Butonese - Sociopolitical Organization

The former sultanate of Buton is now divided into two kabupaten, which form a regular part of the province of Sulawesi Tenggara.

Social Organization. In the former sultanate four classes were distinguished: 1) the kaomu, from whom the sultan was chosen and for whom certain positions were reserved; 2) the walaka, who also belonged to the ruling elite: the representatives of the walaka chose the sultan; 3) the papara, the inhabitants of the villages, living in rather autonomous communities; and 4) the batua, slaves, usually working for the kaomu or the walaka. After 1906 the slaves became free, but only slowly has their position improved. During and after the struggle for independence (1945-1949) the distinction between the different classes was no longer as socially and politically acceptable, but informally it continued to play a role, especially with marriages. Clearly distinct socioeconomic classes are not (yet) present in Butonese society. Thanks to the widespread education system, considerable social mobility exists.

Political Organization. The former sultanate included four small vassal states ( barata ) which had their own ruler and council ( sarana ) but which had to pay tribute to the sultan and to support him in conflicts. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the influence of the Buton state in the internal affairs of the principality of Muna was very weak. In the area that fell directly under the sultan and the sarana Wolio (the council of the state Wolio, or Buton), the people were organized in villages ( kadie' ) that were more or less autonomous regarding internal affairs; each had its own sarana, which operated under the supervision of one of the members of the sarana Wolio. The kadie' had to support the sultan and the sarana Wolio with contributions of money, food, and manpower, according to written regulations. With the incorporation of the sultanate into the state of Indonesia the whole society is now organized according to general state laws. The two kabupaten are divided into several subdistricts ( kecamatan ). The head of the subdistrict ( camat ) is an appointed official. The head of the regency ( bupati ) is chosen by the council of the kabupaten and appointed by the government. The subdistricts are divided into villages ( desa ), with a chosen village head ( lurah ), recognized by the government. In several villages in the Buton area an official of the office of the subdistrict was appointed as village head. In some villages the traditional village council ( sarana kadie' ) is still functioning alongside and in cooperation with the "modern" village administration, as was the case in 1981 in the village Rongi. In other villages the traditional organization has completely disappeared. The present villages consist of one or more former kadie'. The Indonesian government provides a wide range of services including school, police, courts, health services, tax collection, and registration of vital information.

Social Control. Informal social control is still strong in the villages within the context of kinship relations, traditional village organizations (if still existing), and the religious organizations.

Conflict. Warfare with neighboring states ended after the Pax Neerlandica was established in the second half of the seventeenth century. In the past, internal conflicts might arise from disputes over succession to the position of sultan, or over the misbehavior of the sultan or high office holders. Sultans could be dismissed by the representatives of the walaka (the siolimbona ), who also had the right to choose the sultan. Since the incorporation into the colonial state in 1906, conflicts were suppressed first by the colonial power and then by the state of Indonesia.

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