Showing posts from February, 2008

The Future of Brunei Roads 2007-2012

I have had the National Development Plan publication for more than a month now. It ws only lately that I decided to take a look at the list of projects, partly because it is now part of my work but also as a Brunei citizen I am very interested what the government plan to do.

I have always been concerned about roads and traffic jams especially at Jalan Tutong at the Bunut/Medewa area as I pass this place every single day.

So I checked. Under roads, there are 49 projects listed but knowing the work this listing worked - each of those projects could spawn hundreds of smaller projects. For those who travel very often to KB and dreads the single lane traffic beyond Telisai would be pleased to know that Phase 2 of the Tutong-Seria Road (Lumut) plus Phase 3 of the Tutong-Seria Road, Telisai-Lumut Link Road (16 km) will be built. For the rest of the highway, finally there will be flyover bridges on the Berakas Link road junction, Tutong-Telisai Highway at Sengkarai and the Tutong-Telisai Highwa…

Sultan Hashim and PPP

I have always called the The National Development Plan for 2007-2012 the 9th NDP until I was told recently that it is not. It should be called NDP 2007-2012 which I thought was a bit of a mouthful. Anyway, the ambitious projects in the plan would be financed by the government. But other funding alternatives will also be developed including the PPP modality. Perhaps PPP can build that bridge to Bangar if someone can afford to pay the tolls.

PPP is a relative new word as a source of government funding. Even though it has been bandied out only in the last decade or so, its concept has been appreciated a long long time ago even in Brunei Darussalam. I was thinking of PPP when I read about Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin who ruled Brunei from 1885 to 1906. In 1895, one J Robertson persuaded Sultan Hashim that he can print stamps for the government as well as run the postal service for Brunei in return of which he gets to sell the Brunei stamps outside Brunei and keep all its proceeds.


What would Superman do?

Sometimes I wish I am Superman or the most powerful man in the world so that I can solve everyone's problem. One sample of letters in my tray - from a lady whose family lives in a government barrack with 2 bedroom with 6 kids, the eldest is married and is staying with her with her own 2 kids. The husband, a non-Bruneian, will retire very soon (by the time the letter arrived, he would have retired). She is pleading to be given a house under the national housing scheme.

The more sympathetic among us would say she deserve it. The less sympathetic would say, why should she get a house first when there are many other people with similar problems who do not get houses. Some might continue to say she should have known better and be prepared for it.

If you think this housing problem only affects those in the lower income group, think again. I know of cases of senior colleagues who retire without houses and pleaded with the government for them to stay on their government rented houses after …

Ignored Old Brunei Boats

Those who know me know that I have a penchant for stamps and currency notes. I do collect other things - aircraft models, coins etc. But stamps and currency notes are my favourite, hence my other blogsite here.

I was going through some magazines last night and I found a photograph of this old Brunei boats. These boats were used by our very own Brunei fishermen at the turn of the last century. They may even be used for much longer than that. These boats are dependent on their sails and are quite distinctive looking with their squarish or triangulaish sail. Remember, no machinery in those days.

Unfortunately illustrations of these boats are quite difficult to find or even impossible. I don't remember any paintings or/and drawings by Bruneians which illustrated these boats. It's as if we had ignored their existence and the important role they played in the Brunei economy. The one and only time I know these boats were depicted in anything was in this first issue of Brunei stamps of …

National Geographic and Brunei

I need resources for reference to write my articles both here and for my weekly newspaper column. Resources about Brunei unfortunately do not abound as much as other countries. Perhaps we are too small. Perhaps we are too uninteresting. Perhaps we do not have our own people write much about Brunei whether academically or otherwise. So any reference materials that I need I will search for.

National Geographic, the magazine which covers most countries around the world has not done any feature of Brunei lately. The last one they did was in February 1974, about 34 years ago. It came out in this issue. I bought this on ebay and this is also the first ebay item I have ever bought.

What did Messrs Joseph Judge and Dean Conger write about in their article entitled Brunei, Borneo's Abode of Peace?

