Showing posts from January, 2008

The Giant in Rimba

In my new job, I am just beginning to discover new things. One, I did not realise that there will have to be lots and lots of walking. Two, my predecessors talk about bringing work home and I was thinking over the last 2 days, there is more than ample time to complete everyday's work. It was today I realised that the second thing, because I will be doing lots and lots of walking, there ain't enough time for me to do the work in the office. Anyway, I was accompanying the TM visiting houses in Lambak Kanan and Rimba.

The state of some houses especially in the first phase of the housing resettlement development is quite bad. I thought to myself, somone ought to be screwed for this screw up. Apparently it was explained that the contractor was not entirely at fault. Some of the concrete problems were due to water usage. In the late 1970s and early 1980s when development started, there was no piped water in the area and the contractor applied and received permission to use river wate…

Early Brunei Papers

People asked me where I get my materials from. I said the same places where everyone get theirs - through reading journals, articles and whatever I can get hold of - and believe it or not, I also read history textbooks both primary and secondary and I have them in my bookshelves.

Articles about Brunei have been written during the Chinese Dynasties and that goes some 1,500 years ago. The more recent western ones were written in the 19th century mostly. One of the earliest was written by Hugh Low, entitled Selesilah (Book of the Descent of the Rajas of Brunei) which was published in June 1880. Another was a similar one written by WH Treacher entitled The Genealogy of the Royal Family of Brunei published in June 1885.

In the early 20th century we have the A Brunei Code written by RO Winstedt published in 1923 and A Sketch of the History of Brunei by HR Hughes-Hallett published in 1940. Given that the Brunei Museum Journal which contained all the historical writing about Brunei, was not pub…

Kampong Tanjung Nangka - Treasury Trove

[note: The article below was printed in last Sunday's Brunei Times under the usual Golden Legacy article. I arrived back on Thursday from Qatar and only had a couple of days to do this. The article is a merger of two blog pieces I wrote in 2006, so it did not take that long. For the photographs, I had to drive into the Kampung and take them. The one with the wooden house was interesting. I took the photograph from the back as it looks old and I wanted to give a 'tucked away' sense but when I went to the front of this house, it had a couple of huge satellite dishes! So, never ever judge a house.]

Many people using the Jalan Tutong route from Bandar Seri Begawan sometime fail to see the areas beyond Sengkurong. This is because the double carriageway ended at the junction of Jalan Tutong and Jalan Jerudong and then carried on at Jalan Jerudong.

Hence many motorists preferring the modern road and the highway rather than on the old single lane Jalan Tutong would proceed to use J…

Old Photos

I posted this postcard at the beginning of the month asking where anyone knew where this was. I guessed Jalan Sultan. Nobody was able to confirm that. Someone told me it is not even Brunei.

Yesterday, one Minister said that this is Jalan Sultan in the 1930s. And it is confirmed by our national historian that this indeed was Jalan Sultan. These very Westernised looking buildings were unfortunately bombed to smitherens by the Allied Forces when they wanted to take over Brunei from the Japanese in the second world war. The Allied Forces also bombed our main mosque. I find it disturbing that the Allied Forces had to carpet bombed the entire city. This was indeed a pity as those buildings and the entire Jalan Sultan looked quite refreshing in those days. This photograph came out of a book entitled 'The Postal History of British Borneo'. It's quite a useful book if you are interested in the history of the postal services.

Another interesting photograph from that book is this one o…

Brunei Break-ins

Yesterday was a most eventful day. Despite my new job title, I still had to carry out the inspection of the customs officers parade for the International Customs Day celebration 2008 as I had already agreed to do it months before. I have never inspected a parade before and it was quite fun really as the officers did put up a show. Theoretically I could stop and literally inspect an officer's uniform if it is not put on properly but I decided to give that a pass. The kawad was not bad either for a non-military organisation.

