Saturday, June 04, 2016

Brunei History Thongh Spanish Eyes

Illustrations of the ethnic group in the Phiilippines in The Boxer Codex.
A Spanish galleon from the Boxer Codex. The manuscript now known as the Boxer Codex contains vivid historical descriptions of many parts of Asia including Brunei. Picture: Agencies

Rozan Yunos
Bandar Seri Begawan
Sunday, May 29, 2016

TO students studying history in primary and secondary schools, history can be a very dry subject. To them every fact, every date, and every opinion have already been locked in place. Their task seemed to be to memorise and regurgitate them during examinations.

But history is not like that. Even though it gives the appearance and the impression that everything is already known, it is not so. Below the surface, everything is still moving and in some cases fast flowing. The facts of history can change anytime. Some facts changed through some documents which have only been unearthed recently, or through some artifacts which have just been discovered. There is constant movement in establishing historical facts.

This is so much so that even historical ‘facts’ such as the Brunei Royal Genealogy Table which more or less was settled by the 18th century through the written ‘Salasilah Brunei’ faced changes when an unlisted Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan’s tomb was discovered in Nanjing, China in 1958. Brunei is such an old kingdom that there are probably more facts that needed to be discovered before the history of Brunei can actually be finalised.

Professor BA Hussainmiya, a former historian at UBD once wrote that “to write a history of the ancient past one requires a variety of primary sources ranging from archaeology, epigraphy, inscriptions, travellers’ tales, chronicles, numismatic etc”.

Unfortunately for Brunei, most of our documentations are lacking as we lack the suitable materials to keep long lasting records. We are very much relying on archaeology and tales such as Syair Awang Semaun but for documentation, we are relying on documents generally written by non-Bruneians thus far. So these documents are the only ones through which we have been establishing our Brunei ‘history’.

While many documents have been found but many more could lie lurking in libraries around the world which may have a profound effect on our history. One such document discovered in 1947 is only beginning to make its impact.

A historian by the name of CR Boxer came across an anonymous, undated manuscript with a missing title page that an auction catalogue has described as a curious 18th century work on Asia. The manuscript belong to Lord Ilchester. The manuscript was among what remained in his collection when his estate, Holland House in London was bombed by direct German shelling on September 27, 1940 during the Blitz at the height of the Second World War.

Professor Charles Ralph Boxer, a historian and an authority on the Far East, thought the document looked interesting and placed a nominal bid for the document. He actually won the auction with that nominal bid. It was several weeks later before that document arrived at his house.

When Professor Boxer received and opened the mail, he realised that he had a late 16th century work which was so beautiful that it could easily have been owned by someone who are important enough to receive such beautiful and colourful work. In 1965, the Professor sold this manuscript to Indiana University's Lilly Library.

Rebecca Cape and Stephen Cape writing in ‘The Friends of the Lilly Library Newsletter 23’ (Fall 1994) described the manuscript dating from the late 16th century and containing about 270 pages of text, written probably by a Spanish and possibly by a Filipino clerk, and drawn from a variety of sources.

There are also seventy-five coloured drawings of the inhabitants of China, the Philippines, Java, the Moluccas, the Ladrones, and Siam; eighty-eight smaller drawings of birds and fantastic animals; and a double-fold drawing depicting a Spanish ship off one of the Ladrone islands surrounded by the small canoes of the natives of the island. The text of the volume consists of contemporary accounts describing these places, their people and customs, and the European contact with them.

What is interesting to us Bruneians, is that, there is one standalone chapter on Brunei. According to Alfredo R Roces writing in the ‘Boxer Codex’ (1977), it is believed that the original owner of the manuscript was Luis Pérez Dasmariñas, son of Governor General Gomez Perez Dasmarinas, who was killed in 1593 by Sangleys or Chinese living in the Philippines. Luis succeeded his father in office as Governor-General of the Philippines. Since Spanish colonial governors were required to submit written reports on the territories they governed, it is likely that the manuscript was written under the orders of the governor.

