Archipelago

Bali fights for special
autonomy status

The Balinese people continue to fight for special autonomy status for their province, following years of being ignored by the central government.

The Regional Representative Council (DPD) is currently waging a fierce fight for the special autonomy status by establishing a team of experts to conduct comprehensive studies on the possibility of the island obtaining the status, as well as learning about the people’s aspirations for the island’s future.

I Nyoman Sudirta, a member of DPD Bali, said that Bali had different interests from other provinces that had required such status, such as Papua and Aceh.

“Our main interest in obtaining the special status is to preserve our cultural and natural resources. There will be no violence or physical action to acquire the status. We will present our views and opinions, then let us discuss the matter and find a comprehensive solution,” said Sudirta during a focus discussion here in Denpasar on Monday.

The public pressure to have special autonomy status spread widely at least 8 years ago. In 2005, a number of prominent politicians and academics launched a campaign to push for special autonomy. The special status was proposed to the central government to allow the provincial authority to create and to issue regulations regarding its natural resources, including land use, religious and cultural assets. The central government, however, considered this proposal a minor issue.

“Now, we will fight again,” Sudirta said. adding that special autonomy status was crucial for Bali as a province with distinctive characteristics. Bali, he said, had distinguished cultural wealth that was the basic capital of the island’s tourism, the province’s economic backbone.

“Without any attempt to preserve the culture, Bali’s tourism will also collapse. When the tourism collapses, it will also affect national tourism, as Bali’s tourism is the Indonesian tourism locomotive,” he declared.

Bali has a population of 3.9 million, spread through eight regencies — Gianyar, Klungkung, Bangli, Karangasem, Buleleng, Tabanan, Jembrana and the wealthy Badung — and one municipality, Denpasar. Each regent has full authority over his regency, often eliminating the role of the provincial government in enforcing regulations and policies.

Inconsistent policies and contradictory regulations imposed by provincial and regional governments have been blamed for bringing Bali into social, cultural and environmental disarray and catastrophe.

Udayana University’s rector, Made Bakta, said that all Balinese people should support the demand for special autonomy status. “The demand for Bali’s special autonomy status has never been related to our commitment to the unity of the country. We are still strongly committed to national unity. We are only eager to save Bali,” he said.

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