Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Scuba Diving at Pelong Rocks

Azli Azney
Sunday, May 22, 2016

BLUE waters, blue skies; it was a view that I enjoyed, among other things, one recent sunny day during a trip to Pelong Rocks – also known as the legendary Pulau Pilong-Pilongan – to discover scuba diving.

It’s always been something that I’ve always wanted to try but did not have the courage to do on the account of not being able to swim , but since I recently gained the skill, I decided to give it a try.

Pelong Rocks is located about five kilometres from the coast of Muara beach and aside from being one of the more popular beginner scuba diving and snorkelling locations; it’s also a location that is steeped in legend.

So I set out with a group from the Meragang Sixth Form Centre’s Scuba and Swimming club, led by its head, Norkhairulaney Hj Damit, aboard the Lantaran, belonging to Dive Master Rosland Hj Suhaili and the Lantaran Recreational Dive Tours Brunei to experience what Brunei has to offer in terms of aquatic scenery.

Since several of the members have never scuba dived before, we spent the whole morning at the shallow waters of Pelumpong Island to learn the basics of the equipment that we’d be using in our underwater adventure. These included the buoyancy control device, the tank and the regulator as well as the basic safety skills such as what to do in the event that one’s mask or regulator gets detached.

A few weeks prior to the trip, we attended a briefing session on the basics of hand signals that were necessary for the dive.

It was a little after lunch that we left the island to head towards the legendary Pelong Rocks, which was about a 15 to 20 minutes’ boat ride away.

The dive depth at Pelong is about three to four metres deep, perfect for beginners to discover whether scuba diving is something they’d like to pursue further.

Sadly, no thanks to human activity, many of the beautiful corals around the area are dead; something that I would see for myself when I dove down with rescue diver Jane and Rosland’s son, Alif.

“If you really want the beautiful corals that are left, come back when you have your open water certification where you can dive to a maximum of 12 metres,” said the rescue diver.

Jane also impressed upon us that we as divers are conservationists, first and foremost, and that we could only take certain hard corals with us if we wanted to do so.

Despite the dead corals, there were enough vibrant corals left and beautiful fauna shoaling and crawling here and there that the time we spent beneath the waves flew by.

We got to swim around and I had a blast chasing around colourful fishes, trying to identify all of them. Before I knew it, it was back to the boat where, for the first time ever, I experienced something that I’ve only heard about and never experienced personally despite the many boat rides I’ve taken; seasickness.

As Rosland puts it, “It’s the seasickness that gets to people who want to become a certified scuba diver and puts them off of certifying or practising. I know people who got their (open water) certification and never use it because they can’t handle the seasickness.”

However, there are tips you can take such as having polarised sunglasses and not eating certain food prior to a boat trip, to minimise the effects of seasickness.

By the way, I didn’t get to step on Pulau Pilong-Pilongan. I was contented to just take pictures from afar because I’ve heard that the island is a protected area. Trespassing is prohibited and I didn’t want to get into trouble.

Sitting there on the boat and looking at the rocks , I tried to see if I could make out any features that would bring to mind the image of a cock turned to rock, which the island was supposed to be, according to a legend associated with it written in the Syair Awang Semaun, something I read long ago as part of school.

The story goes that in the 14th century, there was a grand cockfight between the champion cock of Brunei, belonging to Awang Senuai, the nephew of the first Sultan of Brunei, named Mutiara, and Asmara, the champion cock belonging to the Betara of the Majapahit Empire, Raden Angkasuka Dewa.

Both cocks were undefeated, with Asmara said to have special powers and that it was so fearsome that when it crowed upon arriving on the shores of Brunei, none of the local cocks crowed in fear for days.

Here, there are variations to the story. Some say that the cockfight was to determine whether Brunei continues being the vassal state of the Majapahit Empire, while another was to determine whether Brunei will pay its tribute for the year. Either way, come match day, it was a grand spectacle with many coming from far and wide to witness the fight.

The story goes that Mutiara had landed a critical hit on Asmara, who then flew out of the ring to escape. Sadly, it succumbed to its wounds and fell into the sea to become Pelong Rocks. Mutiara gave chase to finish off his opponent and, in a fit of anger and embarrassment, Raden Angkasuka Dewa cursed it and it fell into the Brunei River to become Lumut Lunting.

There are still tales from the locals of Kampong Ayer that says that if Lumut Lunting were ever to be fully submerged that it would be an ill omen.

