For the Minangkabau society in West Sumatra, the implementation of the Law on Regional Autonomy is like lifting the sunken trunk from the water. The value is priceless. Imagine, for more that three decades the type of social life of the Minangkabau society has to be uniform with the other regions.
Custom House of Minang Kabau
Whereas in fact the Minangkabau society has since long inherited a democratic system as well as a democratic culture which can’t be found anywhere in the other regions. Consequently, the custom which has prevailed in the community for centuries has been marginalized. The strong influence of the matriarchal system has largely diminished. The institution of “ninik-mamak” has nearly lost its function. Instead, everyone is inclined to gauge everything in term personal wealth. Gone are the strong and entrenched traditions. It is something to be regretted indeed!.
“Very fortunately, the NAGARI system has never disappeared from the life of the Minangkabau society”, explained Agusman, former principal of the elementary school in Solok. Nevertheless, agusman felt that something is “missing” at the time the (uniform) rural government was introduced in West Sumatra. In this system, he added, a nephew is no longer obliged to ask for advice and permission from the “Ninik-Mamak” in relation to the inheritance. In so far as one has obtained permission from the Village Chief, one may do whatever one wishes to do with it. “Ninik-Mamak” seems to have lost its influence in the eyes of its community. Consequently, the relation between the uncle and his nephew has changed into something without meaning. On the other hand, in the Nagari system, such a thing could never happen. “Ninik-Mamak” has the power and the authority to arrange for the distribution of the inheritance in a just and fair manner, as well as the rights and responsibilities. And is so far as the consideration is based upon the majority view of the community, the decision will be supported and obeyed.
The law number 5/1979 has transformed the Nagari system into a village system. And at the same time, this new enforced system has kept he custom of the Minangkabau society to a chain. In essence, this custom is imbued by the philosophy of the Minangkabau people that “adat basandi syarak, syarak basandi kitbullah. Syarak mangato, adat mamakai, alam takambang jadi guru” ( Custom is based on law, and law is based on Quran. Law rules, custom uses and cosmos is the teacher). For the people of Minangkabau it has a deep-rooted meaning and has become a guidance for the life of every individual. So far this philosophy hasn’t been found in the social life as well as the regional system any where in Indonesia. This system is said to be only existing one in the whole world.
Since the beginning of this year 2001, with the enforcement of the low on the Regional Autonomy, the West Sumatra government has reintroduced the system of Nagari through a regional act. It has been enacted though Regional Act Number 9/2000 on the basic rule of the Nagari system of Government dated December 6, 2000. Apart from its possibility based on the Law Number 22/1999, this system is considered to be most suitable for the people of Minangkabau. The system is deeply rooted and entrenched in the life of the Minangkabau community. It has also proven to be effective in upholding rules, ethics and law as well as the existing social value in the Minangkabau community. Moreover, the people of Minangkabau is known for its democratic way of life, so that the implementation of the autonomy will run smoothly. The system of the Nagari rule is inherited since fore the life of the entire Minangkabau society.
The philosophy mentioned earlier is not only written on paper. Rather it has become the soul and spirit of nearly all Minangkabau people, irrespective whether they remain in their villages or they go abroad to earn their living. The philosophy contains guidance of one’s behavior, personal properties, responsibilities as well as fraternal relations among the people. It also influences the way or life, vision and ideals of the Minangkabau people. Above all, the philosophy serves as a binding element for the family life of the people and to encourage them to lead an independent life, to be creative and active, to enrich them with knowledge, and to assume responsibility and face the risk whenever necessary.
When the Law Number 5 / 1979 was enacted, the number of the Nagari in West Sumatra province amounted to 543. But when it was changed into the village system (similar to the other regions in Indonesia) the total number of the village has increased to 3133. This is particularly true since one Nagari includes several villages. It was said that the increase was due to the need more development aid allocation for West Sumatra province. If based on the number of Nagari’s, the allocated amount received by each village was about one million rupiah only, at the end of last budged prior to the enactment of the Law on the Regional Autonomy, the allocation of aid has reached 20 million rupiah per village. Unfortunately, it failed to bring real change in the villages in West Sumatra.