The Legislative Council Sessions

The Brunei Legislative Council (Legco) has completed its second meeting of the 2006 session. Our local newspaper has no doubt kept its part in making sure that the debates are well covered as well as entertaining readers in hinting at certain policies (for instance, saying policy of no salary rises, when there was no mention at all about no salary rises etc - there was a speech saying that the present amount was made up of certain rises but nothing in that speech indicating that there was no salary rises). All in all, it was an interesting session and befitting the more mature level of the Brunei society.

I was lucky to be sitting in during the last two days of the debates. If it was not for the Surabaya trip and my principal's sudden health problem, I would have sat throughout the entire 5 day session. But 2 out of 5 is as good as it gets. Actually members of the public could have come and see the debates for themselves. I thought that was a bit of wasted opportunity not to have university students and school students (senior ones) not to have come during the debates. Hopefully when the new permanent building is ready, it would be fun to bring in visitors.

Most of us civil servants learn what it like to serve the ministers who sat in front. There was frantic note taking and speech writing amongst us. Laptops and pendrives abound. If there was a power supply, printers would have no doubt been brought in as well. Luckily printing can be done at the Secretariat. With sms from the ministers asking for facts and figures, it was indeed hectic and really reminded me of the situation in other parliaments. Public accountability is suddenly a key word that we civil servants have to remember.

Though the members are supposedly non partisan but the leftists are more vocal (those on the left) than the rightists - the chamber was divided into left and right. The left are the 'non-government' members and the right was the 'government' members made up of all the Cabinet Ministers and one Deputy Minister (Defence). The left members take the opportunity to raise issues and represent their constituencies and the right members giving the reply. So you have all sorts of issues being raised by the leftists - ranging from automatic citizenship to payhikes for civil servants, Islamic University in Temburong to grass cutting contracts to be given to Village Consultative Council. The range was indeed wide and befitting that of the public's concerns.

Though I was disturbed by the lack of debate on the more serious national issues like crime, unemployment, economic development and I really thought it was wasting the council's time to debate the $1 parking charge at RIPAS or even grass cutting on roadsides. These are no doubt concerns of the public but we missed the opportunity to raise those 'bigger' issues. Well, this is only the second meeting of the 2006 session. I hope that we will have a third meeting soon and there are more legislations to debate (I was given a figure of about 200 legislations in the pipeline by someone in the Attorney General's Chambers). To complete all 200 will be a very long debate indeed. But we all look forward to it.

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