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Whose Island is it Anyway?

Tempers Flare and Threats Exchanged at Public Forum to Discuss Bali's Zoning Law.

Bali News: Bali, Indonesia, zoning law, RTRW, Denpasar Lawyer's Club, Alliance of Independent Journalists, Gurka
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Echoing concerns voiced by that the current debate over Bali's new zoning is highly volatile [See: Battle Lines Forming in Bali Zoning War], a recent seminar convened by the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Denpasar Lawyer's Club (DLC) intending to seek a peaceful consensus between the contending parties in the debate degenerated instead into an angry exchange of threats and insults.

According to a report in Radar Bali, the vice-regent of Karangasem, Made Sukerana, faced off with Hindu religious leader, Dhang Acarya Yoga Nanda.

At one point in the discussion, Sukerana rose from his seat and angrily pointed his finger at religious figure who has served previously in the provincial House of Representatives (DPRD-Bali).

The seminar featured five main speakers: Babel Edison from the Ministry of Public Works; Ketut Sudiarta a legal expert; Ida Pensita Mpu Jaya Prema addressing the social-cultural aspects of zoning; Bagus Sudibya from the tourism industry; and I Gusti Made Putra a commentator on zoning issues. The seminar was moderated by Dewa Gde Palguna, a retired constitutional jurist.

Among the high-profile members attending were the regent of Gianyar, Cokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati (Cok Ace); the vice-regent of Karangasem, Made Sukerana; the first assistant of the provincial government of Bali, IGN Sunandra; the chairman of the special sub-committee on the RTRW from the DPRD-Bali, Wayan Disel Astawa; and the Chairman of the Sabha Walaka within the Hindu High Council (PHDI), Ketut Wiana.

Speaking to the legal foundation of the RTRW, Ketut Sudiarta affirmed that the new zoning law was properly constituted and, as a result, could technically only be revised in five years starting from December 28, 2014.

Babel Edison from the Ministry of Public Works said the main issue in the current debate resolve around the long-standing bhisama or religious declaration stipulating set back rules from beaches and religious sites, and whether or not that religiously-based dogma can be challenged. Affirming Sudiarta's comments that the RTRW had been properly drafted and implemented, Edison praised Bali for being only the second province in Indonesia, after South Sulawesi, to successfully ratify a provincial zoning law.

Ida Pendita Mpu Jaya Prema then spoke challenging the basis of the 5 kilometer protective radius surrounding Bali's main religious temples. It was his opinion that the Bhisama was not sacrosanct and could be changed through a process of consensus.

Bagus Sudibya, who is active in a number of tourism organizations, took the floor calling for a more global approach to the problem of the RTRW. Sudibya said that Bali had a great deal of dollar-based tourism assets, almost all of which were held by non-Balinese from Jakarta. In his opinion, this fact deserved the attention of the island's policy makers.

The atmosphere of the seminar became heated when the vice-regent of Karangasem questioned Clause 150 of the RTRW which gives the law retroactive effect and provides for prison terms for regency officials proven to have circumvented the new zoning law. Sukerana ask the attendees who will pay the losses of those forced to demolish buildings built with regency permission but now considered illegal under the law?

Sukerena also expressed his strong displeasure that the island's regents and mayors were now being unfairly portrayed before the public and painted into a corner as being opposed to bhisama.

Indicative of the high emotional pitch of the meeting, the vice-regent of Karangasem issued a veiled warning at one point, saying: "There's even been a religious leader who has said he is prepared to defend 'bhisama' to his last drop of blood. In fact, I know the man and he has only a little blood. I have much blood in Karangasem, but I would prefer not to use it."

In response, Dhang Acarya Yoga Nanda took the microphone insisting that bhisama is the cornerstone of Bali's belief system that must be honored by all Balinese, especially the regents and mayors serving across the island.

Speaking also in veiled terms, Nanda then said that if people continued to try to disrupt bhisama he might call upon "Gurka" troops.

This statement immediately brought Sukerena to his feet interrupting Nanda. Sukerena challenged Nanda's threat to use "Gurkas," saying, "go ahead, I'm ready to face them."

Dhang Acarya then asked Sukerena to not interrupt and respect the person who held the floor, a courtesy he had been extended earlier in the meeting. This public scolding only further angered Sukerena, who rose again and shook his fist warning "don't oppose me like this!"

According to Radar Bali, Dhang Acarya's voice also rose in pitch and volume, ordering Sukerena to withdraw his comment or face the possibility a criminal police complaint.

Sukerena went quiet, but continued to remain standing, causing many in the room to come to his side to urge him to resume his seat. Meanwhile, the moderator of the seminar made repeated pleas for the audience to remain calm.

At this point a pro-RTRW member of the audience, Wayan "Gendo" Suardana, called on all parties to respect their differences of opinion. Said Suardana: "If we are truthful, the provincial law (RTRW) that stipulates the protective radius surrounding holy places has been in place for a long time. Why are we suddenly arguing about it?"

Sukerana left the meeting before its end. He told the press he was not worried about the threat of a police complaint, insisting he had not shown disrespect, but was in fact was the party suffering insult in the meeting.

Dhang Acarya later explained his use of the term Gurka saying he was not threatening to bring English Nepalese troops but was, in fact, referring to Guru Kala or the teacher of time. Dhang Acarya said: "I wanted to remind everyone that all of us will eventually be swallowed by time. Therefore act in a way that protects our legacy for Bali. " He said he would consult first with the PHDI before making a decision on the filing of a police complaint against Sukerana.

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