After the parade, we had a coffee break and I had a chance to speak to the senior police officer representing the Police Force about the recent break ins. According to him their MO is different. Instead of sneaking in, there will be a group of about 7 to 8 burly men forcing their way into the house and normally they try to grab a kid as that would make the adult parents give up any fight. They would also do surveillance on a house before hand and note the number …

Thank you

For those in the know, you heard the announcements last night. It was a surprise announcement. So I will use this entry to thank everyone that I have worked with at the Ministry of Finance. I enjoyed working with you all and I will miss the familiar surroundings but now it's time to face new challenges. It's going to be sad leaving friends and colleagues. Thank you to you all and I hope that we continue to work together for the development of Brunei Darussalam.

Thank you too to all those who have congratulated me. I look forward to your continuing support.

And as a blogger - my apologies to those expecting a regular blog entry - I will be back tomorrow with a proper one.

Brunei - The Next 30 Years

I was glad to hear that the Economic Planning and Development Department finally announcing the publication of the long awaited Brunei's Long Term Development Plan when I was away. I was even more glad to see the hard bound copies of the plan in my in-tray when I returned back to work yesterday afternoon.

The plan contained the government's vision of what Brunei should be in 2035 - Wawasan Brunei 2035 - and outlined the plan how to get there. The foreword from His Majesty in the book is particularly apt: "My government is not only responsible for our people today. It must also help fulfill their hopes for our next generation. To do this, it must listen to them and offer clear-sighted, realistic plans for the future that can be implemented with skill and professionalism."

This plan was prepared by the Council for Long-Term Development Plan and talked to a number of Bruneians, not just in the government, but also in the private sector and other sectors as well and asked …

International Agreements Made Simple

[Note: This entry will serve for both today (Wednesday) and tomorrow (Thursday) as I am flying later this afternoon back to Brunei and will only arrive in Brunei in the latter half of Thursday.]

I thought I will share this photograph of me and the other head of delegation after completing our negotiations. We had to turn around as the lady officers wanted to take a photograph of us away from another group on the other side.

Alhamdulillah, we have completed the negotiations and agreed on the final text after two days of negotiations. The agreement can now be signed after it has gone through the approval process by both countries. In the next few months, hopefully it will be signed by whoever is appointed by both countries to sign - usually the Minister of Foreign Affairs or Minister of Finance depending on who is available.

How do two countries decide to sign an agreement and what are the processes? Someone asked me that and I thought this will be a good opportunity for me to reply.


Official Dinner

Last year whenever I attended dinner at the Palace, I tried to capture the essence of the food and atmosphere there and shared them in this blogsite. There are always two reactions - critics and condemnation by those who are taken aback by the opulence of it and adulations and salutations by those in the trade and especially those who worked hard creating it and appreciated that someone out there is admiring their handiwork. Believe me if you see some of the food design, you would really be impressed. But whatever it is, when you think about it, take out the glamour of it and strip out the opulence, it is just one guy giving dinner to another in honour of that person's visit. So, here is a snapshot of what was served during the official dinner for Myanmar's Prime Minister's visit to Brunei Darussalam sometime last week:-

In case you really wanted to know, the menus is made up of:-

Pumpkin and Chicken Terrine served with Grilled Leek with Coriander Creamy Sauce

Cream of Spinac…

Family Relationship Monikers in Brunei

[Note: This article of mine was published yesterday in the Sunday Edition of The Brunei Times (20th January 2008). This is actually rewritten from two earlier blog entries which I wrote sometime 2006. That is also why the language of the article was more informal than the normal articles I write for Brunei Times. I thought I will share them once again with the new readers of The Daily BR. The photograph accompanying the article in BT is my own family's photograph - me as the baby, my great-grandfather standing far left, my grandfather standing in the middle and my father standing far right.]

