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Showing posts from September, 2006

Currency Gallery What? by Zaki Mohidin

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Ever wonder how a B$10,000 looks like in real life? Or where our polymer notes come from? Or even what your parents/grandparents are talking about when they’re going on about Duit Pisang masa zaman Jepun?

Then head down to the Currency Gallery at Brunei Currency & Monetary Board, Ministry of Finance where you can find an interesting exhibition on the history and development of Brunei currency from the barter trading to our award winning polymer notes. Tekan sini to get a taste of what to expect at the gallery.

For me who have never seen a B$10,000 note before it was quite amazing. It’s huge! Let’s just say it won’t ever fit my wallet, but it might fit in well inside your girlfriend’s Luella bag though.

Still pondering about where our polymer notes come from? Well they are printed by Note Printing Australia since 1996 for most importantly its security features (until today there are no known cases of counterfeit polymer notes) and its durability and quality. So far we have $1, $5, $…

Jurnal Darussalam

My good friend, the Deputy at the History Centre kindly gave me the Centre's latest publication yesterday, Jurnal Darussalam. The journal is published once or twice a year filled with articles written by historians or other writers writing about history related to Brunei. There are only two publications which I refer to whenever I write about the history of Brunei, this one and the Brunei Museum Journals. Anyway on the way home yesterday, I was reading the journal and found that all the seven articles interesting. I am returning the goodwill to my friend by doing a bit of publicity for this journal and today will focus on three of the articles and leave the rest for some other time.

The first two aricles concerned the historical relationship between Brunei and China, one written by Pehin Jamil, the Head of the History Centre and the other written by a Chinese scholar historian, Professor Wu Zongyu.

Pehin's article entitled 'Raja Brunei dari China?' ('Did the Brunei …

As the Future Catches Brunei

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When I first joined the agency, my PS showed me his favourite book entitled 'As the Future Catches You' written by Juan Enriquez, a Harvard Professor. It's a very interesting book, the typefonts different on every page and every few sentences and every few words, sometimes certain pages only have a few words but most importantly emphasising the important materials and points that are discussed and yet surprisingly it's an Economics book. It talks about how countries now facing a series of changes, be it political, economic or scientific, if we do not catch up with these 'future' changes, we will be left behind, and that only those with knowledge to sell will be the winner. Interestingly enough, it spends a couple of pages on Brunei. The descriptions unflattering but very painfully close to home. I don't want to get into trouble so I won't go into details but if you get hold of the book, read those bits and reflect.

I remembered the book as yesterday, int…

Fasting Month Charity Blues

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I was still seething about espeed yesterday morning at the office when my secretary's assistant intercom me saying that there was someone who wanted to speak to me. She said that it's a Pengiran and he sounded as if he knows me very well. Well, one third of Bruneians are Pengirans so that's no help whatsover. Anyway, I asked her to put him through and there was this guy pretending as if he knew me from god knows when and asking whether he can drop in at 9 to see me about something. I said I was fairly busy but if I could have his full name and what he wanted to see me about. He said something about whether I could pay for his mother-in-law's ticket to Singapore as one of his family member or himself or someone anyway, is going to be sent to Singapore. I am not going to fork out my hard earned money to people I don't know and when I insisted for his full name, he put the phone down.

This kind of request is not new. A couple of months back, there was this guy who came…

espeed, faster connectivity, affordable pricing???

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For those who were searching for an early posting this morning, my apologies. Or rather I shouldn't even be apologisig for someone else's problems which is espeed2 provided by our newly corporatised Syarikat Telekom Brunei Berhad or TELBRU as it wants to be popularly known. I lost the connection sometime at about 4.30 this morning when I came back after sahur trying to connect to blogger to upload a completely different topic. So I thought I will write a new posting altogether and I have to upload this posting via the more inefficient dial-up modem which I always keep as a backup.

The last time I complained, a technician came over and he told me that there is nothing wrong with espeed2 but rather there is something wrong with both my wireless server and modem and that I should just switch on and off the modem and even though he didn't say anything, it sounded as if he hinted there is something wrong with the complainer. I thought I looked like the fool when the technician t…

The Crescent Moon - the Islamic symbol?

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You know, it's interesting how one symbol or icon is sufficient to represent one particular group. The Christians have the cross, the Jews have the Star of David and the Muslims have .... did you say the crescent moon and the star?

It is surprising that the crescent moon and the star have become the Muslims' symbol. I remembered being taught when I was young and even now to stay away from the use of religious symbols or items as this may lead to some form of idol worship that could compromise the belief of the one true God. And yet despite Muslims being taught that, surprisingly the crescent moon and star is being accepted as the symbol of Islam.

