Bernas Province: West Nusa Tenggara Tourism of Bangsal

‘Days’ of the Service Sellers

Written by Muhammad Sibawaihi


I, some time ago, on a day that I forget, read two articles shared by some friends on one social media, about ‘the labor’. “Oh well, this is Labor Day,” I said to myself.

The first article I read was an article written on by Afrian Purnama, about the resistance of the left in the ’60s to mid ’70s. One of the highlighted figures in that article was Chris Marker, a French film director who had been born on July 29, 1921. In that article, it was described how Marker had joined a group of leftist directors named S.L.O.N (Société pour le Lancement des Oeuvres Nouvelles). S.L.O.N was not like other groups of directors which played their works in theaters. Marker and his colleagues actually played their films in front of the textile workers. This screening then triggered the factory workers strike. They questioned the existence of labor in the structure of capitalist society and asked for a balance between economic and cultural lives. The second article I read was Rizky Anderax’s article on the online journal of In his writing, Rizky opened with the history of May Day which fell on May 1, as a day to commemorate the economic and social success of the labor. Furthermore, that writer from Timika, Papua, gave more information that May Day is a series of long history of the struggle of working class to gain the political-economic control of industrial rights. Rizky himself was a worker in one of the electrical synergy/energy companies in Timika.

Both articles above reminded me of tourism labor and workers in Pemenang, particularly Bangsal. How was the struggle of tourism labor in Bangsal? Did the tourism workers in Pemenang have the same spirit as the series of history of the workers written in those two articles? Moreover, all this time there had never been a historical record of labor struggle in Bangsal. It made me feel that I also needed to write about the thing that, although was similar, had different flavor and materials.


In the world of tourism in Pemenang, North Lombok, the tourism worker community is divided into two parts. First part is the people who work for food, while the second part is those who work for fortune. Laborers, small traders, ojek drivers, coachmen of cidomo are types of tourism job in Pemenang which are done by people to earn a living or to eat everyday. Meanwhile, the hotel owners, restaurant owners, fast boat transport service entrepreneurs, galleries, bars are the second type of tourism business. This second type of business, the aim is not to earn a living, but to increase the wealth.

There is an interesting thing from the relation of these both types of tourism business. It turns out that both are related to one another. Both can be mutually beneficial but can also be otherwise, mutually harmful. If we trace it, for example, the arrival of tourists in the Three Gili who then use the facilities of those who have big capital is due to the contribution of people with small capital. Any small error committed by one of the parties, would affect both sides. Therefore, the awareness is urgent to be built in each line. Like the game of football, if the defender makes a small mistake that makes the opponent to score a goal, then all players will lose. Apparently, all are in a vital position to develop tourism which, particularly, takes the little people’s side.

I summarize the two paragraphs above from the result of my discussion with one of the tourist activists, H. Muhammad Arsan, S.PdI. Besides being a tourist activist, he is also a member of the Regional Legislative Council of North Lombok. This is the first year he serves. He is trusted to take care of the tourism sector by the other members.

Choosing him as a resource was not without a clear reason. He was the first head of Gili Trawangan Village. He entered Gili Trawangan in 1989. At that time, Gili Trawangan had not yet become a place as we see today. He was one of the living witnesses of Trawangan development, from the using of wall lamp, then Petromax lamp, to the sparkling lights of Trawangan today. From the sound of the crickets at night accompanied by the rumbling waves, then the pop and disco music, to the tourists’ boisterous and noisy party music. Besides, of course as a head of village, he understood social and administrative problems at that time a lot. He understood the issue of land, licensing, investor, spatial plan and various types of problem at the time a lot. He also understood how the changes in social structure and order of life of the society that was formed by the development of tourism in North Lombok, especially in the Three Gili, Gili Trawangan in particular.

