Customary Laws

The Law of the Nature and Customary Laws

Customary Law is commonly misinterpreted and misunderstood by modern scientists. What SAPA means by customary law is the law that is aimed at promoting harmony (in general terms it is called peace) in living. Harmony among human beings and with other communities of beings is the ultimate purposes of the customary law.

Customary law is not to punish and imprison, but it is to find non-compliant from the other side, to find ways to balance imbalances in all levels and aspects of live, in all layers and aspects of relations and interactions among communities of beings, starting from interactions among human societies.

Sociologists, anthropologists and philosophers talk about customary laws more in interaction among human beings and in relation to modern positive law. Based on their anthropocentric and positivist interpretations, customary law is regarded unofficial, not law but just customs generally accepted and practiced within a society:

Customary law is unofficial law in short. It is the long-established customs (standards of community) of a particular place or locale that the general law regards as a legal practice.” <>

…standards of community that have been long-established in a given locale. Customary law as an indefinite repertoire of norms [From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia].

When they talk about “customary law” they start from a view and standpoint of a law that serves the purpose, role and function in modern positive law: to maintain orderly and non-conflicting life, to judge and to impose punishment to those who break the laws. They explain customary law as un-written but accepted, established customs that function as rules that all parties obey. Yes, it is un-written and accepted. But it is not just established customs, it is also established belief, containing norms and values that have deep meanings in life.

In fact, customary laws also encompass values and norms, and the most important one is the “truth” in life. The custom is “the truth”, i.e., the way of life, the way in life and the way to life. This is why traditional society in Melanesia say “No custom means no life”.

By the term “truth” we mean the “reality” as it is, i.e., the reality of life, the reality of interconnected-ness and inter-dependence, the death, the reality of day and night, left and right, man and woman. The truth is that we are born and we die, we were babies, then became children, and then teenage, youth, and adult. There is no choice to make, they only thing we should do is to identify, recognize, acknowledge the truth, and walk according to the law of the nature, which is the virtue, and this way is called the custom way.

After we are grown up, then we become older and then we finally die. The truth is that the sun rises in the East an sets in the West. The truth is that we are human beings, and there are other communities of beings. We cannot deny these realities. Our biggest and primary task is to acknowledge and respect this truth. Forgetting, ignoring, or undermining the truth is the violations of the customary law.

Thus, customary law is not just about long-established customs in human relationships, but it contains the “truth” of life, in life and to life. The goal of enforcing the customary law is not to execute punishment (imprisonment or fine), but rather to bring peace among human beings and harmony with other communities of beings. Customary law is the window into the views and perspectives of a society on the nature and other communities of beings around the society.

The main reason of enforcing the customary law is to find acceptance and finally to bring peace among each other. SAPA believes that customary law is also aimed at bringing peace between human beings and other communities of beings. And human beings have the primary role and responsibility to create the atmosphere and conditions for all other communities of beings to live in peace and harmony, i.e., to enjoy life.