What I found surprising or shouldn't really, is that, the article about Brunei can fit in today's modern Brunei. We have not changed that much really depite the 34 years. The article still …

The world will not provide us forever

We in Brunei celebrated our 24th Birthday yesterday. Everything looks rosy yet the undercurrents can be troubling if we do not prepare for the future. Today I just want to reflect on what Lee Kuan Yew, the man who transformed Singapore from a country which has no natural resources to speak of and yet is now richer than us.

Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who is also the founding father of the prosperous city-state made his views known on subjects which are very close to all Bruneians, during a dialogue with Allen Lai, chief executive officer of AsiaInc Forum at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies' 40th anniversary gala dinner. The article translated into English and reproduced here first appeared on January 9 in Lianhe Ziabao, a Chinese daily in Singapore.

"I CANNOT give any advice on how Brunei can reposition itself because your next stage depends on your present stage, which is decided by the society structure, education levels and administratio…

We need to combat crime and drug abuse

Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

ALHAMDULILLAHI Rabbil ‘Aalameen, Wabihee Nasta’eenu ‘Alaa Umuuriddunya Waddeen, Wassalaatu Wassalaamu ‘Ala Asyrafil Mursaleen, Sayyidinaa Muhammadin , Wa’alaa Aalihiee Wasahbihee Ajma’een, Waba’du.

Sayugia kita patut bersyukur kerana dapat pula menyambut dan merayakan Ulang Tahun Hari Kebangsaan Negara Yang Ke-24.

Kita dengan izin Allah menikmati hasil kemerdekaan melalui kehidupan yang rukun damai serta bersatu padu. Ia akan kita pupuk terus sebagai warisan yang dibanggakan.

Beta menyambut baik tema hari Kebangsaan pada tahun ini, iaitu 'Tunas Bangsa'.

Apa erti 'tunas?'

Jika bagi tumbuhan, ia adalah sesuatu yang baru tumbuh atau bercambah. Jadi 'Tunas Bangsa' itu, tentu sahaja maksudnya golongan muda, atau golongan belia bangsa.

Mengapa kita julang 'Tunas Bangsa' sebagai tema? Apa tujuannya?

Tujuannya ialah, kita ingin menekankan bahawa, golongan muda atau golongan belia itu mempunyai nilainy…

Don't Abandon Me

I wrote this for my Golden Legacy blog and will reproduce it here in light of another baby being found abandon. Last May, I remember there was a flurry of postings about abandoned babies and there was a flurry of postings about sex education. I wanted to wade in, as I thought among almost all the bloggers, I am probably one of a few who have studied the matter academically. Social problems focusing on abandoned babies was a project paper which I had to do at UBD for my Executive Development Program in May 2005.

I argued that a lot of the problems arose because of the lack of coordination among the various government agencies and of course proceeded to give examples as well as trying to put into place the various organisational theories that we have learned in that 4 month program. I got an A for my efforts, so I thought I must have done something right.

However after the program, Dr C*, the Australian lecturer who graded my paper actually sent a letter to me which I thought was very nic…

Tallest Building Structure in Brunei

When I was working at the MOF Building, I was always thinking that I am working in the tallest building in Brunei. When you think about it, you can see the building high on the hill overlooking down on almost anybody who drove past it. The building is around 60 meters tall. The MOF was completed at the beginning of the new millennium and it was used about a couple of years after that. I was told that the civil aviation authorities used the height as the maximum that anybody can build as any higher, it would affect air flights.

Yesterday, I was talking to a senior PWD architect friend who came over to my office to have a look at what can be done to my office. My office, believe it or not, has no windows. I used to have a bird's eye view of Bandar Seri Begawan, Gadong and Berakas from my 17th floor MOF office and I really missed having a view of Brunei. What surprised me was in the next room to mine was this aircond housing unit with its own window overlooking the airport. When I jok…

Origin of Malay Words

A few months ago, I was researching for an article about Jawi and the Malay Language for The Brunei Times when I came across this list of words. I did not realise that Bomba was a Portuguese word (what are we doing with a Portuguese language?) and that katil was a Tamil word.

