When it comes to big events in Bali, the Island of Gods
has its own traditions of safeguarding events, with local
authorities involving what are locally known as pecalang
- traditional Balinese security personnel. The upcoming
PrepComm IV in Nusa Dua, Bali is no exception. Bali's Police
Head Budi Setiawan has confirmed the planned participation
of Balinese pecalang in ensuring the safety of Bali along
with local security apparatus. The involvement of pecalang
has been cited as contributing to Bali's good reputation
as tourist destination.
The planned involvement of pecalang was revealed when the
chief of Police was recently interviewed by the state-owned
television station TVRI, when he noted that pecalang have
had an important role in Bali for hundreds of years.
Pecalang were created to maintain the security of the village.
In practice, they work hand in hand with hansip (security
officers of the administrative village). In order to call
members of the village for an emergency, a three to four
meter high tower stands in the village in which two or three
kulkuls (split wooden drums) are housed. These are beaten
in certain ways according to the message that needs to be
communicated; all villagers know the codes for fire, theft,
riot and other emergency situations. Neighboring villages
also respond to a village's cry for help by beating their
kulkuls in the appropriate fashion. The drums therefore
function as both intra and inter-village broadcasting.
In true Balinese fashion the costumes worn by the pecalang
demonstrate a harmony of symbolism in terms of design and
accessories. Usually the costumes consist of chessboard-like
sarong, white shirt, black waistcoat and headband completed
with kris (dagger) affixed on the back. The checked motif
represents the opposition of good and evil represented by
white and black, the combination of which balances out into
equilibrium and harmony. These sarongs can be seen in numerous
ceremonies and on statues throughout Bali. The positioning
of the kris dagger at the back also represents the pecalang's
approach to peace-keeping - persuasive and passive rather
Pecalang are becoming increasingly important in Bali these
days, as the tourism industry stimulates wave after wave
of non-Balinese migrants seeking job opportunities. Crime
is on the increase as a result, hence the need for continuous
improvement in security apparatus, in which pecalang, hansip
and village heads all play an important part, by ensuring
that migrants register with the village banjar where they
take up residence.
Other major events in which pecalang play an important
role are the Bali Arts Festival, Nyepi (Day of Silence)
and the International Kite Festival. When no major events
are taking place, however, the pecalang settle back into
more peaceful but equally useful roles such as controlling
traffic. All security roles are carried out in conjunction
with the police department, demonstrating their vertical
and horizontal cooperation to keep Bali safe.
Things have run smoothly in Bali for centuries, and continue
to do so today. In contrast with other more turbulent areas
of the archipelago in recent years, Bali has remained one
of the safest and most peaceful places in the country. This
is largely due to the social organization of the Balinese,
which in terms stems from their governing spirituality.
All levels of the community are involved in maintaining
peace and security, successfully adding to the atmosphere
of tranquility and natural harmony for which the Island
of the Gods is renowned.