Sat, 13 Aug 1994

W. Sumatra's Koto clan to have 1st supreme chief in 162 years

JAKARTA (JP): After waiting for 162 years, the Koto clan of Nagari Paninggahan village in Minangkabau, West Sumatra, will finally have a supreme chief.

In a rare and grand ceremony to be held in Nagari Paninggahan, Solok regency, on Aug. 18, Muchtar Byna, 72, a businessman and former member of the House of Representatives, will be installed as Datuk Bagindo Majolelo.

Earlier, on Aug. 17, another ceremony will be held for his Javanese wife. Mrs. Byna, 45, who comes from Surakarta, Central Java, will be adopted into the Guci clan, one of the four clans in Minangkabau. She will also be given the title Puti Junjung Delima.

"Puti (Putri in Indonesian) means princess and Junjung Delima means honorable, beloved, everything that is good," said Mrs. Byna.

Both events will be highlighted with a grand reception on Aug. 22 at the West Sumatra pavilion in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, East Jakarta.

"Mrs. Tien Soeharto is expected to attend the reception along with between 1,500 and 2,000 other guests," said Byna.

The Bynas are holding the reception on suggestion from Minister/State Secretary Moerdiono, who believes the event will help promote the Indonesian culture, the Minangkabau in particular, among the invited foreign VIPs. The Bynas also have the support of the West Sumatra's provincial administration, which hopes to promote its tourism industry.

The lavish ceremonies are understandable given the long wait. The delay is due to several factors, one of them being the absence of a son from the previous Datuk Bagindo Majolelo.

"It's because a datuk (chief) has to come from the mother's side. My grandmother and great grandmother did not have sons," Byna explained.

He is the only son and has one sister.

Because of the matrilineal system observed by the Minangkabau, his son will not be eligible for the title because Byna's wife does not come from a datuk family.

"But my sister's son may inherit the title from me," said Byna.

External factors

Aside from the blood factor, there are also external factors.

"We are a very democratic society. A datuk is elected, not passed on. A man may be eligible for the title given his blood history, but he may not be elected by the clan," he said.

The first discussion about his appointment took place 12 years ago.

"It took so long to finally realize this event because of both personal and clan matters. The clan discussions went on and on. Personally, I was not really prepared because I was still attending to so many things," he said.

Byna was preoccupied with his business affairs, mainly in plywood and property. He was also a member of the House of Representatives, a position which he held for 27 years as a representative of the United Development Party (PPP) faction affiliated to Nahdlatul Ulama, from 1960 to 1987.

He said the new title will bring him more responsibilities. A Datuk Bagindo is the supreme chief of all the other datuks in the clan. He will also serve as the chief judge, meaning he has to settle any dispute among his clan members, from land to marriage.

Aside from the big responsibility, the title does not bring much else.

"It will be good for my family's reputation, though," Byna commented.

He has every reason to be proud of his election because not every datuk may be appointed to the highest position in the clan.

"There are several requirements a man has to meet to be appointed. For one thing, he has to have the heritage. He also has to have a prominent position in society because he is expected to assist in the development of his people and their domain," Byna asserted.

"He should also be a man who has made achievements, not only for himself, but for his clan," he added.

In short, personal integrity is as important as blood.

There is no complete history of the title, but the first written record dates back 400 years. Because the title is not handed down in a family, it is difficult to trace the previous holders of the title, he said. (lem)