IT IS tough being a first time parent, there are many things to think about. One of them is what you want your children to call you. For non-Asians, sometimes this is straight forward. "Daddy" and "Mummy" suit most Western parents, becoming "Dad" and "Mum" as the children grow older. "Father" and "Mother" are seldom used except in the …

The Huge Jamrah at Mina

My uncle and my sister were two of a number of Bruneians who performed the haj and came back last month. What surprised me is the number of photographs that they were able to take almost anywhere even including at the Masjidil Haram. I remembered when I went for my haj in the late 1990s, my wife and I could not even bring a camera into the masjidil haram area. Our photos are limited to outside the mosque and areas outside. Even then we were very cautious, as we have been warned that it might be confiscated if the police saw you.

What really struck me is the ease that today's pilgrims in stoning the devil in Mina. The Jamrah which used to be like this in the 1950s:-

had become this huge wall like this by 2006:-

which is almost impossible to miss!

My sister says with the scheduling in place, pilgrims do not have to rush anymore. So they are even able to pose in front of the jamrah while other people are still stoning them. Do that 10 years ago, you probably end up in the hospital or wor…


For those suddenly addicted to the Daily BR and find it not updated and wondering why - I am currently away to a Middle East country (starts with a Q) on government business and will try to update this blog whenever I have the time. The last time - that was way back in April last year - I become a travel blog, someone wrote that I should not be showing photographs of places I have been because it might be miscontrued that I am having a holiday instead of working. So I won't be doing travel blogs no matter how exciting the country that I am visiting.

Another View of Jembatan Rangas

Over the years, I have purchased and collected many old Brunei postcards as an extension of my paper money and stamp collections. This not only makes me a numismatist and a philatelist but also a deltiologist! Deltiology is the study of postcards.

Anyway, when I saw this postcard on ebay, I was quite surprised. I had to have it and this postcard arrived yesterday. This view of the Jembatan Rangas or Clifford Bridge could only have come from one vintage point - the SOAS Mosque. But when was SOAS Mosque built and when was Edinburgh Bridge built? So this must have been around the time when SOAS was under construction and Edinburgh Built was not yet under construction. SOAS mosque was completed in 1958.

I have an older photograph of Clifford Bridge here.

Textiles and Identity in Brunei Darussalam

I saw the news of this book when it was launched at UBD while reading BT. I thought that looks like an interesting book to have and I immediately made arrangements to have two copies of the book, then not realising the book costs some $55+ each. However, this book is worth every single penny of that $55+ which I paid for the book.

So, what do you get for $55? First of all, you get a book written by Siti Norkhalbi bte Haji Wahsalfelah, the Deputy Director of Brunei Academic Studies at UBD. She holds a PhD from University of Western Australia and has written extensively on Brunei Darussalam. This 132 pages A4 size book is printed at White Lotus Press in Bangkok. Uh? Why Bangkok? My guess is that the editor wants it published there as this book formed part of an 11 studies series in Material Cultures of Southeast Asia. And it has 75 colour photographs!

This book examined the traditional role textiles have played in modern Brunei. Handwoven textiles are an important of Brunei traditional cu…

Brunei-Bahrain Agreements

(From MENAFN - Bahrain Tribune) The Ministry of Finance (MOF) yesterday (14th January 2008) inked two agreements with the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam the reciprocal promotion and protection of investments and the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income and on capital.

The signing ceremony was held at the Ministry of Finance premises by Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, the Minister of Finance and Pehin Dato Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Ibrahim, Minister of Finance II of the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam.

The first agreement reflects the willingness of the two countries to create favourable conditions for greater economic co-operation, particularly regarding investments of investors of each country in the territory of the other. It also marks their belief that the encouragement and reciprocal protection of investments through international agreement is conducive to the stimulation of business initiatives and increasing prosp…

Sungai Kianggeh 1960s

You know in the 1960s, the Sungai Kianggeh was still wide enough that not only small boats can go in, even the big tongkang can go in. Before that it was even wider. The government ask anyone who wants to help in with the widening of the Jalan Kianggeh by coming up with some earth and get paid for it. People started bringing in earth by the boatfull and dumping it to the side of Sungai Kianggeh thus enabling the Kianggeh road to be built. That narrowed the river somewhat but it was the latest project in the 1970s that narrowed the Sungai Kianggeh to what we see today.

