Custom v the Law
In a country as vast size as Indonesia, a centralised system of jurisprudence is the only way order can be maintained and certainty provided for society. But here, nationally enacted laws are in many places made irrelevant because of the customary laws of regions.
This should not be allowed to continue.
In Bali, like many areas of the country, traditional ways are so strong – and in many spheres this is to be lauded and supported, in an era of tradition-destroying globalism – that the laws of the country are sidelined.
Governor I Made Mangku Pastika said last week he was powerless to prevent local laws – devised and enacted by local-level leaders – from usurping the laws of Indonesia, which are devised by representatives of the people from all areas of the country in accordance with our democratic system. It all shows a radical disregard for our still-young democracy. If change does not come about to right this legal uncertainty, of which there is much else here due in large part to the pervasive problem of corruption, the ambiguity will endure and corrode.
All regions of the country should be mindful of the common good – and if they are not, they should be informed though publicly funded community-education campaigns – and that customary laws must give way to the laws of the nation. We are not, after all, a collection of autonomous states.
This week there was welcome evidence of a shift, a yielding to the process of advance, however, when the High Council of Customary Villages in Bali ruled that women are as entitled to inheritance as men, in a landmark decree that should also see women entitled to claim custody of children and support payments in the event of a divorce.
It is admirable that such longstanding patriarchal traditions that have given men basic rights where women have none have been overturned; but not just that: it is a significant step towards bringing the island, and the Hindu religion and cultural precepts that define its unique status, into the age of equality in which the world (for the most part) now lives.
It is therefore to be hoped that many other areas of customary law will be adapted to modern-day life.Filed under: Editorial