One of the many interesting issues that we discussed at that time was the service problem. Why the service? Because the service became the main problem in the tourism sector in Pemenang today. Well, when I said Pemenang, of course it meant all of the elements of tourism and all tourist areas in Pemenang, which according to H. Arsan, were still very far from expectation. “In the world of tourism, what we face are tourists. Tourists are guests. Guest is king. If we serve in a wrong way, then the consequence would be fatal and becomes a problem. Then this problem will not only be discussed in berugaq (a type of hut located in the yard of every citizen’s house, as a place to gather and to relax), but the whole world will talk about it. Especially now is the Internet era, a few mistakes are immediately exposed!” said Mr. Haji Arsan.

H. M. Arsan

H. M. Arsan

In KBBI (Great Dictionary of the Indonesian Language), ‘pelayanan’ (service) was a noun which had the meaning of the verb, which meant how ‘we’ serve, how to serve, the effort to serve. It could also mean the easiness given in serving. According to H. Arsan, even though the service itself was very technical, it was also strongly influenced by psychological, work ethics and management.

There was a very interesting expression of him related to this problem. H. Arsan mentioned a bit about the connection of little people and the connection between one region and another. He mentioned Bangsal. Of all the elements that existed in Bangsal, his emphasis was on the laborer or porter in Bangsal. That, “…If we are talking about Trawangan or the other Gili, then it cannot be separated from Bangsal or Kodek Bay and Nara Bay. Regardless of the best service we provide in Trawangan to the guests, if in Bangsal, for instance, the tourists are not well served, when they arrive in Bangsal, getting out of the car, buying tickets and before climbing into the boat, then this will also harm our reputation and has negative impact on the three Gili.”

But didn’t the tourists come to Gili not only from Bangsal Port?


It was true that Bangsal was not the only port to go to the Gili. The drop of the user level of the Bangsal Port by tourists was because the service in Bangsal was very unsatisfactory. What happened then was the declining service users of Bangsal Port were taken by many service sellers: labor, for example. This thing then required the labor to raise the rate. The rise of the labor rate in Bangsal certainly would affect the fluctuation of price of goods in Gili. Then, it automatically affected the tourism system in Gili.

Service in Bangsal, according to H. Arsan was a big homework because in these past few years the condition of Bangsal, instead of getting better, was even worse. Labor, for example, of which the organization was not clear and the brokers who often made trouble always became the main focus. In Bangsal, not infrequently a porter swore at the tourists. “…For example, a tourist’s bag was carried by a porter. ‘How much?’ said the tourist. ‘Fifty thousand,’ replied the porter. And then, the porter bargained for thirty, twenty, to ten thousand. Then the tourist only gave five thousand, well, that tourist would be sworn. Although he did not understand, but he would know from our expression, right?”

Arsan told us about a traumatic experience of his friend from Jakarta, who had been to Gili Trawangan with his family. Since getting off the cab, he and his family had felt dissapointed. Their bags and suitcases had been pulled by the porters. At that time, H. Arsan’s friend had chartered a boat. However, when they had already been on the boat, he had been confused. Apparently it had not been just he and his family on the boat, but also many other passengers. He and his family had felt that they had been lied to. Disappointed, he had said to H. Arsan that if there had not been other entrance yet to the Gili besides Bangsal, he would not come to Gili again.


What Bangsal needed was only a clear regulation especially from North Lombok Local Government. If there was no regulation, the workers were like chicks that lost their mother hen. Workers had a union, but its chairman was also not clear. The management of this labor organization was also unclear. What was feared then was the rules were made carelessly, about the rate, for example, labor cost, the ticket price to charter and others.

“How much do we have to pay the porter to carry stuff and luggage onto the boat? Not clear. Eventually the price is played. Many people complain that putting goods from the shore up to the boat that had a distance of approximately 5 meters, with a cost of fifty thousand makes no sense!” H. Arsan looked a little upset.

