home > balinese folks > gotong royong >


  Gotong Royong

'GOTONG royong' means joint responsibility and mutual cooperation of the whole community, all working together to achieve common ends. With origins in much earlier times, this is an all-important institution in Indonesian village life.

Bali consists of hundreds of villages, and the tradition of 'gotong royong' is the real grassroots base of political rule. Whenever fire, flood, earthquake, or volcanic eruption strikes, when pipelines break down or a dam needs building or repairing, the principle of 'gotong royong' goes into effect.

If a rice field must be harvested, all have a right and duty to help, receiving a share of the crop as compensation. If a temple is to be built, all villagers will join in building it, or else contribute money in lieu of labor.

Men usually work with their own tools and without pay. Sometimes neighboring villagers are expected to help. If a village follows this communal organization, no household will be without land to farm, work to subsist, and food to eat. Anyone in trouble will receive help.

A number of ancient Balinese customs - three-day cycling markets, 'subak' organizations, unpaid labor required by feudal lords - have their origins in an Indianized Bali preceding Javanese contact, so the practice of mutual cooperation and ritual corvée was already well established on Bali before 'gotong royong' became an all-important principle in modern Indonesian political life.

'Gotong royong' as it works on Bali revolves around thousands of 'prebekel' and 'klian' who coordinate 'gotong royong' programs and carry out government policies. 'Prebekel' rules by assigning friends and assistants to task, a sort of administration by relationships. Loyalties to family, village, and friends are more important than self-advancement.

The central government greatly stresses this village socialism - it makes the government's job much easier, enabling the country to almost run itself. When the local government feels it can bring economic benefits to an area, it sends men out to the villages to explain the advantages, asking the help of the local 'banjar'.

In this way, with the villagers supplying the labor and the government the equipment and materials, real progress and a higher standard of living can be achieved.

By channeling agricultural production campaigns through the local 'subak' and 'banjar', the government can ensure that the nine regencies of Bali develop harmoniously in all sectors.

Under government supervision, vineyards are planted along the arid northwest coast, old coconut and coffee trees are replaced with more productive varieties, high-yield rice strains are promoted, fisheries and other small marine industries are established, and tourism and transportation infrastructures are constantly improved upon.

Copyright © 2002, Bali-Island.com Indonesia