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Raining on Everyone's Parade

Bali Governor Issues Orders Cancelling of Bali's Mardi Gras-like 'Ogoh Ogoh' Parades on Nyepi Eve.

Bali's Governor Wayan Koster issued an official instruction on Friday, March 20, 2020, (Instruksi Gubernur Bali Nomor 267/01-B/B/HK2020) banning the parading of the traditional ogoh-ogoh floats through the streets of Bali on the evening of March 24, 2020.

As reported by NusaBali, the Governor's instructions contains four main points:

  1. The Nyepi-related ceremonies of melasti, tawur kasanga, and pangrupukan shall be limited to a maximum total of 25 people charged with undertaking each ritual. Those participating should consist only of priests (pemangku), acolytes (sarati), and those assigned to carry religious paraphernalia. 
  2. The traditional ogoh-oogoh parade on the eve of Nyepi has now been banned in all areas of Bali.
  3. Earlier instructions on Nyepi Festivities issued by the Province of Bali on March 17, 2020 (Pemerintah Provinsi Bali Nomor Nomor 510/Kesra/B.Pem.Kesra tentang Pelaksanaan Rangkaian Hari Suci Nyepi Tahun Saka 1942 di Bali) is now declared null and void. The earlier instructions were issued by the Provincial Government in coordination with the Hindu High Council (PHDI) and "recommended" that ogoh-ogoh parades be held between 5:00 and 7:00 pm on March 24, 2020, and be limited to the borders of each respective Banjar. 
  4. The Governor's latest instructions call on all the Regents and Mayor in Bali, the Village Councils across Bali (MDA), and traditional village chiefs (Bendesa Adat/Keliahan) to supervise and responsibly coordinate Nyepi-related activities by following the Governor's latest instructions.

Despite objections from some local communities who insist they will carry on regardless with ogoh-ogoh parades, the Governor is insisting that his instructions be followed to the letter. "As the Governor who is responsible for the safety of the people of Bali and in keeping with the earnest policies set forth by The President of Indonesia, I request that every component of society will understand, accept and follow these instructions from the Governor of Bali for the sake of the safety and welfare of everyone," said Governor Koster on Friday, March 20, 2020.

Ending his comments with a prayer, Governor Koster said: "I hope we are always in the protection and guidance of the holy beams of Hyang Widhi Wasa. I continue to pray that the spread of COVID-19 will soon come to an end, and the economic condition of Bali will be restored to good health. OM Swaha. "

While forbidding the ogoh-ogoh parades on the Eve of Nyepi, Governor Koster also recommended to all of Bali's Regents and its solitary Mayor to close all tourist attractions in their respective jurisdictions. At the same time, the Governor has published a circular directing that traditional cockfights (tajen) be ended or severely limited in the near-immediate future. 

In related news, on the national level, the spokesman for the National COVID-19 Task Forces, Achmad Yurianto, announced in Jakarta that in recent days Indonesia had experienced a 60% increase in the number of confirmed cases of the disease. 

Will Sesetan Defy the Governor's Order?

Despite instructions from Bali's Governor that no ogoh-ogoh parades are to be conducted anywhere in Bali on March 24, 2020, residents in Denpasar's southern suburb of Sesetan defiantly insist local villages will carry on regardless with the ogoh-ogoh effigies paraded through local streets by hundreds of village men. 

The Kaja Banjar Chief (Klian) in Sesatan, I Made Sudama, declared on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, that after discussions with neighborhood associations, a decision was made to ignore the recommendations of the Hindu High Council (PHDI) and continue to hold the ogoh-ogoh parade.

Sudama's defiant pronouncement preceded by two-days the formal instruction of the Governor to cancel all ogoh-ogah festivities, and it is not yet clear if, in light of the new gubernatorial instructions, the ogoh-ogoh activities in Sesetan will now fall into line and be canceled.

The Kaja Banjar Klian said despite recommendations from the PHDI, he was unable to order limits on the number of participants, either in terms of parade participants and spectators, for ogoh-ogoh activities. 

Claiming the Nyepi festivities are long-established traditions. Sudama said matters such as limiting the number of participants are best left for each group to decide. In the same vein, Sudama said no effort would be made to restrict Melasti participation on Sunday, March 22, 2020, adding: "We will continue to undertake this activity because it is connected with our religion and our beliefs. The Almighty presides over all things."

COVID-19 Bali Update

Through March 20, 2020, the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases had hit 369. Three of the positive cases are now hospitalized in isolation in Bali. The three Bali cases of COVID-19 in Bali all involve Indonesian men aged 72, 39, and 30. Bali has recorded one COVID-19 fatality, a UK woman who died on March 11, 2020, at the Sanglah General Hospital.

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