He had a bad experience about the labor service in Bangsal. He had had a quarrel with the Bangsal labor, who were asking for the very high cost to lift up a mattress with the size of 160 cm x 200 cm. The workers asked for the cost of fifty thousand for one mattress. H. Arsan who was not happy to hear that then chatted and protested to the workers. The workers defended their opinion about the cost, because they claimed to have rules and regulations of the rate. H. Arsan was angry, “What regulation? Who had made you a regulation like that? Who is your chairman? Even your chairman is not clear! Fifty thousand for a mattress? It means three hundred thousand for six mattresses! Even the cost of the boat is only 100 thousand! I pass through Bangsal every day do you think you can fool me???”


It does not mean that the tourism in Pemenang never experienced a significant progress. Bangsal has ever really been a source of the local economy. There were many tourist activists who actively produced unique handicrafts and souvenirs. It could be said that tourism was very beneficial for people who worked for food. It was around 1995.


North Lombok tourism, especially in the case of Bangsal and Gili, was actually already quite old. There were many people who wanted to promote Bangsal and Gili to be better. When there was an attempt to make the system better, there were individuals who felt their interests were replaced, so that, Bangsal particularly, that tourism location later became one of the mafia nests. There was a monopoly of economic turnover in Bangsal. It was initially started by a travel agent that allowed the broker to sell travel tickets randomly then Koperasi Karya Bahari (Karya Bahari Cooperative) with the bad system, gave an opportunity for broker and labor to sell tickets (ticket to charter for example) without direct supervision, as if the cooperative gave an opportunity for the broker and labor to commit a crime (fraud). It was then considered to cause the economic disparity. The cost of tourism became high which forced some other elements, inevitably, to do the same thing too, including the labor.

Akmaludin, a tourism activist who later went into politics, revealed an interesting fact about it. Akmal explained that all this time the tourism had only been seen in physical form and not from psychological viewpoint. So in the mind of the tourism people there was only money, not prioritizing the service. The result was the destruction in the body of the tourism itself.

Akmaludin had known the world of tourism in Pemenang for a very long time. In fact, he was among the founders of Koperasi Karya Bahari. He had also ever organized the Bangsal labor. His last career in tourism was when he formed Koperasi Serba Usaha (KSU), of which one of the programs was a travel service program.

Around 1995, Akmaludin together with Pemuda Pancasila, organized Bangsal and Bangsal Terminal. All types of ground transportation available in Bangsal were pulled into the Bangsal Terminal. All types of vehicle belonged to whoever had to wait and to drop off passengers at Bangsal Terminal. The workers were divided into two. There were terminal workers and there were workers at the port. All workers received their parts and nobody had a fight. The terminal workers were in charge of carrying the tourist’s goods from Bangsal Terminal to Bangsal Port, next, the port workers were the ones who carried the tourist’s stuff to the boat. The port workers carried the goods to the terminal and the terminal workers were the ones who put the goods up to the car or bus. With this system, according to Akmal, Bangsal would have a shortage of labor instead. Fair enough.


Then, cidomo only served to bring tourists, whereas goods were carried by the workers. So a cidomo could be used by four to six tourists. Thus, the Bangsal Port did not become a place that was filled with various types of vehicle and did not make the tourists feel crowded. The Bangsal Port, thus, would be a nice port for tourists while awaiting departure to the Three Gili. It would restore the function of Bangsal as a nice port just like what everybody had wanted all this time: the tourists could sit peacefully enjoying the view of beautiful Three Gili.

Even at that time, the movement done by Akmal wanted the ticket sale was not in Bangsal Port, but in the Bangsal Terminal, in a row of buildings in the north of terminal, which is now close to the Bangsal Terminal mosque. They wanted no kind of transaction that would make tourists in Bangsal confused. However, this proposal was not accepted.

Besides that, as a head of the workers at the time, Akmaludin gave special briefings to the workers about how to serve and how to respect guests, provided English training which aimed to improve the quality of labor services to the tourists.

