Darivisual Province: West Nusa Tenggara Regency/City: North Lombok Subdistrict: Pemenang

Eleven Stories from the Southeast – “Prologue”

Written by Muhammad Sibawaihi

This article is part of the Eleven Stories from the Southeast written by Muhammad Sibawaihi, Otty Widasari and Manshur Zikri, published by Forum Lenteng in 2016. We re-upload it on the AKUMASSA website in the framework of the “Darivisual”.

Every Thursday evening at dusk, Buddhist Society of Dusun Tebango, Pemenang District, North Lombok, perform their ritual ablutions in the sea water at Bangsal beach. It has been done for a long time. The Hindu community in the Pemenang district whose ancestors came from Bali also has a religious ritual in Bangsal beach. Three days (tilem Kesanga) before the celebration of Nyepi Day, they release the offerings at sea. The sea is their link with the tradition of their ancestors in Bali Island. The most of Pemenang people of whom the majority are Muslim also believe that the sea water could cure various diseases, and they bring their sick children to wash themselves in Bangsal beach. In essence, the spacious Bangsal beach is the property of all citizens of Pemenang to live, socialize and carry out each of their beliefs.


The map of Three Gilis and Lombok island, West Nusa Tenggara. (Image source: User: (WT-shared) Burmesedays, OpenStreetMap [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)])

When all three Gili (small island), Gili Air, Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno, rapidly expand into domestic and international tourist destination, the harbor is also developed. Various infrastructure buildings for the tourism sector, the concrete piers, the boats anchoring area and public transportation that serves the tourists use vast territory on the shoreline. The people slowly leave Bangsal. Religious rituals and beliefs remain, occupying a small portion of remaining coast and could be considered not too polluted by the tourism waste and ships’ fuel. Bangsal is not the heart of Pemenang’s society anymore. This affects the mentality of the people who eventually get used to the economic sector of tourism that constantly penetrates the pillars of life.

Tourism is not a scapegoat of the current situation in Pemenang. However the contact between the tourism development and the local culture is an issue that has not been managed well in Pemenang.

Gili Trawangan

In front of a hotel, a large white screen faced the sea. A projector was projecting the movie Transformer onto it. A few people were lying on the long chairs, engrossedly watching the heroic scene of Optimus who fought against other robots. Meanwhile my friends and I were sitting and chatting accompanied by a few cups of coffee.

View of the ferry transport station on Gili Trawangan. (Photo: Magul [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)])

Suandi told us, that one day, The Boss had had an irresponsible manager. He had asked the manager to make some local inns with a considerable cost. Since The Boss had not lived at Trawangan, and had only come to visit a few times a year, it had made the manager foolishly cheat his own employer. When The Boss had returned to Trawangan, the expected building had not been completed yet, instead, the workman who had been asked to build the inn had asked for an extra fee to the Boss. The workman himself had admitted that he had not been paid decently.

Finally, The Boss had tested the manager to make the accountability report of the use of the fund. From one, two, three days, one week to weeks, the report had not been finished yet. At that time, Suandi, as a staff, had become The Boss’s confidant. The Boss had finally asked for Suandi’s help to finish the financial report. Since Suandi himself had not understood how to make a financial report, without the knowledge of The Boss, Suandi had asked his friend, Agus, to help him with the complicated issue that had been happening in the company where he had worked.

Suandi had been very surprised. He could not believe what he had seen when Agus helped him to make the report. Only in a matter of hours, Agus had completed the report, which the manager could not finish in a few weeks. Agus had also taught Suandi some important things in managing and making a financial report.

The next day, The Boss had also been very surprised to see Suandi’s work. The Boss had not understood why the report from the manager had not been finished yet in weeks. Finally, The Boss had decided to fire the manager and to replace him with a new manager. Initially, Suandi had been offered the job. However Suandi had not dared to take such an important position. Finally, The Boss had asked Syahrir to take that important position.  Syahrir had been Suandis’s friend. They had worked together at the same place. Syahrir had then agreed, as long as the other friends had supported him to take the leadership role.

After the work of the fired manager had been completed, The Boss had returned to his country and handed over the company to Syahrir, Suandi and their friends.

As workers, Syahrir, Suandi and their friends had done the job like any other worker. There had been a very little communication between them and The Boss. Every now and then when The Boss had called and asked about his company, Suandi and his friends had always said, “It’s all good, Boss!”

Until one day, when The Boss had had the opportunity to go back to Trawangan, he had gathered all the workers. The Boss had been very surprised by the condition of his workers now who had behaved in a sensible way. The condition had been completely different from the previous manager. The previous manager had had many ideas and concepts. He had wanted to make this and that, would change this and that and various other brilliant ideas. Nevertheless, the ideas that had been created had not gone well, in fact it had harmed the company. While at that moment, the manager and the workers had had no ideas, had not made this and that, but the financial condition of the company had been safe.

The humility, or perhaps the ‘nonchalant’ strategy applied by Suandi and his friends had succeeded in captivating The Boss. Now, the management was completely entrusted to them. So, when The Boss was not around, they were the ‘boss’.

