Singer is the Customary Law of the Dayak Ngaju, not Someone Who Sings a Song

What is a “singer”?

Simply put, a singer can be understood as “customary fines” imposed on violators of the customary provisions of the Dayak Ngaju people in Central Kalimantan. As people and times change, so does singer; both the amount of the fine and the context change. However, what remains unchanged is its essence.

We’re grateful that there is a Dayak Ngaju professor, an expert in Environmental Law Sociology, namely Prof. Dr. Suriansyah Murhaini, who is currently the Dean of the Faculty of Law at Palangka Raya University, researching and publishing this book. In such a way, we understand that “singer” is the customary law of the Dayak Ngaju, not someone who sings a song.

During the meeting of the delegates of the 400 groups of Dayak tribes from all over Kalimantan held from May 22 to July 24, 1894, in Tumbang Anoi, North Kahayan Hulu, Central Kalimantan, a major decision was made to stop all the conflicts among them that had taken place for hundreds of years. The meeting marked the end of the conflicts, and since then, the tribes have lived peacefully. The disputes, which had long been rooted in the lives of the tribes and the negative heritage passed down from generation to generation in the forms of “asang-maasang” (tribal war), “bunu habunu” (killing each other), “kayau mangayau” (beheading), and “jipen-hajipen” (imposing fines on each other), have now transformed into an atmosphere full of the spirit of renewal and loving fraternity.

Previously, the disputes seemed to have become part of life, seemingly inseparable from the lives of the Dayak tribes. In almost every stage of life, Dayak people were obviously never separated from the tales of courage that sometimes went beyond measure. They were more likely to resolve every single case, either mild or severe, through war, attacking one another.

This violent atmosphere flourished when the Banjar War broke out in 1859. The war spread to almost all parts of what is now Central Kalimantan. The wars of Petak Island, Palingkau, Palangkai Telo/Basarang Kanamit, for example, struck Kahajan in Bukit Rawi, and the war of Lentang Tamuan/Juragan Bangkusin took place in Tewang Pajangan.

The same thing happened in other regions. War erupted in Tumbang Kurun as a result of the war in Nuhuda Lampung. It occurred in Tewah, too, in 1885 due to the Patangan War (Tewah War). War also arose along the Barito River, Mambaroh (West Kalimantan). At the same time, tribal wars exploded in the regions of Datah Nalau Barito Hulu/Hulu Mahakam, East Kalimantan.

These tribal wars, the Banjar War, and other wars against the Dutch for 35 years had resulted in deep unrest among the Dayak people.

The Damangs, who have an important and strategic position in the structure of the Dayak community, were concerned with this situation. They, who were originally in favor of the soldiers fully engaged in a variety of battlefields (Barandar), with high awareness and comprehensive understanding, began to give their support to the peace process. Together with other components of society, they received an offer of peace from the Netherlands under the condition that the status of kedamangan was kept upright and other institutions remained sovereign.

The main points of the peace process for both sides meant that reconciliation was made on the basis of equality; diversion strategy of long-term struggle through the process of renewal that is not brittle; diversion of the Barandar soldiers into consultation missions to all corners for the sake of uniformity of fighting strategy; towards the goal of building a sustainable preparation for consolidation.

The hosts of the meeting, Damang Stone, Singa Rontang, Singa Duta, Tamanggung Panji, and their friends managed to hold that major meeting in Tumbang Anoi, which lasted for 60 days. All the delegates came to participate in the meeting in Tumbang Anoi, located in the middle of an island. They did all that not because of an order nor of surrender to the Dutch but because of the invitation of these influential Damangs.

The Tumbang Anoi Convention formulated eight important points.

First, neither party of the war between the Dutch and the Barandar army should demand any compensation from one another.

Second, recognize both the authority of the government to promote and build the region of Dayak and the sovereignty and status of traditional/customary institutions – Kedamangan.

Third, all parties agreed to stop maasang asang (tribal war).

Fourth, the termination of activities of bunu habunu (killing each other), which are often carried out for the sake of revenge.

Fifth, stop the activity of kayau mengayau (headhunting), cutting off human heads for a private collection and proof of heroism.

Sixth, stop the habit of jipen hajipen and hajual hapili jipen (slavery, and the buying and selling of slaves).

Seventh, enhance the hereditary legacy held by the Damangs in addition to the provisions run by the state.

Eighth, provide an opportunity for the various parties to raise issues faced by each party and find their solution.Customary law formulated at the Tumbang Anoi Peace Talk was used by the Dayak community as guidelines for social life and served as a reference for the traditional/customary leaders in running their duties in Central Kalimantan.

As a product of customary law, a singer, which means sanction, evolved into a consciousness to create an orderly life among the people and provided a sense of peace. The same thing was true for various customary laws in Indonesia.

According to Ter Haar, at the level of ordinary people throughout the islands in Indonesia, there is social life in those groups that behave as a unity to the outside world, inner and outer. These groups of people usually have fixed and eternal laws, and these people live their life as they should, as it has been set by nature. Nobody has ever thought of dissolving the group. “These people,” said Ter Haar, “have worldly belongings and heavenly ones.” To oversee the implementation of the customary rules that must be adhered to by all members of the community, a social organization known as Lembaga Adat (Customary Institute) was formed. Lembaga Adat consists of all the traditional/customary leaders mandated by the community to come together to solve problems and common interests, including overseeing the implementation of customary rules.