Anyway, despite the unpleasant experience of upchucking my lunch and breakfast twice, I had a largely positive experience and I actually am looking forward to going again in the future.

If you are interested to go for yourself, you can check out the diving operators such as Lantaran and Poni Divers and check out the waters.

The Brunei Times

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Murder of a British Resident in Brunei

Rozan Yunos
Sunday, May 22, 2016

THE citizens of the Straits Settlement Colony in Malaya and Singapore saw this headline on The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser on 22 May 1916 ‘Brunei Acting Resident murdered’.

If there was a newspaper in Brunei at that time, many would be surprised too. But even though there was no newspaper in Brunei then, the small population would have known much earlier that the British Resident residing in Brunei who was the de facto Chief Minister at that time had been murdered on May 18, 1916.

The Singapore newspaper reported and gave a quick summary of his biography as follows:

“News is to hand that Mr Ernest Barton Maundrell, BA (Cantab), acting British Resident, Brunei, was killed on Thursday last by a Bengali or Sikh policeman. Maundrell, who was born on November 9th, 1880, arrived in the Colony in 1903 as a cadet. He passed his final examination in Malay in May, 1905, and was then gazetted as a passed cadet of class five. In August, 1905, he went to Port Dickson as Acting Harbour Master, and acting assistant District Officer.”

“In 1907 he was acting secretary to the Resident, Negri Sembilan, and held that post until December 1909. In March, 1910, he went home of half pay leave, and upon his return was sent to Penang as third magistrate, from thence coming to Singapore as acting third magistrate. In May, 1912, he was acting assistant Colonial Secretary and Clerk of Councils, and in January, 1914, was also temporarily in charge of prisons. He went to his last appointment on February 19, 1915, and in May of last year was promoted to class four of the Civil Service.”

EB Maundrell in fact, was the first Resident to stay in Brunei. Prior to having Maundrell having a permanent appointment in Brunei, all other Residents stayed in Labuan. In fact it was the Assistant Residents who actually ran the government in Brunei.

By the time Maundrell was murdered in 1916, the British had been governing Brunei for 10 years. During those 10 years, the police force in Brunei was basically made up of Sikh and Bengali policemen with an inspector in charge. It will take another five years before the police force was made up of Brunei Malay policemen.

According to Marie-Sybille de Vienne in her book ‘Brunei: From the Age of Commerce to the 21st Century’ (2015), the fortuitous assassination of Resident EB Maundrell by a Sikh Policeman in 1916 resulted in the creation of a Malay police force in 1921 with 39 members.

The newspaper also reported that it was at 10 o’clock on the night of the 18th, that the Sikh sentry on duty at the government office made an unsuccessful attack on a companion. He then attempted to escape. In a daring attempt to arrest the man, at a distance of half a mile from the Government Office, Maundrell was shot. He died instantaneously. The next morning, the murderer surrendered.

The newspaper also reported that the Governor of the Straits Settlement government deeply regretted the untimely loss of the promising office, who exemplified in his death that unhesitating spirit of courageous loyalty and devotion to duty.

It was on August 8, 1916 that The Straits Times of Singapore reported about the trial of Maundrell’s murderer. The headline reads ‘Murder trials at Brunei’ and a smaller headline which reads ‘Death Sentence on Maundrell’s Assailant’.

There were two murder trials which Sir John Bucknill, KC, Chief Justice, presided on July 27 and July 28, 1916. The first was the murder trial of EB Maundrell where Vir Singh was charged. The Chief Justice was accompanied by two assessors in place of a jury, GB Mulligan and Thomas Lewis. Inspector Crummey prosecuted an WF Zehnder was the defence’s counsel. The accused’s defence was that he was insane at the time the act was committed, and therefore was not responsible.

But at the conclusion of the trial, the court was of the unanimous opinion that the accused was guilty and the sentence of death was passed. What was discovered during the trial was that Vir Singh first attempted to murder a companion, who had the most remarkable escape from death. Vir Singh pressed a rifle against his companion’s stomach and pulled the trigger, and luckily for the companion, the result was a misfire. It was then Vir Singh made off pursued by a party headed by Maundrell was killed when the accused turned and fired.

Incidentally, the other murder trial was the death of a Chinese and two Malays were accused of killing him. During the trial it was said that the body was not recovered because it was thrown into a river infested with crocodiles. However because the evidence in this case was a contradictory nature, both Malays were discharged, the court holding that the evidence was not sufficient on which to convict.