aksi - action (from Dutch actie)
almari - cupboard (from Portuguese armário)
anggur - grape (from Persian انگور/angur)
bahasa - language (from Sanskrit bhāshā)
bandar - town (from Persian بندر/bandr)
bangku - stool (from Portuguese banco)
bendera - flag (from Portuguese bandeira)
bihun - rice vermicelli (from Hokkien bi-hun)
biola - violin (from Portuguese viola)
biskut - biscuit (from English)
bomba - fire brigade (from Portuguese bomba, "pump", or bombeiro, "fireman", lit. "pumper")
boneka - doll (from Portuguese boneca)
buat - do (from Sanskrit wuat)
buku - book (from Dutch boek)
bumi - earth (from Sanskrit bhumi)
cawan - cup (from Mandarin cháwǎn)
dakwah - sermon (from Arabic da3…

Tutong Link in Indonesia

There is a river in Tutong called Sungai Penabang. There is a place in Banjarmasin in Kalimantan, Indonesia where there is a group of people who spoke the Tutong language and the group claimed that their ancestors came from Pangkalan Jong, Tutong. What is the link between the two?

According to a Tutong legend, Pangkalan Jong in Kampong Keriam, Tutong is one of the earliest inhabited places in Tutong. It's strategically located where two rivers meet Sungai Kelakas and Sungai Birau. Because of its wide bay, ships used to berth there and that's why it is called Pangkalan Jong (Jong meaning ship and pangkalan meaning port).

At one time, there was a proliferation of a species of fish called Ikan Karok. These fishes grew to such large proportion and in such large numbers that they fill in all the waters in the rivers and in the water wells to the point that villagers in the area could not get fresh water. Many villagers emigrated away from the village until one night an elderly man ha…

Brunei's roads and cars

Yesterday as usual is Wedding Day in Brunei. One of the subjects brought up was cars, traffic jams and roads. When I came back I thought I will look up the statistics and I was quite surprised to see the statistics on cars and roads here in Brunei.

In 2001, there were 3,299 kilometers of roads in Brunei. However there were 186,786 private cars, 398 taxis, 1,567 buses which totalled 188,751 vehicles. If all vehicles were to be driven at the same time, there would be 57 vehicles on every kilometer of roads in Brunei.

But in 2005, there were 3,650 kilometers of roads. An addition of some 351 kilometers of roads, or some 10.4% additional over 5 years. But the number of vehicles are now made up of 232,892 private cars (25% increase over 2001), 402 taxis and 1,825 buses (16% increase over 2001) which totalled some 239,917 vehicles (27% increased over 2001). Roads increased by 10% and vehicles increased by 27%. Talk about imbalance. Now the ratio is 66 vehicles on every kilometers of roads in…

The Origin of the Brunei's Kopiah

[Note: I wrote this for Brunei Times 23rd September 2007 publication. It was the fasting month and I had trouble writing about fasting and related matters in those 4 weeks. This was written out of sheer desperation and I had trouble compiling the materials. What surprised me most was to discover that the topi haji, the tarbus and the Brunei's kopiah are all the same origin.]

DURING this fasting month, many Bruneians will be going out to buy new clothes to celebrate the upcoming Eid ul Fitr, the month of celebration after a whole month of fasting. In Brunei, not just for the ladies but for the gentlemen too, they have to get the whole ensemble — from top to bottom. That means including buying their traditional headgear — the Songkok or the Kopiah as it is called in Brunei.

However, to describe what a songkok looks like to someone who has never seen one is actually quite hard. The closest that one can do would be to describe songkok as a type of oval brimless hat, resembling a skull h…

McArthur's 1904 Report - Make or Break for Brunei

In 1904, the British Government sent one officer, Malcolm Steward Hannibal McArthur to Brunei. MSH McArthur was then a British Official in the Malayan Civil Service. He was sent to Brunei, then a British Protectorate, with instructions to study the situation in Brunei and to make recommendations concerning the country's future administration.

This report is a make or break for Brunei. At that point in time, the Rajah Brooke family has made it no secret that they would like to absorb the last bit of 'Brunei' into Sarawak having taking over the Brunei territories of Sarawak since 1841. On the north, North Borneo Company was also expanding southwards towards Brunei proper until it got stopped at Trusan by Sarawak. Brunei as some would describe it was at its nadir. It was at its lowest point in history. Its survival was dependent on the report of one man - MSH McArthur.