Professor Hussainmiya (2013) wrote that the authors of the Codex have not been identified. It is attributed to various persons including Gomez Perez Dasmarinas, Governor of the Spanish colony in the Philippines 1590-1593, or his son Luis. Both of them sailed from Acapulco in Maxico on a Manila Galleon in 1590.

Since the manuscript explains Islam without condemning it, Professor Hussainmiya theorised that the author perhaps was a high-ranking Spanish secular official who had no apprehension about the Holy Inquisition. According to Carlos Quirino and Mauro Garcia (1958) who translated the parts about the Philippines, the manuscript was the work of Antonio de Padua, a soldier-turned priest, but the calligraphy seems to match that of Juan de Cuellar, a soldier who became the secretary to Perez Dasmarinas.

The Brunei sections were written around 1588 and 1589. This is about 10 years after the Castille War in Brunei when the Spanish Forces came to Brunei and burnt down Brunei’s magnificent five-storey mosque situated close to Kota Batu.

The manuscript now known as the Boxer Codex was in fact a Spanish language manuscript containing vivid historical descriptions of many parts of Asia including Japan, China, Formosa, Luzon, Panay, Cebu, Mindanao, Sulu, New Guinea, Java, Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, and other places and not the least on Brunei. Boxer translated part of it about China in 1953. But the writers probably would not have been able to witness all the things so realistically described in the Codex. It is likely, therefore, that the Brunei part was written by someone who had actually lived in Brunei for a longer period of time.

Tom Harrisson, the former Curator of the Brunei and later Sarawak Museum in 1960 took a special interest on the Brunei section in the folios from 71-86 of the manuscript and asked John S Carroll to translate and publish it in English which was done in 1982 when it was published in the Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Society (JMBRAS).

John S Carroll noted that to his knowledge, no other extant document tells so much about Berunai (sic) in the late 16th century. He theorised that the Brunei component is the work of a Malay-speaking Tagalog residing in Manila, a trader who had visited Brunei as recently as 1589. It was known that as early as 1578, Governor de Sande interrogated Muslim Tagalogs from Balayan to Luzon who had been in Brunei. Like the imperialist Sande, Governor Dasmarinas also would have wanted current information about trade and the potential enemies and allies of Spain, and perhaps the Boxer Codex was a notebook compiled for him by Cuellar for that purpose.

The entire Boxer Codex including the Brunei chapter has also now been translated and published in a book form entitled ‘The Boxer Codex: Transcription and Translation of an Illustrated Late Sixteenth Century Spanish Manuscript Concerning the Geography, Ethnography and History of the Pacific, South-East Asia and East Asia’ by Jeffrey S Turley and edited by George Bryan Souza and Jeffrey S Turley and published this year (2016).

Professor Hussainmiya (2013) noted that despite the English translation being available, not much attention has been given by local scholars to the contents of this published manuscript despite its invaluable insights into the old Brunei kingdom. The codex highlighted among other things geography, history, law, religion, government, protocol, commerce, weapons and calendar of Brunei.

This is the first of a two-part article. Part two will be published next Sunday.

The writer of The Golden Legacy – the longest running column in The Brunei Times – also runs a website at

The Brunei Times


Friday, June 03, 2016

New Babu Raja Flyover

The new flyover at Jalan Babu Raja-Jalan Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha junction. BT/Fazizul Haqimie

 Abdul Aziz Ismail
Friday, June 3, 2016

A NEW flyover at Jalan Babu Raja and Jalan Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha is now open for motorists.

According to the Public Works Department (JKR) at the Ministry of Development (MoD), the flyover is one of the projects under the 10th National Development Plan (RKN 10).

The $20.2 million flyover, which began construction on June 20, 2012, was contracted to Tobishima.

According to JKR, the project is aimed at accommodating the increase in traffic, and at the same time, ensure safety of road users.

