50 Years Ago

Last night, I was browsing through my library, that does sound a bit pretentious, doesn't it? Let me start again. Last night, I was browsing through my little collection of books and I come across this book which I 'borrowed' from my dad's collection of books - the "State of Brunei Annual Report 1961-1962" (printed Brunei Press, 1964). For some of today's blog readers, that could be the birthyear of your parents, so it is a bit ancient.

This book is interesting as it reports events of 1961 and 1962. Brunei Annual Reports in those days were published by the Broadcasting and Information Department which was just merged in 1961. Prior to that it was two separate entities known as the Brunei Information Service and Radio Brunei Service. In 1975, the department has gone full circle to be separated again as Radio Television Brunei and the Information Department which remained till today. Back to the book. What I found interesting about the book, it reports things as a matter of fact. The book actually reported events of December 1962 in the first chapter entitled 'General Review of 1961 and 1962' as follows "... an insurrection broke out on the 8th December, 1962, which seriously affected the manpower situation in the State and, in turn, the economic situation..." The other 16 paragraphs talked about the what has been done in the country.

Many things were done and many things were not done, some sounding as if it has not changed till today. That first chapter talked about the elections for the District Councils and the Legislative Council; the granting of scholarships; expansion in the medical services; the Brunei Malay Regiment was formed; the General Orders (regulations concerning the Civil Service) was promulgated (and up to now unchanged); the Public Service Commission (PSC or more commonly known as SPA) was set up; Malay language was being encouraged by having Language Week and the Language and Literature Division was set up. Many things were not done or not undertaken including - very little building works were undertaken, in forestry, large area was under licence or little or no work was done, there were many outstanding land applications, many of which dated back to pre-war years; PWD unable to do work due to lack of staff; and more water was needed because of the presence of troops in Brunei due to the revolt.

Among the statistics included the population of Brunei at that time. In 1960 there were 83,877 people in the country of which 59,203 are Indigenous (which I presumed are Malays and the 7 puak jatis), 21,975 (Chinese) and 2,879 (others). There was comparison to 1911 when there was only 20,916 (Indigenous), 736 (Chinese) and 66 (Others). There was a whole bunch of other statistics, all equally interesting to know what happened in those years.

One of the changing feature I find is the attitude of Bruneians. Nowadays, there is a growing trend towards welfare, like it or not. The figures I get and the stories I hear from the Community Development Department indicated that Bruneians are getting too 'dependent' on welfare. But in 1962, the Annual Report pointed out that "... it is necessary to point out that the Malay, Dusun, Murut and Iban social structures are such that applications for assistance are rare, members of the family considering it their responsibility to take care of relatives who are in need..." and "... there are also a number of Chinese charitable organisations which cater for destitute members and in particular, arrange for funerals and give assistance to dependents of sick members of the various Chinese communities..."

Many things happened in 50 years. Developments were made. Progress attained. But worryingly attitudes also changed. We can make the difference in the next 50 years. Think about it.


Anonymous said…
i blame azahari for running off to the philippines.
Anonymous said…
On the topic of the rebellion, I would just like to mention that I went to (what was known at the time, and I think still is, as) the "best school in Brunei" and not once in the five years I spent in High School was I taught about the Brunei Rebellion. Thank god for liberal and honest relatives, I was one of the lucky ones, but there are still loads of people who are oblivious about this piece of their country's history. Which was covered up and deleted from the curriculum (dare I say up til now?).
Bruneians need to know important things like this, after all isn't the point of history to learn from the past?
Anonymous said…
Hello to the owner of this wonderful blog,

As an obsessive blog reader, this is the sort of thing that I have been looking for. I guess I can stop reading the Datin diaries now...

From now, I will eagerly await your entry and once in a while might leave a comment.

On the subject of the Brunei Rebellion, I think it is a shame that no attempts are made to explain to the youngsters of the why-what-when of the rebellion.

p/s:transparency is the way forward. to instill trust in the government.
Anonymous said…
I also went to the 'best school in Brunei' back in the 90's and we didn't learn about the Brunei rebellion either. A few months back however I happened to be flipping through a local history book and lo and behold the rebellion was mentioned. According to the book, the rebellion was sparked because Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III considered joining Malaysia. Of course, they made no mention of the Brunei's only (and vetoed) election.
Anonymous said…
what's written in the history book is bias..the truth is sealed and only known by the family members.sheikh azhari had good intentions but traitors messed things up. he ran away because he would have been assasinated anyway..just like his brother sheikh muhammad!only sheikh nikman was saved but went to jail 1962-1990 (although he had no involvement in it!) grandchild of the rebel.
Anonymous said…
I was living in Brunei when the Brunei Rebellion occured. There is information out there about the Rebellion but you must dig for it. It is truly a shame that Brunei school children are not taught about this part of their history. This "rebellion" or "small war" as the British forces refer to it, changed Brunei's history and therefore is very significant.