Anyway, this postcard showed the Kianggeh river in the mid 1960s when it looked wide enough. What's noticeable is the small hut in the middle of the river. This is where pigs used to be slaughered. There are a couple of buildings to the left of this hut. That's where Immigration Department used to be - this is the place to get your IC.

Foreign Postage Stamps in Brunei

People ask me what I did from April to December when I didn't do daily entries to the Daily BR. I did a lot of things - work obviously is no 1. I managed to get my official golf handicap too during that time. But it also allowed me to catch up on my hobbies. One of them is catching up with my stamps, paper money and coins collection. You can read about my entries on them here on my other blogsite

During the Japanese occupation of Brunei, the Japanese used the unused Brunei stamps captured during the occupation and overprinted those with the word Japanese Government. But once the Allied Forces took over Brunei, they could not use Brunei stamps and they decided to use North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak stamps and overprinted those stamps with BMA (British Military Administration). The stamps used for Brunei are very difficult to find as you have to find either the Sarawak or North Borneo stamps with the postmark "Brunei" clearly visible on …

HSBC 60th Year in Brunei

HSBC is celebrating its 60th Anniversary in Brunei this year. Many people remember HSBC as the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank because it was the first bank set up here in Brunei soon after the War in 1947. In that year, HSBC set up its offices in Bandar, Belait and Seria but Tutong did not get its own office until 1975. Since then, they have opened up a number of branches throughout the country. HSBC also set up its own finance company, the Mortgage and Finance Berhad which later became HSBC Finance. In 1983, HSBC established the first automated teller machines in Brunei Darussalam. It moved into its new HQ building at the corner of Jalan Sultan and Jalan Pemancha in June 1974. (The above photo was HSBC Building in 1961.)

The HSBC Group is named after its founding member, The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, which was established in 1865 in Hong Kong and Shanghai to finance the growing trade between China and Europe.

The inspiration behind the founding of the Bank was Th…

Bandar Seri Begawan's New Icon

I took the above photo last year during His Majesty's birthday celebrations in Bandar Seri Begawan. This was part of the exhibition of the new Bandar Seri Begawan.

This particular icon was part of the presentation. It is designed by a very good architect friend of mine who worked for the JKR. It is supposedly designed for the 100th anniversary commemoration of the formation of Bandar Seri Begawan on dry land. Remember, it was McArthur, the first British Resident who suggested that the capital moved to dry land in 1906.

It is an interesting design and would certainly lead to a lot of discussions as to the suitability of the design or where its location will be. At the moment, it will be placed at the wharf in between the two Yayasan buildings. So technically if you are in the middle of the yayasan (at the water fountain), one view will be the SOAS Mosque and the other will be this interesting icon. I am not going into the pros and cons of this thing but if you have any strong views a…

Clifford Bridge, Brunei

One faithful reader of this blog is one who used to be my Chairman and is indeeed a respected member of the Cabinet, told me the other day is that my entry on a Brunei road scene is not one of Brunei roads. Honestly speaking I have no idea either except that the photo does come from a book about Brunei's postal history. He promised to ask someone to confim it.

For today, another old photograph. This one should be recognisable. No?

