Commission warns of political ogoh-ogoh

Creating and parading ogoh-ogoh (giant papier-mâché effigies) has always been a much-awaited tradition for Balinese ahead of the celebration of Nyepi (the Hindu Day of Silence), which will fall on March 31 this year. Lately, however, a sense of anxiety has engulfed members of the island’s general election commission after they learned that the date for the upcoming ogoh-ogoh parade falls during the official campaign season for the country’s general election.

Given the fact that the Balinese have never been shy of incorporating contemporary elements into their ogoh-ogoh — in 2012 the city’s streets saw ogoh-ogoh resembling corrupt politicians Angelina Sondakh and Nazaruddin — and the penchant of the local politicians to exploit any public event to leverage their images, the commission has a lot to worry about. Bali General Election Commission’s (KPUD) head, Dewa Kade Wiarsa Raka Sandi, told journalists on Monday that the national commission had enacted the campaign period to run from March 16 to April 5 this year.

Meanwhile, Pengerupukan day — the day before Nyepi, when ogoh-ogoh are paraded — falls on March 30. “It means that there will be a campaign by political parties on Pengerupukan day. This is highly prone to being used by politicians to promote themselves, or even to undermine other candidates,” Sandi said. According to the Saka lunar calendar, the first day of New Year 1933 will fall on March 31, which is marked by the observance of Nyepi. It has been a tradition that Balinese parade ogoh-ogoh on the day before Nyepi.

The parade usually starts at 2 p.m. and goes on until night. Meanwhile, according to the national commission regulation, the campaign is allowed to run from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. The effigies, symbolizing the evil spirit of Bhuta Kala, are made using a bamboo or iron skeleton covered with cork or styrofoam. The effigy is made more attractive by being painted and shaped to resemble a particular character. The characters used to be adopted from folk tales and usually took the form of a scary giant. Now, however, people adopt characters from animated films or use public figures.

As the ogoh-ogoh parade and its creativity process will involve many people, Sandi reminded that the moment could be used by candidates to get attention from the public. “I am sure that many candidates will donate their money to youth community groups who make the ogoh-ogoh. Of course, we could not prohibit candidates from making donations to cultural and social activities, as long as they don’t incorporate any political elements,” Sandi said. He said that the ogoh-ogoh parade could trigger conflict between communities, especially if politicians tried to profit from the event.

“We have reminded all parliamentary candidates from all political parties, don’t ever include political interests in the ogoh-ogoh parade,” Sandi said. Sandi said that he would coordinate with the General Election Commission to ask whether Bali could have a special regulation for the March 30 campaign day. “We will ask whether Bali can have a special policy to exclude that day from the campaign because it could cause problems to have the parade on a campaign day,” he admitted.

An academic from Warmadewa University, who is also former head of the Bali KPUD, Anak Agung Oka Wisnumurti, admitted that the ogoh-ogoh parade was extremely prone to conflicts of interest, especially when being held during campaigning. “I really hope that politicians will be aware that ogoh-ogoh are part of our religion and culture, not politics. So, politicians should not use the momentum to promote themselves. It will only trigger conflict between supporters,” Wisnumurti said. Earlier, the Indonesian Parishada Hindu Council (PHDI) also urged all Hindu devotees across the island to avoid making politic comments through the making and parading of ogoh-ogoh for Nyepi. They also urged politicians not to profit from the religious moment.

Election day will be on April 9.
source : bali daily

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