Whose Rules? Confusion Over Custom Versus Law

DENPASAR

Bali’s government has been warned that running customary village law alongside provincial and national laws is causing confusion in many communities.

The national unity agency says monitoring of practice in Bali shows almost all villages operate on a dual system.

It warns this is causing confusion over management of administrative processes and implementation of rules, especially where traditional villages do not have an official village office. Further confusion arises in cases where several villages operating on customary law share one official office.

The agency’s chief in Bali, Nyoman Silanawa, said last weekend dual village leadership often caused conflicts to arise, even though the system was meant to foster harmony.

Confusion arises where villages decide to implement decisions based on customary practice while their agreed official policy was to implement rules according to legislation.

“We must respect the customary law, but when other people go into these villages they may not be subject to this because their own custom is different,” Silanawa said.

He said the problem was particularly intense in Bali because communities regarded customary practice as very important and these practices related directly to local culture and religious rites.

It was important that official offices in such villages implemented government policies and programmes in ways that did not sideline or eliminate customary functions.

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