As the saying went, let alone to do evil, even doing good course there were many obstacles and barriers. There were many people who did not like, did not agree and were not happy to see a system that was trying to be applied at the time.



That system ran long enough then suddenly parties who violated it appeared. It started with a car that dared to enter the Bangsal Port by paying money to the guard. Some coachmen of cidomo started to act, transporting the tourists and their stuff and then just gave money to the porters even though they did not carry the tourists’ stuff. The labor became accustomed. The travel agent and some individuals started to give permission again to the workers, guides and brokers to sell tickets randomly, which made bad impact, particularly for the workers. The quick profit received from selling tickets made some workers to leave their labor jobs.

Well, then came the economic gap. The regulation which should have run mutually supportive backfired instead. The cost increased because the payment did not run as it should. Each individual took over other’s position. Those who were still workers, in order to get more money, raised the price of their services. The service which had prioritized manner became a service that prioritized money. When money was not obtained, it was not uncommon that they said unpleasant things to the tourists, telling them to go back to their country if they did not have the money.

“So, now, if we want to pay attention to Bangsal Port for a moment, it feels stiff. On the edge of the beach there are magnificent permanent buildings, while behind those buildings, there is still a slum. The travel cars fill the port area. Cidomo, ojek drivers, ticket boxes, all pile up in Bangsal. There is no freedom for the tourists. As soon as the tourists come, they are swarmed like flies swarm around the food. How could the tourists feel at home? So, do not be surprised if the tourists take other alternatives, from Senggigi, going directly to Trawangan, from Bali, going directly to Trawangan or Meno, where they should have gone through Bangsal.”

What Akmal saw, once again, was just like what was recorded in a conversation with Dr. Mochsin some time ago, that government regulation should be very clear. This regulation should become a reference for all circles in Bangsal. There were 4Ds done by the government individual according to Akmal. They were: datang (came), duduk (sat), diam (be quiet) and just though about the distribusi (distribution) from tourism to government agencies.


One thing that was highlighted and became fierce criticism for tourism workers and also the government was what was the contribution of tourism all this time for the younger generation of Pemenang? All this time, in Akmal’s opinion, young people of Pemenang had been infected by the mafia virus. Many young people only thought of how to get money quickly. One result of this was the young people of Pemenang chose to work in tourism rather than going to college or to higher education. Then, when the money had been obtained, it was spent in ways that were not supposed to. There were only a few young men who wanted to save their money for the future. The next bad thing that happened was, due to the absence of good regulation, the presence of individualistic entrepreneurs in Bangsal, just like the presence of private parking places, or other types of business that did not contribute to the progress of the younger generation. The younger generation of Pemenang was only left to just watch in their place. There had been no effort yet, particularly from the government, and/or from those entrepreneurs, to give just a little of the tourism proceeds to support the youth activities in Pemenang.

Akmaludin’s opinion could be wrong. But what if what he said was almost the same as the result of research made by some teenagers of Pemenang? At the time of the making of Jalan Remaja Video, Pasirputih Community had invited some fellow teenagers to investigate what the reasons that had made the teenagers of Pemenang had not continued their education to a higher level. One of them was pursuing work in the world of tourism, even though in terms of education, experience and human resources, the youth had not been possible yet to work in that area. What more surprising was when one of the teenagers who had been interviewed at that time, had expressed his desire to become a ‘crook’. The question was how was the school’s preparation, when the school was given the freedom to develop local potential with the presence of school autonomy? Had the school seen the tourism as a good local potential, which was close to the teenager, and it was possible that one day, after finishing school, that teenager entered that world? The fact was, there had been many teenagers who after finishing school had not continue their education to a higher level. Was then working in the field of tourism at a young age more beneficial and promising than studying and continuing the education? Of course, if only the contribution of tourism was also used to build the knowledge of tourism awareness in every school, then at least teenagers in Pemenang had readiness for that thing because, the next question was, would the youth and the community of Pemenang forever be the workers? Workers who then would never think about social status, as occurred in a series of historical events that tried to elevate the dignity and values of the workers? Would it be like the story in the film La Tera Trema (Luchino Viscinti, Italy, 1948), where at that time the fishermen in Sicily, who seemed to be moving backwards because of the act of the capital owners and greedy businessmen, could not do much because they were under the power of that system?