McArthur spent six months in Brunei. In that time, he visited Belait and Tutong and Brunei Districts. His repo…

The Brunei Flag

A story about the difficulty of getting Brunei's flag to be flown during the British Residency era is not much known to us all. So I thought I will bring that story up.

When the British came back to Brunei in 1945, Brunei was placed under the British Military Administration (BMA). It was almost 2 years before the British Resident came back to Brunei. The British Resident, W.J. Peel, only flew the Union Jack flag in front of the main government office building, and to use the words from the book "Brunei Darussalam: The Road to Independence" written by our national historian, Pehin Jamil, and I quote 'as if he was the ruler of the country and the government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam was non-existent.'

Brunei's fledgling political party known as BARIP (Barisan Pemuda) or the Youth Front wrote to the Resident why the Brunei flag was not flown together with the British Union Jack. The British replied that he could not as the …

Bubungan Dua Belas

I am in Temburong today having arrived here yesterday afternoon together with the rest of the MOD team to prepare for today's ceremony. His Majesty will be awarding land titles and also government's assistance to flood victims. What was interesting is that all of us are staying at Teratak Cendana run by the District Office which used to be the residence of the District Officer in the 1970s. My father was the DO then and I used to live in this house. In fact I am even sleeping in my own old bedroom! For today, I am reposting an old post from my other blog.

Sometime last year, the Post Office issued stamps and first day cover to commemorate the 100 years of Bubungan Duabelas. Bubungan Duabelas is the oldest building in Brunei today and used to be official residence of the British Resident (based in Brunei beginning 1906) and in the mid 1950s, the official residence of the British High Commissioner. The British surrendered the house to Brunei Government sometime in the 1980s and t…

Brunei in Old Maps

Related to my obsession with history, is also another hobby of collecting old maps of Brunei. I have only recently started this hobby and currently only have 3 of these 19th century maps but they showed interesting aspects of Brunei and the region at a particular point in time.

This particular map was done sometime towards the third quarter of the 19th century. I can't exactly pinpoint when but obviously it was done when a whole lot of Sarawak has dissappeared from Brunei's control and Sabah is almost complete to becoming the modern Sabah of today.

Look closer and you will see that Brunei has managed to retain some areas of Bintulu, Miri and Baram and of course Limbang and on the Sabah side, Trusan was still under Brunei.

What interested me most of this map when I got it was those triangular shapes. In those days areas are calculated from the river banks. I cannot imagine any areas which have such sharp triangular shapes.

And what's even more amazing, this is 19th century map.…

How developed are we?

UNDP in its November 2007 reported that Brunei ranked
30th out of 177 countries in its Human Development Index statistics. We ranked 34th last year and 33rd the year before that. Two questions arise - what is the Human Development Index and how do we fare against others?

Unlike GDP per capita which measures income per capita, the HDI measures life expectancy, literacy, education, standard of living against the country's GDP per capita. It measures well-being and can determine whether a country is a developed, developing, or underdeveloped country.

So we ranked 30th - is that good? Judging by the data, it's hard to say. Overall, we are okay. But our index of 0.894 with an income of about US$28,000 per capita compared to Uruguay index of 0.85 and with an income only a third of Brunei (US$10,000) makes ours pale by comparison - we are not as efficient or more developed as Uruguay when based on our much higher GDP per capita. Drill down, our life expectancy ranked 36th, adult liter…

Our 102 Year Old National Flag

Yesterday was the raising of the giant Brunei flag ceremony. Our National Flag is 102 years old this year. I have written a few posts about the flag and here is one that I wrote in July 2006 about the history of the Brunei flag and which is as valid today as it was then.

On 3rd December 1905, Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin signed a Supplementary Agreement with the British which was significant for the relationship between the British Resident and the Sultan:

"His Highness will receive a British Officer, to be styled Resident, and will provide a suitable residence for him. The Resident will be the Agent and Representative of his Britannic Majesty's Government under the High Commissioner for the British Protectorate in Borneo, and his advice must be taken and acted upon on all questions in Brunei, other than those affecting the Mohammedan religion, in order that a similar system may be established to that existing in other Malay States now under protection."

