Politik Lokal

Reclaiming Space in Paradise: Preliminary Note on the Benoa Bay Contention in Bali, Indonesia

Kategori: Politik Lokal
Ditulis oleh Yogi Setya Permana Dilihat: 2141

reclaiming space pict

Courtesy: Yogi Permana

In line with the global trend of tourism especially in the Southeast Asia region, Bali is also facing the rapid growth of massive tourism industry than previous decades. As the most popular international tourist destination in Indonesia, Balinese people at the grassroots level concern with the rampant investment regarding tourism development industry.  Commercialization of space for tourism industry occurs in the entire island, which reduces area for ecological, social, and cultural necessity. It can be seen easily through the increasing number of commercial buildings like hotels, villas, resorts, entertainment, mall that is displacing land that is previously functioning as temples, rice fields, or mangrove conservation. The grassroots people worried about the increasing ownership of space by the investors will create a destructive effect for the island of Bali. Local people in Bali define space not only a physical or geographical site but closely linked with social imagination, worldview, and way of life, even collective identity.

The Benoa Bay protest against reclamation project is an example of the struggle of grassroots people in Bali to reclaiming space from capital investment tourism industry. They organize collective action to reject a reclamation project, which covers an area of 700 hectares in the Benoa Bay conducted by PT Wahana Tirta Bali International (TWBI). Tommy Winata, one of Indonesian tycoons, owns the company. Billion dollars of funds will be invested in the reclamation land to build a world-class theme park, Islands of resorts, luxurious real estate and residential clusters. However, the reclamation project is feared by local people can create ecological and social disaster for damaging the environment and the holy places of Hinduism on the coast. The reclamation project is continued by PT TWBI even the feasibility study from the University of Udayana, Bali recommended to stop it.

Mainstream explanations of the Benoa Bay protest define it merely as an ecological movement to save the mangrove and coastal ecosystem. However, I would argue that the Benoa Bay protest related to a larger political scheme that is part of the struggle for claim making or reclaiming in a contention of space in Bali. This movement is a new form of resistance undertaken by grassroots people in Bali were previously relatively marginalized in the tourism industry. The primary purpose of Benoa Bay protest is a radicalization of the Balinese people to be able conducts massive criticism toward tourism industry through social movements for reclaiming space on the politics of zonation and spatial planning. For most all the time, tourism has privilege as a grand narrative in Bali, so it is relatively immune from criticism. Therefore, The Benoa Bay protests initiate collective consciousness to redirect spatial tourism policy through the series of contention repertoire and street politics that carried out by the grassroots people.

In contrast to the previous protest movements in Bali that primarily conducted in the campus-based activities, The Benoa Bay protest involve broader public spectrum in the reclaiming action. The main actor in this movement is the ForBali (Bali Reject Reclamation People's Forum) established in the mid-2013. It is an alliance of students, NGOs, musicians, various villages’ representatives, artists, traditional and religious leaders, communities, academicians, and much more. Therefore, the resistance has a wider medium from online activities to offline activities.

Furthermore, local initiatives are clearly visible in this movement thus marking a new form of resistance. A community of traditional villages or desa adat, mostly passive in the social protest, now has become actively involved in mobilizing resources on the issue of Benoa Bay reclamation. Nowadays, we can see many of the traditional villages or desa adat across Bali erect attractive banners supporting the reclaiming The Benoa Bay in their neighbourhood. They also take turns to declare support for the movement with organizing collective open stage in every week. In the event, representatives of each village gave speeches expressing their aspirations to reject the reclamation project. Many Balinese traditional symbols and cultural expression appear in the event which legitimizes the movement protest.

The musicians and artists also participate in concerts or art performances in order to raise public awareness to the cause of protest. Balinese musician is playing a pivotal role in the movement because they are the initiator from the beginning of the protest in 2013. The role of Balinese musicians, such as Superman Is Dead (SID), and Navicula are essential to encourage young people to get involved in the movement. Therefore, the protest events seem like a music concert full of euphoria and excitement. In fact, young people in each village has their own anthem to be played in every protest event. (Yogi Setya Permana)