According to Malinowski in Ibromi (1984: 57), social institutions can be defined as a group of people who are united (and therefore organized) for a specific purpose, have the means of materials and techniques to achieve these objectives, or at least make sensible efforts directed to achieve the goals that have been predetermined. Tutorial given to achieve these objectives supports a certain value system, ethics, and beliefs that provide justification towards targets.

In order to achieve that objective, kinds of actions are done repeatedly in a predictable way. With this classification, all human activities can be viewed as institutionalized or random. Even though not all parties feel welcome in the institution, this practice can be implemented and accepted because of the legitimate power of sanction of the institution as a social product.

In the Dayak community in Central Kalimantan, the customary institution that controls the legitimacy of customary laws is the institution of Kedamangan. The existence of this institution is arranged unceasingly in various legal instruments issued by both the local and central governments.

On the local level, for example, the Central Kalimantan provincial government issued Local Regulation No. 14 of 1998 in which Kedamangan is stated as the unity of customary peoples in the Province of Central Kalimantan. Kedamangan consists of a set of several villages/wards/districts that have a particular area that cannot be separated.

The Customary Institute, composed of elder people and damang, is a community organization that exists either intentionally or naturally and has reasonably proliferated in the history of the community or society of Dayak customary law, which includes jurisdiction and rights over properties within the area of customary law. This institution and the people in it have the authority to organize, manage, and solve various problems associated with the customs and customary law.

The Kedamangan region is defined and established by the closeness of social relationships of adjacent areas applying the same rules and customs. Kedamangan among customary people in Central Kalimantan is formed not only by genealogical relationships but also by territory. They do not only consist of descendants who have blood relations but also of those who abide by the customs and live within the Kedamangan region. Obedience in and voluntary recognition of Kedamangan from some indigenous groups who dwell in adjacent villages/hamlets have made Kedamangan the place where justice can be gained or issues be solved through singer with jipen as sanctions. These have strengthened and made the position of Damang valid in the eyes of the people whom they lead. Because one of the functions is to oversee the implementation of customary law, a Customary Chief Damang is usually assisted by some staff, Council of Customary Peoples (Kedamangan Board Convention)/(Kerapatan Adat Kedamangan), which is composed of mantir, traditional leaders who sit in the assembly.

Damang Customary Chief also has assistants at villages called customary leaders (led adat) chaired by the hamlet chief or head of a village arranged or organized in the Hamlet/Village Customary Convention (Kerapatan Adat Desa/Kampung). Customary leaders accomplish both tasks in the field of customs procedures in an effort to maintain the customary rules and settle disputes between citizens through village customary meetings, and if the problems cannot be solved, then the decision would be submitted to Damang Customary Chief. Village customary leaders are entitled to vote and to be voted to become the hamlet/village head.

Similarly, the hamlet/village head has the right to elect and be elected to be Damang Customary Chief, as long as the candidate is smart, knowledgeable as well as experienced about Dayak customary rules.

The customary rules, as contained in the Ngaju Dayak Customary Law (HA), serve as a reference to the various regulations that grow and develop in the community. These customary laws were derived from different habits in society and then codified and complied, and their existence is recognized. Customary institutions become an integral part of customary law. Therefore, it becomes a medium of enforcement of all rules. The institution consists of individuals who have been selected and supported to organize community life while taking good care of all the regulations in the society. The behaviors of citizens in social relationships are classified as appropriate and deviant against the norms of customary law.

The meanings can be expressed by interpreting and understanding symbols, norms, and expressions that arise in social relations, the existence of customary institutions, customary leaders, and the behavior of citizens.

Every citizen in the context of the social ethnic group of Dayak Ngaju is required to maintain the balance. If extracted, the balance comprises 12 aspects as follows:

  1. marriage,
  2. adultery,
  3. ethics and morals,
  4. confidence and trust,
  5. social responsibility,
  6. agreement,
  7. responsibility for the natural environment,
  8. appointment of relatives,
  9. property,allegations,
  10. theft,
  11. fights, and
  12. murder

Social changes occur because of the influence of the diversity of interests and needs in the community. When the interests and needs in the community increase, social change will take place more quickly. Social change is both a social structure and function that includes changes in behavior and social interaction. Therefore, social changes influence the social interaction and behavior of citizens. The behavior of citizens cannot be separated from social relations. Through social relationships, situations affecting the behavior of citizens arise. In a situation of social change, the role of customary law is increasingly important as a regulator and controller of social relations among citizens.

As an ethnic group, the Dayak Ngaju is a social group, which has close ties marked by the importance of social relationships through communal interactions, which are governed by the norms of behavior that serve as the controllers of the peoples. Through group experiences, people appreciate the cultural norms, and together they have the values, goals, feelings, and many other things that distinguish humans from animals.

In that context, singer not only regulates how someone should behave in the customs surroundings but also serves as the medium for peaceful settlement of violations. This means that the same violation will not happen again in the community in the future. The above 13 laws of equilibrium, written in the Customary Law, have 98 chapters.*)

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