This is what was then known as Jambatan Rangas. Ring a bell? This photograph is taken around 1920/30s and this bridge crossed the river joining the town newly built along the banks of Brunei river to the Mile One area. In the 1950s, the Edinburgh Bridge was built next to it. And sometime in the 1980s a second Edinburgh bridge was built. It was over time this older Clifford bridge became known as Jembatan Rangas. If you drive into town and on the Edinburgh bridge, you can still see the remnants of this old bridge to your left. The bridge is still usable, I …

Awal Muharram 1429

Today is the 1st of Muharram 1429 Hijriah. And yet most of us may know the month, eat our bubur and not really know much about it. On CNN, in the next 10 days, they most definitely will show the clash between the Shias and the Sunnis as they celebrated the asshura. What's all this? I have taken this article written by Mufti Tafi Usmani. Perhaps we all can learn from it:

By Mufti Tari Usmai

Muharram is the month with which the Muslims begin their lunar Hijrah Calendar. It is one of the four sanctified months about which the Holy Quran says, "The number of the months according to Allah is twelve (mentioned) in the Book of Allah on the day He created heavens and the earth. Among these (twelve months) there are four sanctified."

These four months, according to the authentic traditions, are Dhul-Qa'dah, Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab. All the commentators of the Holy Quran are unanimous on this point, because the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, in his sermon on…

Origin of Kampung Bukit Udal

Most regular readers of this blogsite in April know that I stopped my daily blogs last April because of the difficulty of juggling my official work and then I just started my weekly column on The Brunei Times called The Golden Legacy. It's only now that I have been able to handle the time more efficiently - I don't know how long this equilibrium stage will last though.

Anyway, for this Sunday's Golden Legacy, I will be continuing my series on the origins of Brunei place names. You can read about them in my previous entries. What I have done was to compile the short entries and given that I have more space in my printed article, I can use more words. I have also added a couple of new place names in my articles. For this week, I am adding Kampung Bukit Udal and Kampung Bukit. Where do you think they come from?

I asked a junior colleague as she came from there about the place names. She didn't know but she asked a friend who in turn asked her dad and a week later I got an e…

Workbooks and Stationery

Even in our land of plenty, there are still groups of people who needed assistance. The other day, our head honcho of the Investment agency mentioned that his agency's staff provides a collection to needy students. This year he already had a phone call from a Principal if they could help pay for 15 students' books and stationery requirements. Kudos to the agency's staff for making such generous contributions.

Last Sunday, I was at one of the bookstore buying my usual few copies of Brunei Times for me to distribute to my parents and relatives - this one had my article on 'Berjanawari'. Anyway, while there, I realised that there are assistance to needy students. The shop accepted the Crown Prince's Fund vouchers for books. Aha! the Crown Prince's Fund (Dana Pengiran Muda untuk Anak-Anak Yatim) has provided the assistance for orphans. I met a former staff and she was also buying books for her nephews and nieces (their father, her brother had passed away) using …

Information Department Calendar 2008

I never thought I will be talking about a calendar. But the new wall calendar issued by the Information Department caught my eye when it landed in my in-tray last Saturday afternoon. So okay it's 5 days after the New Year but I forgive this one.

The Information Department used 'imbasan' - looking into the past - as their theme for this calendar. Every month, there are 2 or 3 old photographs of Brunei asserting a certain theme, for instanace, transportation, and then a small modern photograph to show how far we have moved since then. Old photographs - my speciality.

I must admit the photographs are in good condition as Information Department must have got them closer to their origin but I do have most of them, apart from one or two which I have not seen before. But most people would not have seen these photographs. So the photographs themselves are worth a lot and this is one calendar which one should keep even after the end of 2008.

Anyway, you get my drift. It is a GOOD cale…

Wanderer in Malaysian Borneo

It's Sunday. So, what do we do on Sundays other than attend weddings? Right! Off to Miri. Most people go to Miri because it is so near what with the bridge in Rasau and the bridge bypassing Baram. Most have forgotten the time when going to Miri was as bad as going to KK. There used to be a ferry at Kuala Belait and I remembered when I stayed at my grandfather's house along Jalan Singa Menteri, the queue for the ferry can stretch for a few kilometers.

I have forgotten about that time until I read the opening chapter of this book entitled "Wanderer in Malaysian Borneo" written by Pengembara (real name Gallop). A couple of years back he wrote about wandering in Brunei. I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email a few weeks ago when he wrote to me asking for my address as he wanted to post me his latest book. I devoured the book as soon as it arrived.