According to history, the early Muslim community did not have any symbol and the Muslim armies fighting under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad SAW, simply use solid coloured flags generally green, but also black for identifying themselves. There were many tales of the bravery of many brave soldiers who fought to keep the flag flying a…

Moon Sighters versus Scientists

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Nobody sighted the new moon last Friday and that's why for Brunei, the fasting starts today. Though not being able to sight the moon was known way in advance and many people already commented that we won't be able to see it. Some people ask why bother? Some countries have done without it and relying completely on what they called hisab (calculations). Some have gone halfway, using hisab but still try to sight the new moon. Some countries like Brunei have remained as pure moon sighters.

Some argue that in this ultra modern era of rapid scientific and technological advancement, we should not avoid the use of scientific knowledge for making an Islamic calendar rather than having to wait for a confirmation of moon sighting to start a new month. Today, we have access to technology that we can calculate when and where the moon sighting occurs; and together with recorded data, we can even show how accurate the calculations can be. Some scientists even stressed that with today's te…

Surprises at the MIB Forum

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The MIB forum organised by the titled persons of Brunei for His Majesty a couple of nights ago was interesting in many ways. I know many of you who were not at the UBD Chancellor's Hall think that you have already seen one MIB Conference, this one would be just like that. Surprisingly, no. There were a few things that I found very interesting despite the forum ending at about 12.10 am.

The first was to see a real life Prince, the Crown Prince of Perak talked about the institution of the monarchy. He is a scholar having his first degree from Oxford and his Masters and PhD from Harvard. I met him when I was there and he was a down to earth man. I remembered he introduced himself as Nazrin when I met him in Cambridge about 10 years ago (Cambridge is the name of the town in Massachussetts where Harvard University is located - the name is copied from the Cambridge in UK) and he refused to have any sort of formality. During the MIB conference, he delivered his paper with panache with a v…

Happy Teacher's Day

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It was Teacher's Day yesterday, a good day for some teachers, at least a holiday for all the others. My 6 year old loves the holidays. He wished everyday was a Teacher's Day. Actually it is not yet Teacher's Day, Teacher's Day is tomorrow but because later tonight we will be sighting the moon and tomorrow maybe the start of the fasting month, hence teacher's day celebrations held yesterday. But to wish anyone Happy Teacher's Day yesterday was too early, so you can wait till tomorrow if there is school tomorrow.

Today I will not post much about teachers in Brunei Darussalam or about the Education System. I think teachers deserved a rest. So what I will do is to link up to the various articles which I have posted in the past about teachers in Brunei Darussalam and the Brunei education system, both subjects of which are my favourites.
Spoon-fed Bruneians
18th UBD Convocation
Golden Jubilee of Teacher Training in Brunei
Teachers in Brunei Society
Brunei Education System

Situation of Rice and Sugar Supply in Brunei

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The 19th coup in Thailand's modern history does not seem to affect the financial market very much. I think the Baht went down by about 1%. Most of the finance people I talked to said that ever since the uncertainty of the current government, all the risk factors have already been factored in, so when the coup did come, it was more or less expected. So, why am I talking about Thailand's economy if it is more or less predicted?

A number of people who realised it is that our rice imports come from Thailand. Some called me up asking what is the rice situation. So I did a quick check on our rice supply. The answer was reassuring. We have apparently five months stock of rice in this country. So the Thais can still argue about their political future and we still would have plenty of rice in this country. We actually have a few more months on our storage in Thailand itself but that would depend on whether shipping is still going on. But the good thing about the Thais is that whether it…

Cars at Kampung Ayer

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I really pitied the guy who accidentally reversed his car into the river from the parking lot in front of the Bubungan Dua Belas at Jalan Residency. Luckily he managed to escape from the car and was able to swim to safety. It still took the fire and rescue people a few minutes to find the car even though they had complete diving gear. Imagine if he had been in it, those few minutes would be the difference between life and death.

All of us who have driven through those areas must have noticed the number of cars parked alongside the riverbank belonging to the Kampung Ayer residents. It's a difficult situation for them given the parking areas that are available are never sufficient for the many cars that they owned. I know the Kampung Ayer residents parked wherever they can find parking spots throughout Bandar. I remembered when I was attached at the Marine Department which was based in the old Customs Department building some 16 years ago, how long we had to wait for the residents wh…

Brunei Textile Stores as Tourist Destinations

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Yesterday I was invited to open and attend an Islamic finance conference organised by a Malaysian bank. During the break, I had the chance to speak to a few of the bank's executives who flew in from KL the afternoon before and had to fly out again by the afternoon of the conference. So in the short few hours that they had, the ladies executives went out shopping. I have always been proud to point that Malaysian lady officers (and men too) whenever they are in Brunei, they make it a point to shop for textile materials. Apparently Brunei had a reputation among Malaysians at least, that the shops here sell very good value for money textiles especially silk and the good quality textiles. This also included the jong sarat.