The agreeme…

The Heroic Firemen of Bangar

Yesterday morning, we were told that Bangar had flooded and the water that has been flowing from the ulu and down the mountains had been non stop and bringing debris down with it. The Minister said we have to go to Bangar in the afternoon to have a quick check. I was quite nervous as it has been a while since I have been on a speed boat trip to Temburong. The last time must have been when my father was still the DO there way back in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have seen Temburong exactly three times, one on a cruise ship Tanjung Bakarang and the other two times visiting TAP's Bangar Branch when I was the head honcho for TAP (I went by car).

I am not particularly fond of rivers or seas or any water that I cannot see the bottom. I was trained to swim where the water is crystal clear and the bottom of the pool is visible. Anything else is not for me. But today there was a crisis and like it or not, here we go. And funnily enough, the journey was not that bad after all. Along th…

National Housing - New House Designs

In the first few days of my new job, I was taken to visit the Rimba Housing Area and the Telisai Housing Area to see the the progress of the housing development. I saw these interesting coloured houses and I thought it was one of those built it yourself house which many of you have seen by the Tungku Highway. I was quite surprised when the Housing Development officers told me that this is the new housing design.

I have to admit that I was quite impressed with the new design of the houses. Gone are the old style and in come the more up to market design complete with the more coordinated colours. I forgot to take my camera during those visits but during the Hari Mesra Pelanggan at the Ministry, the models of the houses were shown. So I thought I will showcase them here for you all to enjoy.

The one above is the standard model. The only difference between the two is the balcony and there is no attached bathroom for the master bedroom. Prices will be around $65k for the standard and around …

A Bridge Too Clear

On my first day when I reported for duty at my new ministry, after paying courtesy calls to both the Minister and the Deputy Minister, it was time for me to see my new office. After getting out of the lift on the 5th floor, my officers told me that my office is across this glass bridge. Horrors! I looked at the bridge and did a quick calculation whether a 180 kg person can walk across safely.

At that time I was thinking that I was more scared of this bridge than anything I had faced in the past. Who in their right mind would want to walk across a glass bridge? The problem is that I have been watching too many disasters documentaries on National Geographic channel. I asked whether there was anything holding it or whether there was any beam supporting it. They replied that there are two beams holding the bridge and that's on the sides and I told them that I am going to walk on the side then holding on to the handrails. I was immediately warned against doing that. Apparently due to so…

Chinese New Year

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all the people celebrating it today and the celebrations for the next 15 days. According to Chinese legends, the first celebration of the new year was the scaring away of an man eating dragon called the Nian. This dragon comes out every 12 months and to scare it away, the Chinese used explosions, fireworks and the liberal use of the colour red.

Because of the problems of keeping calendars during the Chinese dynasties, different dynasties celebrate it in different month. In Xia Dynasty, it was in the first month, in the Shang Dynasty the 12th and in Zhou Dynasty, it was in the 11th. Lunar calenders are shorter than solar calendars, and if one keeps to the lunar calendar, it will be out of sync with the seasons with the passing of the years. It was the introduction of intercalary months that the lunar calendar was able to be in sync with the solar calendar. It was Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty which established month 1 as the beginning of the year.

Old KB and Seria Photographs

My friends in KB and Seria sometimes complained I don't write enough about Kuala Belait and Seria. Despite the fact that I was born in Seria, I have to admit that I don't write enough about my birthplace. You have to remember Seria did not exactly exist prior to 1929 and most of its history is actually Shell's. Kuala Belait was also a tiny fishing village and it is Kuala Balai which used to be the capital for the district until oil was commercially produced. KB and Seria has relatively shorter history compared to Brunei or Tutong.

Anyway, I found some old colour photographs of Seria and Kuala Belait which I presumed is taken in the early 1970s. See if you can place them.

For my Chinese friends, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I have a little something for you to celebrate your new year with. Link here.