The new road development is also aimed to enhance the road networks where motorists are able to have more access. Traffic light systems have also been installed to ensure road safety.

JKR said the flyover could also reduce traffic congestion at Jalan Raja Isteri Pg Anak Saleha.

Present at the launching yesterday was the Acting Minister of Development Dato Paduka Hj Suhaimi Hj Gapar.

In an interview, he said that the project is aimed to ensure the traffic at the area runs smoothly.

“Before there were problems because there was a lot of traffic here. So this is to ease the traffic for motorists,” said the acting minister.

Dato Hj Suhaimi went on to say that more projects are in the pipelines, adding that the ministry will continue its efforts to make Brunei roads safer and more convenient.

JKR also reminded motorists to drive with caution and follow the provided road signs to ensure all road users’ safety.

Also present during the launching yesterday was the Permanent Secretary (Administration and Finance) of MoD Hj Md Lutfi Abdullah, along with the deputy permanent secretary, head of departments and senior officers.

The Brunei Times

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Very Rare 'Stink Lily' Found Growing in Brunei

The stink lily or ‘Amorphpophallus paeoniifoluis’ on the Murah Namit's lawn. Picture: BT/Khai Zem Mat Sani

Khai Zem Mat Sani
Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A PECULIAR-LOOKING plant growing naturally on the lawn of a 66-year-old woman in Kg Lumapas was identified by Heart of Borneo Centre Chief Executive as the ‘Amorphpophallus paeoniifoluis’ or stink lily.

“If it grows naturally the plant’s recent discovery would be the first recorded case of it ever growing in the sultanate,” said the chief executive of Brunei HoB Centre Mahmud Hj Mohd Yussof.

The plant, according to information on the ASEAN centre of Biodiversity’s website, is one of two of the largest flowers in the world found native to Borneo Island.

The 66-year-old senior citizen who made the discovery, Murah Namit, initially described her find as “A leafless flower stalk growing directly from the ground” which has started growing progressively since Thursday.

“At first, I thought it was just a wild plant but it started to grow differently after few days. The ‘leaf’ seems leathery and varies in colour. There were times I saw flies around the flower,” she said.

She added that residents from the village who flocked to her place to witness the unusual plant growth kept on saying the flower might be a ‘corpse flower’ or ‘Bunga Bangkai’ and it supposedly has rotting smell. But for the past few days I didn’t smell anything rotten coming from the flower,” she said. The plant was described to be measuring approximately 70cm wide and 50cm tall with maroon and purple coloured flowers.

The Brunei Times

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

HM Sultan Brunei: Greater Synergy Vital To Transnational Threats

Greater Synergy Vital To Transnational Threats

Rabiatul Kamit
Wednesday, June 1, 2016

HIS Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, has called for greater multi-agency cooperation in tackling the emergence of transnational security threats.

The Defence Minister and Supreme Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) yesterday said the world is facing a multitude of security challenges across international boundaries.

In a titah at the 55th RBAF anniversary celebration, the monarch said the sultanate is “not exempted from the possibility of encountering” traditional and non-traditional security threats such as terrorism, maritime and cyber security as well as natural disasters.

His Majesty further underscored the need for cooperation not only among security agencies in the country, but also at the international level.

“It is, therefore, imperative to review the procedures and best practices as well as sharing of knowledge and skills through bilateral and multilateral exercises to ensure its relevance at all times,” said the Sultan during the event at the Defence Academy in Tanah Jambu.

As one of the hallmarks of the RBAF, His Majesty explained the new infrastructure is tasked with producing young officers equipped with fundamental leadership and military knowledge.

“The academy must continue to plan and broaden the scope of its teaching towards developing quality military officers at tactical, operational and strategic levels. All these are vital in facing the challenging and uncertain contemporary operating environment,” said the monarch.

His Majesty also cautioned against complacency following RBAF’s procurement of “sophisticated and state-of-the-art” military equipment.