The next day, on August 9, 1916, the full court report was reported on The Straits Times headlined ‘First session opened in the state’ and a smaller headline ‘Murder of the Late Maundrell’.

This time the report also included what kind of robe was worn. HH the Sultan of Brunei was represented by the Prime Minister, the Pengiran Bendahara who attended with his suite, two of whom carried swords being emblems of his office. His Lordship wore full judicial robes and preceded by the mace-bearers.

Inspector Crummey as the Chief Police Officer (CPO) opened the case for the prosecution by welcoming the Chief Justice and thanking the High Commissioner for sending the highest judicial authority of the colony. As the prosecutor, he also noted that before the British Court of Justice, the country was without a code of law, the punishment for theft was cutting off a hand but murderers were dealt with lightly and punished by monetary fine. Crummey noted that all this old order of things had changed and the British brought the Penal Code of which Penal Code Section 302 is charged to the accused.

The trial started with the cross examination of the witnesses before the court appointed defence lawyer started his defence. The counsel tried to defend the accused by saying that even though the accused stood guilty of the charge, this was a clear case of ‘running amok’ and as such the accused could not be held criminally liable because of the prisoner’s mind.

Some facts which the defence wanted to take into consideration was that there was no premeditation nor preparation, nor was there any motive. The accused was at that time discharging his duty and without ‘rhyme or reason’ he attempted the life of his comrade. He also blew his whistle. A sane man, argued the counsel, would not have done all that. The counsel also quoted several cases including the murder of Irish journalists.

The court retired soon after the defence closed their case. It took 20 minutes before the court reemerged.

The Chief Justice addressed the accused that he does not think, and the assessors agreed, that he was insane. The Chief Justice considered his actions were not the actions of a madman, he was not running amok as he was not firing indiscriminately but he deliberately fired two shots at Maundrell who was giving him words of good advice and also at the Sergeant for advising him. Therefore there was no excuse and the Chief Justice found him guilty and he was sentenced to death.

The Brunei Times

Monday, May 23, 2016

HM Sultan Brunei: Strategic ASEAN-Russia Cooperation Needed to Counter Extremist Elements

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Strategic Asean-Russia cooperation needed to counter extremist elements
on: May 21, 2016

HIS Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, on Friday expressed his hope for an increased engagement between Asean-Russia’s security agencies to counter terrorism and other transnational crimes, especially to stop violent extremist elements from coming in and establishing themselves in the region.

In a titah, which was delivered at the Plenary Session of the 20th Asean-Russia Commemorative Summit at Radisson Blu Resort and Congress Centre in Sochi, Russia, His Majesty also touched on the need for regional and international cooperation to be more strategic in addressing issues of terrorism and other transnational crimes and considering measures that could help countries become more resilient to economic uncertainty.

The impact of low oil prices and their volatility, as well as the economic slowdown in many important markets, were also touched on by His Majesty.

His Majesty highlighted how the establishment of the Asean Economic Community at the end of last year and the economic vision for Asean for the next 10 years could provide significant opportunities for enterprises to thrive.

Encouraged by the trade target that has been envisaged for the next 10 years, His Majesty highlighted that the role of the business community is vital in achieving the goal. In this regard, stronger links between Asean-Russian businesses should be nurtured and facilitated, His Majesty said.

His Majesty further noted that building mutual understanding and friendship amongst the people of Asean and Russia is key to the development of a strong partnership. His Majesty then called for a greater understanding of the richness and diversity of both cultures.

The strengthening of cultural diversity, stated His Majesty, can be seen through Russia’s commitment through its Asean-Russia Youth Symphony Orchestra held annually in Asean cities, which is welcomed by Asean.

At the end of the titah, His Majesty said he welcomed Russia’s engagement with Asean through the Comprehensive Plan of Action, which will set a pragmatic direction to expanding cooperation for the next five years, and further emphasised how a strong and dynamic Asean-Russia partnership will provide an anchor for peace, stability and prosperity regionally and globally.

At the end of the Plenary Session of the 20th Asean-Russia Commemorative Summit, His Majesty proceeded to attend a working luncheon.

His Majesty later left Sochi after attending the summit.

Before leaving the hotel, a Doa Selamat was recited by Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia (Dr) Ustaz Haji Awang Abdul Aziz bin Juned, the State Mufti.

