Saturday, March 22, 2014

Bali aims to be campaign-free zone for Nyepi

Ni Komang Erviani, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar | Election Watch | The Grand Council of Customary Villages (MUDP) has strongly urged all legislative candidates and political parties in Bali to remove their campaign paraphernalia lining the streets by March 30, as Balinese Hindus across the island will be marking Nyepi, the Day of Silence, the following day. The council, an umbrella organization for nearly 1,500 desa pekraman (customary villages), will be sending letters to all relevant parties, including political parties as well as Bali’s General Elections Commission (KPUD) and Elections Monitoring Agency (Bawaslu) regarding the matter. “We hope that all campaign materials will be taken down to maintain the solemn atmosphere of Nyepi,” MUDP chairman Jero Gede Suwena Putus Upadesha said in a meeting at the KPUD on Friday. The meeting was also attended by representatives from several political parties and their legislative candidates. Nyepi, which falls on March 31, marks the start of the Lunar Year in the Balinese Caka calendar. On the day, Balinese Hindus perform the four abstinences, which comprise amati geni (abstaining from lighting fires or lights); amati karya (abstaining from work); amati lelungan (abstaining from traveling outside one’s home); and amati lelanguan (abstaining from leisure activities). The whole island becomes a quiet, peaceful sanctuary on Nyepi. On the day before Nyepi, devotees will perform the sacrificial ritual, Tawur Kesanga. Tawur Kesanga is carried out at several levels, starting from the highest at the island’s mother temple, Pura Besakih, down to the regencies, villages, hamlets and households. The ritual is aimed at strengthening relations between humans, the environment and God. Tawur Kesanga ends in the afternoon and is followed in the evening by ngerupuk, a street parade with village youth groups carrying bamboo torches and ogoh-ogoh (giant effigies in the form of terrifying creatures). Ngerupuk aims to ward off bhuta kala (malevolent spirits and evil forces). Suwena said he hoped all legislative candidates and political parties would respect the rituals by removing their paraphernalia from March 30 through March 31. “Please give a chance to Hindu devotees to perform their worship in a solemn, peaceful and calm environment. It is only temporary. After Nyepi, they can put back all their campaign materials,” he said. He added that the MUDP would be grateful if political parties voluntarily removed their campaign materials by March 28, when the melasti purification ritual would be performed to mark the beginning of Nyepi. During the melasti procession, Hindus take their pretima (sacred objects) to beaches, lakes or springs to be cleansed. Suwena said the reason behind the removal request was that campaign materials could trigger conflict, which could destroy the peace of Nyepi. “The state has acknowledged Nyepi by declaring it a public holiday. The world has also acknowledged Nyepi by accepting the local custom of closing Ngurah Rai International Airport on that day. We really hope that all legislative candidates and political parties will also respect the day,” he said. He conveyed his appreciation for the agreement made between the political parties and the KPUD to halt campaigning from March 28 to April 1 to honor the Nyepi celebrations. Secretary of the Golkar Party’s local chapter, Komang Purnama, said Golkar would respect the MUDP’s request. “We will instruct our candidates to take down their campaign materials,” he said. Ketut Ridet from the Democratic Party also conveyed his support. “We have already told our candidates to take down their campaign materials three days before Nyepi to honor the blessed day,” he said.

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