In a nutshell this is what happened:

1. The Parti Rakyat Brunie (PRB) headed by A.M. Azahari, won 10 seats on the 21-seat legislative council.

2. Azahari was a politically ambitious man who did not favour the Sultan's idea of having Brunei join the Federation of Malaysia. Instead Azahari proposed the formation of Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei, with of course himself as leader.

3. On Dec. 5, 1962, these three proposals were submitted to the Legislative Council:
i) Reject the idea of joining Malaysia
ii) Restore Brunei sovereignty over Sarawak and Sabah
iii) British grant of independence to the Borneo federation by 1963.

4. The proposals were rejected and on the morning of Dec. 8, 1962, the PRB staged a coup.

It is abundantly clear from historical accounts that this coup had been planned for sometime ... training had taken place years before in the jungles of Kalimantan and Sarawak. Azahari had always been prepared to got to battle to achieve his goals.

It is very interesting to note that just before the rebellion took place, the PRB leader had fled to Manila. Nothing like leaving your followers to fend for themselves.

On the afternoon of Dec. 8, Azahari announced in a press conference in Manila that the Sultan had declared an independent state of Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak and had designated him (Azahari) as prime minister and minister for foreign affairs and defense.

And so while PRB members were attacking Shell installations, police stations and government buildings and kidnapping and killing innocent people, Azahari was sitting safe and sound in Manila, waiting for his people to deliver his kingdom to him.

Unfortunately for Azahari, the coup was ill-planned, the PRM members were not well-armed, the Brunei population did not rise up to support PRB and British military action was swift.

Unlike Azahari who had fled, the Sultan stayed in Brunei although Shell had a launch outside the Istana to take him to safety ... he waited out the rebellion with is people.

Azahari's accounts of Dec. 8, had changed over the years probably in an attempt to have history look more kindly upon him, but his public actions on Dec. 8, were already part of that written history for all the world to see and historians have been able to balance what he said in later years with what he actually did and said on Dec. 8, 1962.

After his death in 2002, his daughter released a statement saying that her father had long regretted his part in the Brunei Rebellion.

It is a shame that Azahari could not find the courage in his lifetime to apologize to the innocent victims of his political ambitions -- the families of the Shell employees who were kidnapped, tortured, wounded and killed during the rebellion; to the families of the police officers who were wounded and killed in the defence of their police stations; to the British soldiers who died in the defence of a country not their own.

In his lifetime, Azahari was never held accountable for his deeds, one can only pray that in death, he was.

Dato' Haji Harun bin Haji Abdul Majid has a book coming out in July, 2007 on the rebellion. You can search Amazon.com for it. It is as far as I can tell a factual study of the Brunei Rebellion but what he does not measure is the human toll on the people who lived through that rebellion.
One who was there and captured Affendi said…
In the early 1960s the demise of colonial rule reached the island of Borneo, painfully. Borneo comprised four separate countries: the British territories of Brunei; North Borneo - soon to be known by its old name, Sabah, after it was absorbed into Malaysia; Sarawak; and Indonesian Borneo, also known as Kalimantan. The British trio covered the northern quater fo the island and had never been a separate political entity, nor had their inhabitants ever seen themselves as having a national identity.

Geographically most of Borneo is a vast expanse of jungle and mountain, even more so in the 1960s than now. Britain wanted to be rid of Borneo; Malaya wanted it to redres a population imbalance and the whole to become Malaysia. Only Brunei demurred. The Political wing of a dissident secret army, the North Kalimantan National Army, backed by Indonesia, won a critical election. Its commander was Yassin Affendi, a one-time client of the Japanese. The overall leader as Sheik Azahari and a rebellion broke out on 8 December 1962 in Brunei Town, since renamed Bandar Seri Begawan.

Indonesia's aim was to prevent the formation of Malaysia or, failing this, to attack it militarily, economically and politically while the new nation was too weak to react. In 1961 President Sukarno of Indonesia started to call his undeclared war a 'Confrontation' between Indonesia and Malaya, as it still was and Malaysia as it might become, and when Sheik Azahari rebelled against the Brunei Government in December 1962, Surkarno saw his chance. Military conflict was inevitable and Britain was sucked into it.

Two unusual military aspects soon evolved on the British side. One was the raising of auxiliary policemen to be the army's 'eyes and ears with a sting' on the border. These were the Border Scouts. Initially sections were commanded by Gurkhas. The second development was the initiation of secret cross-border operations to keep the Indonesian Army at arm's length.