However, this particular lady said that she did not find that to be true. She said she was taken to the textile shops both at the Mall and the Yayasan and she only found one piece which she liked. She thought the textiles are expensive and not as cheap as she had hear…

The Pope and the USA

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I don't normally like to write about religion and politics. Both subjects are difficult to handle and I am not an expert in either one of them. However both do come to prominence every now and then and the last few days, the Pope and Islam has been the focus on every newspaper in the world.

Pope Benedict XVI caused so much anguish in the Muslim world and at first refused to apologise after his lecture at the University of Regensburg where he quoted a conversation between Manuel II, a 14th-century Christian Byzantine emperor and an Islamic Persian; “‘Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.’” Though yesterday the Pope finally said that he was “deeply sorry” about the angry reaction to his remarks about Islam, which he said came from a text that didn't reflect his personal opinion. “These were in fact a quotation from a medieval text which do not in any …

Can we have Food Security in Brunei?

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Recently, I got engaged in a little, yet very interesting, discussion with Mr. BR about the notion of “food security” in the context of Brunei Darussalam. Interesting because of two reasons. First, food is abundant in Brunei. All you want to eat is available in this country. But Brunei imports most of its food. (Well, I guess most of us know it already). Second, food security is far from being a simple issue.

So, I then looked into statistics to check the source of the food that I eat everyday. And here is what I saw. We import almost all the rice we eat. The bulk of our vegetables are also imported. We also import lots of fruits. Practically, we don’t produce flours that we use to make cakes, noodles, cookies and all the delicacies we eat here. We import sugar. We bring salt from overseas. We bring chilies from neighbouring countries, Although from time to time we still import eggs, but most of the eggs we eat are actually produced locally.

So perhaps it is only natural if some people …

Islamic Banking in Brunei

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I was sitting next to someone from HSBC Amanah Bank last night during dinner. HSBC Amanah is the Islamic Bank of HSBC operating in the middle east. They have been very influential in being at the forefront of Islamic banking there which surprised me completely when I first heard it. According to this person who is currently based in Riyadh, the banking system in Saudi Arabia up to about five years ago was based on conventional banking with the exception of one small bank. HSBC became the first non-Islamic bank to convert their banks into Islamic bank, first by converting five branches before completely changing the whole bank into an islamic one. The other banks in Saudi realised just how many people are attracted into the new Islamic bank and decided to convert too.

Next to me was a Malaysian banker and she mentioned that we ought to be 'insaf' that it is a non-Islamic bank which first converts itself when we should be the ones to do it first. She also had an interesting story…

Brunei Man's Best Friend?

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A couple of weeks ago, there was this long debate in the media about what to do about stray dogs in this country sparked by dogs attacking a little boy incident. The debate spilled over to the comment box on this blogsite. I refrained from writing as both LSM and Maurina already did beautiful pieces about it and Unharm6187 wrote a few paragraphs worth about it in the comment box (I am surprised you did not post one on your site?)

A couple of days ago, I came across the minutes of the meetings that were held by the taskforce to look into the problems of stray dogs. I wasn't at the meeting so I can't give first hand accounts of what happened but can only based on what I read. Contrary to what the public think about the government, the amount of attention that was paid to be both ethical and humanitarian was clearly evident from the discussions. That's a plus point but there was no mention of a long term solution yet such as the building of animal shelters which were clamoured…

Brunei's Perfect Disaster

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It finally happened. I remembered writing about it way back in May about the future of Brunei water and electricity. Water and electricity supplies can fail and water supplies did fail big time last week.

So, on Monday, my first day back at work, I happened to be chairing a meeting where both the head honchos of public works and electrical departments were also presentand naturally I asked about the recent water supply problem which happened during my absence. I thought with all the precaution in place, it is quite surprising that such a major disaster could have taken place. Both of them explained and from what I gather it is like the Discovery Channel's Perfect Disaster series where everything conspired against you to get the perfect disaster going.

According to the head honchos, the electrical supply to the water pumps at Bukit Barun failed. The pumps supply water to a majority of people both in Brunei and Tutong Districts. There were actually two cables, one acting is a backup. …

More Origin of English Words

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Continuing my series on the origin of English words for us Bruneians. Sometimes you can't imagine how certain English words came about for us to use here in Brunei. Before you think how clever I am writing today's post, I have to admit that I got this article from one of those circulating emails. So, thanks to whoever it is that wrote this. So, the next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some facts from the 1500s:

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and were still smelling pretty good by June. However, even in June they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water. Following him, the same water was used by the other men, the sons, the women, and finally the children. Last …

Post 9/11

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PS. Yesterday was 9/11 and much as I wanted to write about it, I thought of all the atrocities committed in the name of fighting the war against terror since then, I decided against it. I even refused to post about it on 9/11 but preferring today 9/12 as a small but token gesture against the current military incursions as even in the fight against terrorism, the end does not justify the means. The battle against terrorism will only succeed if economic development in the crisis regions is strengthened - countries need more economic help and not more military help. There should be respect for international law and respect for countries' sovereignity and tolerance for other cultures.