All the questions that I mentioned above required immediate answers because Pemenang, once again, was quite old in tourism. Of course every tourism worker had understood a lot how to build and to create a good and conducive atmosphere of tourism.

This writing had stalled for a few days because my friend, who happened to be the secretary of labor in Bangsal, chose not to comment about those service sellers. I wondered, guessing what actually happened.

11 13 12

One night, I remembered my conversation with Akmal. He had mentioned a name, Datu Panji. I only knew Datu Panji by face. I knew him from his nomination campaign posters and billboards in Legislative Election some time ago. He came from Tanjung and settled in Pemenang. I asked here and there to know where his house was. After I knew, Gozali and I who were discussing that night, decided to visit him.

A 2 m x 3 m Berugaq stood in front of his house. Two teenage girls playing smartphone greeted us. It turned out that one of them was his daughter. She called his father who was apparently just about to take a rest at that time.

“Sorry for the intrusion,” said Gozali.

“It is okay. What is wrong? It’s unusual to meet you at night,” Datu Panji immediately asked, while buttoning a batik shirt he wore.

I instantly expressed the purpose of our visit. The reason of our visit made his drowsiness disappear because apparently it had been long enough that he would like to discuss about the condition of Bangsal, especially the labor issues he had been dealing with.

“Ti, please make some coffe for my brothers here,” Datu Panji asked his wife.

“So sorry for such a trouble, Kanda,” Gozali said sheepishly.


Datu Panji shifted in his seat, “If we see through the naked eyes, Bangsal seems fine. But if we enter, in fact there are many problems that become phenomena in the society. When people got into Bangsal, there was no desire to build Bangsal with the awareness that Bangsal was owned by the community of Pemenang. All came in with their group’s and individuals’ interests. On one hand, the government has not seriously and firmly wanted to solve the problem in Bangsal. The real problems are the stomach and economic. The economic scramble then forced the people in Bangsal to strike at each other to settle their stomach problems. If we talk about the system to restore Bangsal like it used to be, all parties in Bangsal should’ve dared to admit that they were wrong. Then, not only parties with interests in Bangsal, but also the government should’ve been willing to pay attention to this issue. A small example, not that I blame the government, in Bangsal there is the Polairud (Water and Air Police), there is the Shahbandar (Port Master), there is the Transportation Agency, there is the Tourism Agency, there is the Cooperative, if all of them understand their main duties and functions, I think Bangsal will be better.”

“So, what was the background that made you want to enter Bangsal and to manage Bangsal’s Labor? I’ve also heard from a few people, that there was organizational dualism of Bangsal’s Labor, how about that?”

“Not just the labor, I am also the chairman of the Bangsal’s Ojek. And the laborers that I manage are not only the Labor of Bangsal, but also workers at Pemenang Market, workers in Tanjung to Bayan District. I am now the chairman of FSNTB for North Lombok Regency. FSNTB, “NTB” doesn’t stand for Nusa Tenggara Barat (West Nusa Tenggara), but Nelayan, Tani and Buruh (Fishermen, Farmers and Labor). FSNTB itself stands for the Federasi Serikat Nelayan Tani Buruh (Union Federation of Fishermen, Farmers and Labor). Well, I want to explain about this dualism of Labor of Bangsal. In the past, there was SPSI or Serikat Pekerja Seluruh Indonesia (All-Indonesia Workers Union). The workers in Bangsal, all were members of the SPSI. SPSI wanted to add members. But from the stories of those worker friends, they had never been involved related to this wish to add the members. Since this was an institution and there were units there, they should’ve been involved. At that time, the workers’ wish was that if they really wanted to add members, please take them from the villages in Pemenang, because Bangsal was owned by the community of Pemenang. However, what happened was different. There was indeed my friend who wanted to increase the number of workers, doubling the number of workers at that time. In the end, the old member workers were out and looked for me. I then looked for legal protection for them. Well, some time ago, we had agreed to unite these two labor organizations and to form PBB, Persatuan Buruh Bangsal (Union of Bangsal’s Labor). All workers were responsible to the PBB, but for the administrative needs they were still responsible to their organizations. I am still the head of FSNTB and the head of SPSI is Mr. Sumardi.”