In the military sphere Malaysia could in no way have held its own without British and other Commonwealth support. Gradually agreement was established between Indonesia and Malaysia in 1965-66 and Confrontation ended, 'not with a bang but a whimper', but not before and Indonesian Army officer, Sumbi, had tried to lead a force of a hundred men through Sarawak to Brunei to sabotage oil installations. He had trained in England as a parachutist and in JWS. His saga is told int he soldiers stories.
bernie lee said…
My name in Bernie Lee, was living in Seria during the Rebellion, My brothers and sister were between 10 and 14 years were living in a Shell house close to Seria Receration club, my mum was in Kota Kinabalu visiting her family and her sons from her first marriage , my dad was caught by the rebellions and was put into the Roxana Movie theater , there were over 400 civil people caught while on their way to work ,
my dad Mr. Lee Boo Sen was on of their prisoners ,, ,,,I just remember that it was end of November and we hardly have any rice or food left, my mum was surpose to return to do the once a month shopping but she got stuck in Labuan.

During that time with my brothers and sister we hardly have any food to eat but we were very happy hearing that my dad was caught by the Rebellion, we were hoping and praying that he'll never retune.
My dad Mr Lee Boo Sen now 86 living in Kuching was a very brutal man.
But one day he was brought home by one of his Rebellien friend ,, what a shame. till today my brothers and sister could not think positive about him,
Anonymous said…
To the one who captured Affendi ... it's a shame you didn't shoot the bastard.
Anonymous said…

If the Brunei People's Party (BPP) had not opposed the British Malayan neo-colonial scheme to con Brunei into the “Malaysia” federation, Brunei would be languishing in poverty like Sabah and Sarawak after UMNO Malaya drained out their oil and other wealth over 49 years.

So you should ALL be proud of your own Brunei brothers who gave their lives and freedom (some jailed for over 25 years) and contributed to the independence of Brunei from Malayan colonial domination.

AM Azahari (1928-2002- born in Labuan) should be honoured as a national hero and a patriot instead of being portrayed so negatively. Why?

He led the independence uprising- a rebellion against British colonialism AND the Malaysia new colonial plan to consolidate British hegemony over the Borneo/Kalimantan colonies under Malayan rule. Before in August 1962, the BPP. It was done not just for himself but for all the people- Brunei Sabah (North Borneo) and Sarawak for which he had proposed a unified state of North Kalimantan to resist Malayan domination.

Although the uprising appeared poorly planned it was brought on by the speed with which Britain was moving to impose “Malaysia” on Brunei Sabah and Sarawak.

Maybe the BPP could be criticised for failing to do better ground work to unite with the independence movements in Sabah and Sarawak on ideas and actions. That is history.

The most important outcome of the Uprising is that Brunei today is free and independent and not part of Malaysia. Thanks to an uprising.

There were recent efforts by the Kuala Lumpur government to manoeuvre the current government into Malaysia. In 1990 they even tried to bribe Azahari to head a new government if he could get Brunei to become part of “Malaysia” to fulfill UMNO supremacists dream of “Melayu Raya”. The racial balance argument was just their excuse to takeover and colonise the 3 British colonies.

To his credit Azahari stood by Brunei independence and rejected the Kuala Lumpur approaches. There is a You Tube video posted of an interview with him and he talked about the uprising and the KL moves before he passed away. He remained true to Brunei and his dream of a united North Kalimantan state not for himself but for all of us in Northern Borneo.

Brunei people today while they are able to enjoy independence and the benefits from their resources such as oil wealth it is a shame that they are taught to condemn the man and the Party that saved them from being the slaves of a foreign master. We should be the ones who ought to be ashamed of ourselves for holding such views.

A recent news report mentioned that the Brunei people were enjoying high quality housing built by the government while in Sarawak thousands upon thousands of people lived in shacks and extreme poverty (not to mention Sabah the poorest state of Malaysia-why?). So are the people of independent Singapore. See some comments in this report:

If AM Azahari and the BPP had been allowed to form the government in 1962, it is posited that would have been similar developments for the people. And because of the uprising, the positive impact has trickled down to the people over 50 years.

For this Brunei people if not the government should be grateful and proud that Azahari never betrayed Brunei's right to independence as have Sabah and Sarawak politicians who sold out their countries. That is why he should should be a national hero of not just Brunei but also Sabah and Sarawak!

Do think beyond the false ideas embedded in our mentality by the British!
Anonymous said…
Azahari is not a hero because nothing he did was heroic. It's interesting, isn't it, that the writer of the above comment, is trying to revise the history of what actually happened on Dec. 8, 1962, just as Azahari did in that Youtube video.