I pray that the Al-Mighty have mercy on all those who have died since then and pray that whoever are the perpetrators of all these deaths receive their fair judgment in hell when they die. The world may be a changed place but it is not an excuse for any military incursions nor for any gratuitous deaths.

Spoon-fed Bruneians?

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In my post sometime last month entitled "Turning Brunei into a Nation of New Ideas", there were a number of very good opinions. But I thought I will just turn to three which unfortunately were all written by anonymous commentators, so I can't credit whoever it is that wrote in the comment box. But if you recognised that among these are your comments and you would like to be properly credited, email me and I can credit you properly.

It's a debate about the way teachings are conducted in our schools and not just a primary level but secondary and tetiary levels. I remembered my own sister who went to United World College in Singapore and later to St Andrews in Brunei. She could see the significant difference between being asked to find her own information as opposed to being spoon fed. With being asked to think and to find her own knowledge, she spent more time acquiring the knowldege but she acquires a skill of thinking and a skill of acquiring knowlege as compared to …

Please excuse my son from school

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Yesterday for some reason (you know how it is, a fragment of your memory suddenly came), I remembered the time when I was staying at the Brunei Students Hostel in Singapore. The Hostel catered to Brunei scholarship students which stayed there studying in various Singapore schools from about 1955 to about 1983 if I am not mistaken. About 10 best Brunei male PCE students and the Arabic students were sent to Singapore every year. The program stops when Maktab Sains started and when Al-Azhar University accepted direct entry for the Arabic students from Brunei. Just for the record more than 400 students went through the Singapore route and we do form a strong group of constituents.

We were a tough lot for the warden to look after. One of our favourite tricks was signing our own excuses for not going to school. After a while, some of us were particularly good at it and were able to imitate his signature for the times when we skive school. It was the bad old days. When I was at Primary school…

What matters most

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There may be days when you get up in the morning
and things aren't the way you had hoped they would be,

....that's when you have to tell yourself that things will get better.

There are times when people disappoint you and let you down,

but those are the times when you must remind yourself
to trust your own judgments and opinions,
to keep your life focused on believing in yourself
and all that you are capable of.

There will be challenges to face
and changes to make in your life,

and it is up to you to accept them.

Constantly keep yourself headed
in the right direction for you.

It may not be easy at times,
but in those times of struggle
you will find a stronger sense of who you are,

So when the days come
that are filled with frustration
and unexpected responsibilities,
remember to believe in yourself
and all you want your life to be,
because the challenges and changes
will only help you to find the goals
that you know are meant to come true for you.

Keep believing in yourself.

- anon -

Why I want a Wife

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While researching for one of my posts, I came across this article written by a Judy Brady who was a free-lance author during the 1960s and wrote many articles on women's movement. This piece entitled 'why I want a wife' was written by her in 1971 and became a classic of feminist satire. It's a very interesting read and this is America in the 1970s. I don't know about you but in some sense it is what Brunei is in the 2000s seemed to be like. Brunei males tend to be dependent on their wives. Is this a cultural upbringing? Or is it the way things are?Anyway, read and comment.


Why I Want a Wife by Judy Brady

According to the dictionary, a wife is a "woman married to a man." But, as many women know, a wife is much more: COO (Chief Operating Officer), housekeeper, nutritionist, chauffeur, friend, sex partner, valet, nurse, social secretary, ego-builder, and more. Rather than complains why she herself would like to have a wife.

I belong to that classification of p…

Learning from Vietnam

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One of the downside to blogging about Brunei when you are overseas is that you can't do it. I tried but I don't have any reference materials with me and it is not exactly cheap calling someone to confirm on certain things. Yes, there is an amount of work involved in writing a post and all these have to be ready before I write it. So, I thought I will spend a little bit of time talking about Hanoi, its people and being an amateur economist, look at the economy as well. I haven't spent that much time outside the conference area but the spare time that I have, I have tried to utilise that as much as I can.

The last time I visited Hanoi properly was in 1998 and my ambassador father took me around Hanoi and its surrounding. So I saw a different kind of Hanoi as opposed to the ordinary tourists or visitors. I came back in 2000 and even then I have seen the prosperity starting to come into Hanoi. The main shopping area then was the Han Gai area - the 36 streets. Each street specia…