In the past, before working in the tourism, Aziz was active in various organizations and youth groups. Apparently, this organizational background made Aziz’s heart was called to defend the interests of his fellow workers, in a company in Trawangan.

Aziz felt that he needed to take a stand on the action of the company which forced the employees too much. The working hours were long but the appreciation from the company was low. Many of his friends complained. Too often hearing the complaints, Aziz finally mustered up courage to talk to the owner of the company, defending the rights of his friends to get something better.

Aziz went to his boss, he sued. He sued on behalf of all his friends. But Aziz was unlucky. The demand he proposed was not responded by The Boss. The Boss then gathered all of the workers, asking them about Aziz’s demand. The Boss threatened to fire those who resisted. Finally, none of the workers supported Aziz’s effort to fight for them. The workers were silent. Aziz could not do anything. Even more, Aziz was heartbroken seeing his friends did not support his effort. Instead of being supported, Aziz was blamed for his action that could harm other friends. The boss decided to fire Aziz. Finally, Aziz left the company.

This is the reality of the life of tourism at Trawangan. Being a hero is not something great and to be proud of. The situation can turn 180 degrees from the movie Transformer that was screened on the white screen, about the heroism that ended with the victory. This is not the reality of the movie. And the hero is not more than a pile of garbage that could do harm.

There is another interesting story, before I associate it with a different reality in Pemenang. Suandi and his friends, once, wanted to create an event on the beach which was in front of their workplace. They wanted to make a sort of impermanent building to serve the tourists. Basically, the construction along the coast in Trawangan was illegal. In fact, some time ago, the North Lombok government intended to curb many buildings along the coast in Trawangan, but it clashed with the entrepreneurs there instead.

Suandi was just attaching some posters to some pine trees on the beach in front of the company where they worked, when a bunch of teenagers, on behalf of youth groups, rejected the action of using the beach for commercial purposes. The teenagers’ reason was that the beach should not be constructed of any building. Suandi and his friends stopped their activity. Suandi then asked why they should not do it, while in front of them, tens or even hundreds of permanent buildings stood along the Trawangan coast and not even one party sued.

That group of young men did not care. Suandi and his friends could not make anything on the beach at any rate. The youth group even threatened to destroy whatever was there. Suandi challenged that group to do the same thing to dozens of buildings that stood firmly along the Trawangan coast. But the young men said that the existing buildings had obtained permission. “Who does grant the permission?” asked Suandi. “Then, just because we are the local residents who don’t have the money to pay, we are not allowed? Why are the buildings owned by foreigners allowed?” The questions could not be answered.

In Trawangan, there is a great power that is playing and controlling. That power silences anyone, and finally, permits anything. This power does not only exist in Gili Trawangan, but also at Pemenang so that many imbalances then happen in the conduct of people’s social life. This is the tourism. The one, who is rich and rules, has the full power.

One example that I often experience, that something similar also happens in Pemenang, is the condition of Bangsal Harbor, the strong one rules. The one who has a lot of money is a priority. The poor one is marginalized. The one who does not give anything will be thrown out, away from the arena. All is oriented to money. It is not wrong, but less correct. Money can be an important thing, but the more important thing is the humanity.

This is what Pasirputih tries to promote in the process of akumassa Chronicle, also in the event of Pesat Rakyat Bangsal Menggawe 2016: Membasaq. Pasirputih wants to prove that the citizens have power, an absolute power over any force. The citizens’ strength is not measured by money, is not measured by material things they have. But, the power of the community is measured by togetherness and a sense of belonging. So, the strength of the community should be able to negotiate with any power. The people’s power could overthrow the regime, could silence the dictatorship, could burn the power of money and could make any strength helpless.

I can imagine, if only Aziz’s friends stayed together, fighting for their rights together, The Boss certainly could not do anything. Their chance of getting their rights as workers was wide-open. But again, this is the reality of tourism.

So, Pasirputih, through AKUMASSA Chronicle Art Project which is initiated by the Forum Lenteng Jakarta, would like to invite the public to realize their power again, which is the power of cultural roots, the power of unity in diversity and the power of mutual respect and upholding the values of humanity.

Those are some points that appear in people’s life in Pemenang, a town that still has the power of fraternity despite their different beliefs, the power to assist and help each other although each person has different interests and activities. In Pemenang, it is reflected how the religious tolerance is very well established, where the mosque is built by people who have different beliefs.

Here in this town, a conflict between religions has never happened, let alone a war. Here, every religious community has a strong brotherly bond. However, it does not rule out the possibility that this harmonious Pemenang can suddenly become very individualized, very selfish and very arrogant, when tourism viruses enter tourism and spread throughout its body.

Pasirputih, as an idea to create a Pemenang society that continues to keep the togetherness, harmony and brotherhood, feels that it is necessary to bind all that has been established since the time of the reign of King Bali Anak Agung Gede Agung more tightly. So Pasirputih starts that bond from Bangsal Harbor. Why should it start from 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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