Present at Sochi International Airport to bid farewell to His Majesty were Yuri Filatov, Director of the Department of State Protocol of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation; Anatoly Pakhomov, Mayor of Sochi; and Haji Haini bin Haji Hashim, Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam to the Russian Federation.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Brunei Deputy Defence Minister Visit Supercarrier USS John C Stennis

Deputy Minister of Defence, First Admiral (Rtd) Dato Seri Pahlawan Abdul Aziz bin Haji Mohd Tamit; United States Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam, Craig Allen; and Rear Admiral Marcus A Hitchcock, the Commander of Carrier Strike Group 3, onboard USS John C Stennis. – DEAN KASSIM

Top defence officials visit US Navy supercarrier
on: May 18, 2016
| Hakim Hayat |

SENIOR defence and military officials from Brunei Darussalam yesterday had firsthand view of the US Navy aircraft carrier, USS John C Stennis (CVN-74) which is currently passing through international waters close to the Sultanate on a routine operation.

The delegation, led by Deputy Minister of Defence, First Admiral (Rtd) Dato Seri Pahlawan Abdul Aziz bin Haji Mohd Tamit, arrived from the Rimba Air Force Base via a US Navy C-2 transport aircraft, along with United States (US) Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam, Craig Allen.

The visit on board the supercarrier was hosted by Rear Admiral Marcus A Hitchcock, the Commander of Carrier Strike Group 3.

While at sea, the group saw a demonstration of an aircraft launching and recovery operations as well as air fire-power demonstration by the assets of the Carrier Strike Group.

According to the Ministry of Defence, the invitation signified the warm state of bilateral relations and the mutual desire to enhance defence cooperation between Brunei Darussalam and the US.

The visit, coordinated by the US Embassy in Brunei Darussalam, also aimed to increase the understanding of naval aviation and carrier strike group operations.

The deputy minister was accompanied by Datin Paduka Hajah Suriyah binti Haji Umar, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence; First Admiral Pengiran Dato Seri Pahlawan Norazmi bin Pengiran Haji Muhammad, Commander of the Royal Brunei Navy; Colonel (U) Shahril Anwar bin Haji Ma’awiah, Commander of the Royal Brunei Air Force and Director of Intelligence, Ministry of Defence.

Also part of the delegation were senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and members of the local media.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sumbangsih Mulia Complex Highlights Brunei's Heritage

Adib Noor
Bandar Seri Begawan
Sunday, May 15, 2016

BRUNEI is truly the land of unexpected treasures, and rightly so. In the busy Beribi Industrial Area is the Sumbangsih Mulia Complex, a unique venue which aims to highlight the heritage of the sultanate via traditional handicrafts and local delights.

The Sumbangsih Mulia Complex was officially opened in 2007 and houses close to a hundred vendors operating in the open food court area as well as a separate air-conditioned section that showcases hand-made intricate local handicraft for sale.

One of the main aim of the establishment of the complex is to help local business entrepreneurs to have a place to sell their products and handicrafts and over the years, there is no denying it has done exactly that.

“We’ve been operating here since it was opened, and it does get busy during lunch time especially during the weekdays,” said Layla who works for Soto CT, one of the popular vendors in the food court.

“It’s never a slow day here, each and every day we will sell more than a hundred bowls of soto. And it’s always great to see our regulars who come by and would just say “Biasa” (‘the usual’),” she added.

The soto seller shared that the venue has always been a popular spot thanks to the nearby businesses which surrounds the area as well as being a popular tourist spot for tour operators.

“Here we are always spoilt for choice. Thanks to the many food vendors, we have a lot of variety to choose from, and honestly it is good value for money,” shared Rafie a sales representative of a local advertising company.

In the air-conditioned section of the complex, visitors can take a closer look at the many local handicrafts such as songkok (skull cap), sinjang (long cloth) and many more.

“Here we offer handmade customised songkok and our customers get to choose the materials and even the design of the songkok. It’s been extremely busy lately and we are in the process of taking in the final orders as we are almost fully booked as people are already preparing for Hari Raya,” shared Nis of Syarikat Asrina, one of the vendors who specialises in making songkok at Sumbangsih Mulia.

Apart from songkok, the specialised section of the complex is filled with other ‘treasures’ from the first floor to the second floor and is one of the places to go to for local handicrafts and even wedding preparations.

“Our sinjang is handmade and is limited, some costs up to $1,000 depending on the materials and how intricate the design and details of the traditional garment,” said Ahmad one of the Sinjang makers at Sumbangsih.

The Sumbangsih Mulia Complex is open from as early as 6am and as late as 6pm daily. So drop by for a taste of Brunei.

The Brunei Times

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