The book contained Pengembara's Borneo Bulletin articles about his visit to Sarawak and Sabah while he was still ba…

Looking at Brunei's Past

At my age, I realised that many young bloggers or blog readers do not appreciate a number of Brunei books which are sold on the market. When I was much younger too, I did not appreciate these books that much. It was much later when I discovered the hidden treasures that are in them that I realised just how much I have missed all this while.

This book by Haji Ahmad Arshad is one of them. Haji Ahmad belongs to my father's generation so that would make him much much older than today's younger readers. He was a journalist, he was also a reporter and I remembered in the 1970s when he used to do the reports for the Legislative Council meetings. About a few years ago he had a weekly column in the Pelita Brunei. What he wrote about are fascinating. If he had a blog and written in English, I am sure many would have flocked to it. But he wrote in the Pelita and many Pelita readers are more interested in the job vacancies advertisements rather than read articles in there.

His articles are …

Brunei Road Scene 1930s

I was doing a bit of research on Brunei stamps and Brunei postal services by reading a book entitled 'The Postal History of British Borneo'. It's quite a useful book if you are interested in the history of the postal services.

There were a number of photographs in that book. However one intrigued me. It is a scene of Brunei in 1930s but I cannot quite place this particular scene. My best guess would be Jalan Sultan but it does not seemed so right. Any thoughts out there?

Brunei's Most Expensive Stamps

Sometime last week, someone bought an American 24 cent stamp which had an inverted plane for around US$825,000.00! Imagine that. But surprisingly that is still not the most expensive stamps ever. The most expensive is a Swedish 3 skilling stamp which was the wrong colour. That sold for around $2.5 million about 10 years ago. A number of other stamps could beat that if only they come onto the market.

How about Brunei stamps? How much are they worth? I have never seen one come up in auctions. But the catalog values of a few of them, believe it or not, do reach a 5 figure sum. One of the most expensive is Brunei's 1906 stamp which is a Labuan overprint. In 1906 when Brunei wanted to set up its own postal service, its stamps did not arrived in time and the government chose to use the Labuan stamps and overprint on top of it the word Brunei and the value of the stamp. In a couple of cases, the word disappeared and the values got printed twice. This stamp would easily fetch $20,000.00. A…

Customs Import Duties & Excise Duties

The authorities announced a good news and a bad news (see article from Brunei Times below). The good news was that import duties are being abolished for cars. The bad news was that this will be replaced by an excise duty with exactly the same rate. Impact - none to you and me. Slight administration adjustment to importers but otherwise absolutely no impact.

Why do this? It's the government's committments to WTO and to other international and regional agreements to bring import duties to zero or at least very low. Import duties discriminate against imports as home grown products are not dutiable. But if import duties are abolished and replaced by excise duties, then there will no longer be any discrimination between imports and home grown products. The theory is that imports can compete in any market and this will be better for everyone's development (except those industries which used to be protected which luckily enough for us, we do not have.)

Don't we gain anything? W…

What New Year?

[Note: I wrote this for 1st January 2007 blog. I updated it and submit it to Brunei Times and it was published on 1st January 2008 under the title of 'Which New Year Did You Mean?']

By Rozan Yunos

Today is the first day of 2008 AD or to be nonreligious - 2007 CE (Common Era) as AD stands for the Latin word ‘Anno Domini’ - the year of our lord or as the Oxford Dictionary pointed out AD refers to 'of the Christian Era'.

So if you were not a Christian, why were you singing the old Scottish song Auld Lang Syne (written by poet Robert Burns and published in 1796) to celebrate the 'new year' last night?

In the middle ages, even the church was against celebrating new years calling it paganism. It was not until only about 400 years ago that the beginning of the AD new years were celebrated. Even then and now, not everyone celebrated the same New Year. Celebrating the New Year depended on which religion or culture one belongs to.

The Muslims will not be celebra…