“In this PBB, is a new management formed again?”

“It’s different. In this PBB, the term is collaboration, a fusion or a merger of each organization.”

“Now, how many Bangsal’s Labor are there?”

“70 workers.”

“Then, what is the regulation? Because as far as I know, currently with the big number of workers, there was a scramble and confusion about the shift, so that the labor service is not optimal and there is often a gap among the workers.”

“Hmmm! OK, for that matter, if I may say, the government once in a while… once there was a plan to make regulation, three working days for group A and three days for group B. But the workers did not want it. They asked to be left like this. About this gap issue, I do not think there is a significant problem. What often happens is a matter of miscommunication. What often happens is, for example, one man wants to be different from another man. I mean, it’s more individual, not organizational problems.”

15 16

Ghozali continued to ask, but that question which was then followed by the answer from Datu Panji, entirely escaped from my focus. I still thought of the answer that had just delivered by that chairman of the workers. I underlined the presence of the difference of ‘wishes’ of individuals in the organization of labor. How could this be said as an insignificant problem? How would the services be maximal by this group, if there were still differences within the body? The difference that often happened, from the information that I got from Datu Panji himself, in further conversations, after my focus was back, was the problem of uneven rates. Sometimes, the rate became very high and sometimes (because of being forced) became very low. It then became a serious problem, both among workers and between workers and passengers. And, this was one of the subjects of protest by the tourists, if we went back to the stories from some sources about labor condition.

“How about this one? I’ve heard stories from some people that when there were guests who were not satisfied with the server, cidomo for example, the tourists did not know to whom they should make a complaint. How about the worker’s complaint? Because as far as I know there is no secretariat or labor office in Bangsal. If things like that happen, who will be responsible and to whom the workers are responsible?”

“This is what I mean! This is what I mean! What I mean is the presence of the Shahbandar. This Shahbandar works for the government and has the authority to regulate the Bangsal area. It means that when there are issues like that, the Shahbandar must be responsible. There is Tourism Police there and there is Polairud. When there are problems like you said the Shahbandar must be perceptive. I’m sorry, why do I say the Shahbandar, because Bangsal is his territory. He is the one who has the right to manage it.”

“I see, with the chaotic management in Bangsal, for example with the number of elements in Bangsal that are not well organized, I suspect that the Shahbandar who is supposed to control, is controlled by these groups instead. Or perhaps there is a game?”

“When it comes to this issue… I say, so far I’ve never talked about it. I just often speak of how to organize Bangsal together. Related to your question, well… maybe there are people who also make an assumption like that. But, all this time I’ve never thought that far. My concept is how to develop the tourism in Bangsal. Even the other day, if only I became a member of the House of Representatives, it did not mean that I was going against the government, but I would bring all my ideas out to make Bangsal go forward because Bangsal is an asset and a gate, the gate of North Lombok tourism towards the Three Gili. In a single day, hundreds of millions could be obtained. Well, if this is not managed properly, then we would become the spectators in Bangsal.”




About the author


Muhammad Sibawaihi

Born in Pemenang Village, North Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, on May 20, 1988. He got Bachelor degree at IKIP Mataram, majoring in English. He is the Program Director at Pasirputih Foundation. He is also active as an independent writer and curator.

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