“This should not stop us from making further improvements... The Ministry of Defence will need to continue to adjust the direction of development planning and research according to requirements and priorities,” added the Sultan.

The Brunei Times

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Brunei Expands Financial Base Through Sukuk (Islamic Bonds)

The Oxford Business Group on 16 May 2016 had this report on Brunei:

Brunei Darussalam expands financial base through sukuk

Brunei Darussalam | Financial Services
Economic News Update
16 May 2016

Brunei Darussalam made headlines in April with the announcement of several sukuk (Islamic bond) offerings ahead of the launch of a standalone stock exchange in the Sultanate.

Efforts to expand the scope of the financial sector are aimed at ensuring a greater diversity of public and private sector financing, specifically in support of businesses and large infrastructure projects.

A roadmap of financial sector expansion is laid out in the Sultanate’s long-term national vision, Wawasan Brunei 2035. Launched in 2008, the programme targets an increase in financial services’ share of GDP from 5% last year to at least 8% by 2035.

Short-term finance

In April the Monetary Authority of Brunei Darussalam (AMBD) issued two sukuk worth a combined $150m. The first, a $50m bond with a rental rate of 1.03%, has a one-year maturity, while the second offering, a $100m sukuk with a rental rate of 0.78%, will mature in July.

To date, the country has issued a total of 130 sukuk, with a combined $9.71bn in short-term offerings since 2006. The government’s stock of outstanding sukuk stood at $575m as of the end of April.

Given its relatively small size, the country accounts for a significant share of worldwide issuances, according to a March report from the International Islamic Financial Market.

In the period from 2001 to 2015 Brunei Darussalam offered 119 short-term sukuk, equivalent to 2.32% of the global market by value.

The Sultanate stands alongside Indonesia and Malaysia as major issuers of Islamic financial instruments in the region and is poised to play a growing role in the issuance of sukuk in coming years, the report noted.

Financing for development

Short-term sukuk have been a major contributor to the country’s development, and may become more important in an environment of increasing uncertainty in international markets.

In the 2008-09 global financial crisis, for example, sukuk were seen as an attractive alternate for investors as they were less exposed to contagion from conventional banks.

Islamic finance is already becoming increasingly important in the development of major infrastructure projects, according to a World Bank report on global financial development issued in September.

Sukuk are particularly well suited for infrastructure financing, as the instrument is based on investment in specific underlying assets or real economic activities.

In practice, sukuk are often structured in a manner more similar to corporate bonds than project bonds, however, “they have the potential to be structured in ways akin to a project bond, where they can either bear the full risk of the project or stand alongside an equity financing tranche, depending on the risk appetite of institutional investors”, the World Bank said.

Sukuk could also have prospects for financing small and medium-sized enterprises further down the line.

The report underscored the success of sukuk in funding a variety of major projects, including a 1-GW coal-fired power plant in Malaysia, with local utility Tenaga Nasional issuing a $1.09bn sukuk with a 27-year maturity to finance the facility’s construction.

More recently, Cahya Mata Sarawak indicated that it was considering raising up to RM1bn ($247.6m) via sukuk this year to finance construction of its portion of the 2083-km Trans-Borneo Highway, which stretches from south-west Sarawak through Brunei Darussalam and on to Sabah.

Instruments for financing larger-scale infrastructure are also under consideration, with the AMDB announcing plans in June of last year to issue long-term sukuk bonds as early as this year.

However, given that the two sukuk issued in April did not exceed one-year maturities, the timing of such a move is unclear.

Looking to the future

The creation of a stock market, which could be launched as early as next year, could give further impetus to sukuk issues.

In mid-March international media reported that the AMBD had enlisted a team to overlook the framework for the Sultanate’s bourse, indicating progress on the long-awaited securities exchange.

Once launched, the bourse is expected to focus on equities trading before adding bonds and sukuk at a later stage, local media reported in April.

Inspirational Quotes