the profits derived from millions of visitors to Bali's Tanah Lot. According to the Bali Post, the meeting, attended by more than 1,000 young people, declared its unanimous support for moves to assume local control and management of the popular Tanah Lot tourist destination. The group wants the traditional village of Beraban and the regional government of Tabanan to share management of the Tanah Lot starting from April 1, 2011.

The meeting was attended by youths from 15 surrounding banjars in Kediri: Bandar Ulundesa, Gegelang, Batanbuah Kaja, Batanbuah, Beraban, Batugaing Kaja, Batugaing, Dukuh, Enjung Pura, Sinjuana Kelod, Sinjuana Tengah, Sinjuana Kaja, Nyanyi, Kebon and Banjar Pasti.

The congress was initiated by the Gaspera Youth Committee (Karang Taruna Gaspera) of Beraban Village, chaired by I Made Putra Wijaya and attended by a group named the "Team of Struggle for Control of the Tanah Lot Tourism Destination at Beraban Village" comprised of Beraban officials, including dr. I Wayan Arwata, I Made Sumawa, Drh INGP Putra Astawa and I Made Sujana.

The Congress was called to demonstrate the solidarity of Beraban's youth in the struggle and urge the regional government to come to a rapid decision on the future management of Tanah Lot.

The meeting also saw a declaration issued demanding, as a "matter of life and death," shared management control by the government of Tabanan and the village of Beraban of Tanah Lots as a tourism object.

The same message was also placed on a large banner paraded by the group and installed at a busy intersection at Beraban.

On the evening of the same day of the declaration the meeting continued with additional statements of solidarity issued by a political coalition between the three leading political parties who urged a speedy decision by the Tabanan regency establish joint control of the Tanah Lot tourism object with the village of Beraban.

Tensions Mount

On April 1st the crowds from Beraban convened again reissuing their demand for a say and a share in the management of Tanah Lot had. Their number, according to press reports, had swelled to thousands who participated in a March on the Regent's office in Tabanan. Vowing a puputan, or a traditional Balinese "fight to the death," the demonstrators were unsuccessful in their quest to meet with the regent or vice-regent.

The protesters then convened en masse near Tanah Lot where they threatened to set up their own toll stations charging visitors calling on Bali's popular spiritual and tourist destination.

Tanah Lot as a Bali Tourism Destination

The beach area surround the iconic Tanah Lot Temple in Bali is visited by an estimated 2.1 million tourists every year. Hundreds of traders and stand-holders sell their merchandise to visitors.

In 2010 admissions and fees from the operation of Tanah Lot produced Rp. 18 billion (US$2 million) in revenues netting an income of Rp. 12 billion (US$1.3 million). The lion's share of the this income is disbursed to the regional government of Tabanan.

According to Bisnis Bali, 55% of the income or Rp. 6 billion (US$666,000) is distributed to the Tabanan government, 20% or Rp. 2 billion (US$222,000) is given to the village of Beraban, 15% or Rp. 1.8 billion (US$200,000) is retained by the tourism sites current operator CV Ari Jasa Wisata, 5 % or Rp. 900 million (US$100,000) is divided among 8 religious temples surrounding Tanah Lot and the remaining 5% to 22 village units in the Kediri district.

Calls from local community members for control of the Tanah Lot Tourism Area is based on the the region's 2001 law on traditional villages.

The Youth Congress of Beraban Village is accusing the regency's administration of being "late and less than serious" in naming the future operators of Tanah Lot after the expiration of the current management contract with CV Ari Jasa Wisata that expired on April 1, 2011. Members of the Congress are also blaming the current protests and growing danger of horizontal conflict within the community on the Tabanan administration's failure to deal with the tourist object's future management.

The 6.5 hectare tourism area is comprised of a 4.5 hectare plot owned by village as "temple lands" and the remaining 3 hectares held by the Tabanan government.