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Traditional Law Saves Coral (Issue: 03-07)

Indonesia has many kinds of law; civil law, religious law, traditional law (Hukum Adat), and the law of the jungle. Hukum Adat was once the most important law that regulated the life in the villages. After the fall of the Soeharto regime where the administration and the armed forces stood above the law, a vacuum emerged. In many places the Hukum Adat has made a come-back in this vacuum. It is an effective tool to create justice locally.

In the good old days, i.e. before the Dutch, the Acehnese protected its sea and forest through the Panglima Laot and Panglima Rimba (chief of the sea and the forest respectively). These officials decided who could use the resources, how to use it and how to share it. It was a system that effectively protected the environment.

Over the years these functions disappeared, but the Panglima Laot survived until today, however mainly as a ceremonial function. In some areas they have become more powerful again, for example in Iemeulee on the east coast of Pulau Weh. The Panglima Laot is chosen directly by the fishermen of the area he controls.

In Iemeulee the fishermen (app. 150) have realized that they would gain from a healthy coral reef. This seemingly obvious fact is unique, as fishermen rarely plan for longer than a day. Maybe the influence of environmental lobbyists, tourism and the positive effect of healthy coral reefs in Iboih and Gapang has helped. Now the fishermen in Iemeulee also protect their fishing grounds and they do it through the Hukum Adat, which strictly forbids the use of poison, bombs, compressors and nets that do not leave the small fish behind. The area stretches from Sabang Fair and half of the east coast. Anyone caught in this area has to see his illegal fishing tools being destroyed and to pay a fine of three million Rupiah.

A couple of month ago Iemeulee fishermen apprehended two boats from another area using illegal nets. In a case that concerns two local Panglima Laot, the Panglima Laot for all of Sabang becomes involved. The two boats are now on land waiting for a decision. The accused fishermen refuse to pay all of the three millions and want to keep the nets. This problem is discussed by all concerned parties until a solution approved by all is reached. This process is called “musyawarah” and it is a traditional Indonesian form of democracy. Eventually the wrong-doers will be punished without any involvement of the police or government. The hukum adat is very effective to avoid bad feelings and urge for revenge.

The fishermen in Iemeulee are proud today. They have been proven to be correct. Everyone on Pulau Weh knows that there are more fish on the East coast!

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A Young Entrepreneur (Issue: 03-07)

Local entrepreneurs - that is really what Aceh needs after all the Tsunami aid. Madi in Sabang is one example. Madi has always been interested in gardening, fish and birds. He financed his own high school by growing and selling bonsai trees. Since then he has tried to develop his hobby into a business but has always been short of capital.

He has to feed his wife and two children first. That is why he works long hours in the noodle restaurant Mie Sedap. It doesn’t give him much time or money left over, but he struggles on with his vision.

Madi cultivates whatever he can get hold of, but his most popular plants are Bougainvillea and Frangipani. All that he knows he has taught himself from books and experimentation. He always tries to cross breed flowers to get new hybrids with different colors. His father’s five cows provide fertilizer, which he also sells by the sack.

The market has started to develop, but it’s far from what it could and should be. His hope is that tourism growth will help him and increase the interest and demand. In the past Madi also bred birds, but he stopped as he came to realize that also birds need their freedom.

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