Azahari didn't give two figs about Brunei's independence -- he wanted a Brunei that was part of Sarawak and Sabah -- "the United States of Borneo" is what he referred to this new country with him as leader of course. Read his words from that time -- they are out there for the world to read.

A hero? Not likely ... no matter how you spin it. He was a politician who had a plan that failed, and he ran like the coward he was.

His political ambitions caused a war that destroyed lives. Before you go calling this man a hero, educate yourself beyond a Youtube video.

Azahari is dancing in hell where he belongs.
Anonymous said…

Whatever your view- you cannot deny that Brunei is lucky not to be sucked into a ponzi neo-colonial scheme called "Malaysia" under the rule of one of the world's most corrupt regimes. Thanks UK!

Sabah and Sarawak unfortunately did not have wise leaders like the late Sultan who delayed the rush into Malaysia and held on till Brunei could stand on its own. He saved Brunei worse than a fate in hell.

Azahari's idea of a North Kalimantan Federation was not a bad idea supported by people in North Borneo and Sarawak.

Why not? This makes more sense to unite the 3 territories under a genuinely people's government for the people by the people? With the natural wealth they have North Kalimantan would have fared much much better than what Sabah and Sarawak are now as the POOREST Malaysian vassal states.

If Azahari took a more middle road approach and not take an anti-imperialist stand the west probably might have supported him.

But in the days of black and white political struggle against imperialism and colonialism it was all or nothing.

After 50 years of "independence in Malaysia" the people of former North Borneo and Sarawak have been the biggest losers as the 2 territories became Malayan vassal states being pumped dry of their wealth.

On the other hand all who can see Brunei and Singapore enjoying the fruits of their independence can appreciate the meaning of real independence!

The struggle for independence is not over. The first great wave was in the 1960s. A new wave has now started!

The legacy of AM Azhari and those with similar ideas live on.
Anonymous said…
For me, Azahari and those who sacrificed their lives are heroes for it is through their sacrifices that we Bruneians are able to enjoy our independence, Alhamdulillah. I do hope that one day, the history books will be written to tell the truth about the struggles of the PBB to gain independence for Brunei from the colonial British and escape the clutches of Malaysia. I also hope that more people would be prepared to sacrifice their lives for what they believe in. After all, we are only answerable to Allah and no one else
Anonymous said…
Nah, it's easy to condemn when you lived through that time in history, and when your family and friends paid the ultimate price for one man's political ambition.

Why don't you explain Azahari's rebels slaughter of Brunei Malays who did not agree with his views. Ask the families of these people and see whether they think that Azahari is a hero.

Jose Rizal is a heor, Gandhi is a hero, Nelson Mandela is a hero, and they all fought against colonial rule of their homelands. Azahari is not.

Before you debate the political ambitions of a man who destroyed lives, why don't you read the interviews he gave, the speeches he made prior to the rebellion and just after? You will see a clear pattern.

Because these words have survived the passage of time, attempts to revise history will never work ... no matter how much you want things to be a certain way, it will never be.

Is Brunei really better off than Malaysia? Really? Really? There are more similarities than differences in the way both countries turned out. Independent? Not a chance ... but go ahead and fool yourself.

The last poster has obviously missed the point that other posters have made. Azahari did not make any sacrifices. He fled to Manila and left his followers to fight for his ambition. But he was quick to claim his kingdom from the safety of Manila on Dec. 8, 1962, and to appoint himself leader.

People died during the rebellion ... civilians, government workers, policemen, soldiers, rebels, but Azahari did not, so he did not make the "supreme sacrifice."

On December 8 I will honor the memories of these people and say a prayer for them.
Anonymous said…

BRUNEI remains free from the expansionist clutches of Malaya because of the Brunei Uprising on Dec. 8, 1962

Whatever ideological views people hold against the leaders of the uprising the Brunei Uprising allowed the Brunei Sultanate to delay being swallowed by Malaya and remain free and independent since 1963 and then its independence in 1984.

The best way to remember those who died on both sides is that died for Brunei.

Brunei a small part of Borneo stand out as the only country that remain intact in the disaster called the formation of Malaysia.

Both sides of politics in Brunei had the same concern of becoming part of the British/Malayan scheme to create a new colony.

Bruneians just need to look across the border and see that Sabah and Sarawak are the poorest parts of so-called "Malaysia" after 50 years of stripping of the oil and other resources by Malaya.

Malaya was developed from their wealth while they were reduced to extreme worker.

So Bruneians should be thankful it did not happen to them too.

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