Foreign Stamps in Brunei

The above is a Sarawak stamp complete with a portrait of Charles Vyner Brooke. Look closely and you will see the word Brunei handstamped onto the stamp and dated sometime 2nd March 1946. For those of you who are both history challenged and postal knowledge challenged would wonder when we used Sarawak stamps in our country? And if that surprised you, look at the stamp below.

This is a North Borneo stamp also handstamped Brunei. North Borneo was the name for Sabah, in case you are wondering. What's the story behind both stamps?

In 1945, when the Allied Forces took over Brunei and the rest of Southeast Asia basically from the Japanese, they set up a temporary administration in all of the countries. These administrations were called British Military Administration and hence BMA. These administrations in starting up the government found that most of the local stamps that were in used at the local postal authorities were mutilated - local stamps being overprinted by the previous Japanese …

Brunei Blogs Worth Visiting

I was checking on who had been linking back to dailybr ever since I went back daily. Obviously the crowd that linked here last year was no longer there apart from a few who never updated their links. For the new links, I am quite surprised to see who they are. So I thought I will spend a bit of time on some of the more unusual sites that linked to the dailybr and returned the favour for their links. You might want to visit them too.

First is the whose aim is to bring paintball to everyone in Brunei. I fully symphatise with paintball enthusiasts ever since 2003 or was it 2004, when the first official letter was written asking for permission to begin the game here in Brunei. I am not sure whether any progress had been made since I saw that letter. But let me stir the water a bit. I was checking one of my former alma matter, the MIT (I cross registered for a course here) when I came across this particular news about US Army Officers Reserves Corps using paintabll to gain lea…

Brunei's Water

Sometimes we take things for granted that we don't really know how to value it anymore. Yesterday, we were discussing about water usage in Brunei and how much we have to prepare in order to ensure that Bruneians have enough water and that we do not have water shortages. There is a huge cost involved and not to mention building any reservoirs or dams would also affect our environment. So it is not as straight forward as people think.

Our Minister was asking does anybody realise what our water tariffs really pay for nowadays. Our water tariffs is that for the first 54.54 cubic meter, you pay only 11 cents per cubic meter. And you know how much is 54.54 cubic meter? That is equivalent to 54,540 litres of water. Any you want to know how much that is? You take a small bottle of sehat water, the size you normally buy which is around 600 ml, 54,540 litres would fit into 90,900 of that sehat water bottle!

And for 90,900 bottles, you only pay 11 cents per cubic meter. 11 cents per 1,000 litr…

The Tales of the Pancurs

There are 3 kampongs in Brunei with the Pancur, one in Brunei/Muara District and the other 2 in Tutong. Last year I made the mistake of identifying Pancur Murai as in Tutong, it is in fact in Brunei/Muara District.

According to the older folks, Kampung Pancur Murai was originally known as Pangkalan Imang. In those days, people especially local traders (called pengalu) come from the capital to the place via Sungai Imang. And Sungai Imang was not even a real river. It was just a watering hole and a villager named Kajimang dug a waterway and made it into a river. The waterway became known as Kajimang River and later as Imang River. The interesting bit is why does this name of Pangkalan Imang not stick?

Because the next story is more interesting. According to legends, the name Panchor Murai came about from the story of a Princess known as Puteri Bongsu Kembang Kiapu who had a guard named Samurai. The Princess was staying in a luagan - a small lake, and she wanted to take a bath from a pancu…

Note to self: Financial Planning!

I did more walking yesterday. This time to the other two districts. One of the housing project affecting some 1,000 houses was delayed due to the contractor not being able to start work and had been asking for extension. We have a choice of either extending him in the interest of helping local contractors at the cost of having 1,000 families not having their houses on time or not helping him and probably get the houses completed slightly faster by someone else (assuming that is this someone else does not also ask for an extension).

One project which I am happy to see was the water project at Labi. This $100 million project will ensure stable water supply for the Belait area for the next 10 years even with the Sungai Liang Park operating fully. Though interestingly enough the two major water tanks (really giant ones) at Andulau were placed at the roadside on the way to Labi. It has something to do with gravity etc.

Another reason I was down in KB was a report that some retirees from a ma…