Sunday May 24, 2009

Adat Perpatih are rules that govern society

OVER the years, people have been commenting on Adat Perpatih’s saying of “Biar mati anak, jangan mati adat” which when loosely translated means “Let the child die but do not let the customs be vanquished”.

Some were neutral about this but many were clearly against such a stance. I am from Negri Sembilan and I would like to set the record straight for those who do not understand the real meaning of the phrase.

In the days of old, societies in Negri Sembilan were ruled by customs or adat in their everyday lives. These customs were actually laws that governed the society, much like the existing laws that we have today governing our present society.

For example, if you commit a crime and you are convicted of it, your punishments are detailed in a form of sayings or what is known as perbilangan adat, such as

Yang mencincang, memapas; Yang membunuh, membangunkan; Yang menjual, memberi balas. Roughly, they mean that “Those who destroy shall repair; those who kill shall rebuild; and those who (cheat in their) trade shall compensate.”

The perbilangan adat or sayings have the objective of restitution rather than punishment per se. From the social aspects, there is a saying : “Yang buta penghembus lesung; yang pekak pelepas bedil; yang lumpuh penghuni rumah; yang kuat pembawa beban; yang bingung disuruh-suruh; yang cerdik lawan berunding.” It roughly means: “The blind shall blow (i.e. clean) the mortar; the deaf shall fire the cannon; the invalid shall stay at home (and watch over the properties); the strong shall carry the load; the less educated shall be guided and instructed; the wise shall be consulted upon.”

Thus, the Adat Perpatih and customs are basically rules (i.e. laws) that govern the society. Therefore, if your child is guilty of a crime, he shall not be excused from punishment (biar mati anak) because the customs or adat are the laws that must be respected and obeyed (jangan mati adat).

This saying is actually consistent with the universal values which emphasise that in administering justice, this shall be done without fear or favour, even if it means that your child must be dealt with accordingly.

With this explanation, it is hoped that the saying would be viewed in a better light.

Negri Sembilan.


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