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 agreement was also co-signed by the Principal Wazirs at that time: Pengiran Bendahara Sri Maharaja Permaisuara Pangiran Anak Besar Muhammad bin Pengiran Anak Muhammad Tajuddin; and, Pengiran Pemancha Sahib ul-Rae' Wal Mushuarat Pengiran Anak Muhammad Saleh bin Pengiran Maharaja Lela Sahib ul-Kahar Pengiran Anak Abdul Kahar. In agreeing to establish a full protectorate, it allows the British to be responsible for defence and external affairs and to appoint a local Resident to advise the Sultan. This advise extended to the finer points of modern administration, the raising of revenue and fiscal control, although interference in the internal administration of the sultanate forbidden.

The signing of the 1906 agreement also brought into existence the national flag in its present form, except for the crest which was added in 1959. Prior to 1906, Brunei Darussalam did not have a national flag but personal standards were widely used which were granted by the Sultan. The standards belonging to His Majesty (yellow) and the four Wazirs (Viziers) - Pengiran Bendahara (white), Pengiran Digadong (green), Pengiran Pemancha (black) and Pengiran Temenggong (purple) - were the most important. (The title Pengiran Perdana Wazir as the head of the Wazirs was created in 1970).

The colour scheme of the Brunei Darussalam flag adopted in 1906 was therefore the colours of the principal signatories to the 1906 Agreement which were the colours of the Sultan (yellow), Pengiran Bendahara (white) and Pengiran Pemancha (black). So you know where the Brunei flag colours come from. It is not known who was the principal proponent for the Brunei flag and the use of the Brunei colours - most likely it was done by a committee. So, this year, 2008 marks 102 years that the Brunei flag had been in use.

However, the current Brunei flag together with the crest was adopted on 29th September 1959 with the promulgation of the 1959 Brunei Constitution. The mast and pedestal of the crest represent the three levels of government. The elements of the crest are the flag (Bendera) and the Royal Umbrella (Payong Ubor-Ubor) based on ancient royal regalia. The wings (Sayap), each made up of four feathers symbolize justice, tranquility, peace and prosperity. The hands (Kimhap) signify that the government preserves and promotes the welfare of the citizens. The crescent (Bulan) stands for Islam, the state religion. The state slogan, written in Arabic script on the crescent means 'Always in Service with God's guidance'. The name of the state 'Brunei Darussalam' appears on the ribbon or the scroll.


Anonymous said…
Assalamualaikum Mr. Resourceful,

Just to find out from you, because i've been asked by foreigner eons ago ... and to my shame, i didnt know the answer (and still dont) ... WHY 23rd of February, being chosen as our NATIONAL DAY? what's the significant of that date? Hope you can help. From a proud but clueless bruneian.
Anonymous said…
Bravo! Love to see our flag in old days illustration..without crest though. Its 102 years old now...that means it was adopted in 1902, Only Philippines was older 1898 while Indonesia 1945, Malaysia 1963,Thailand 1917 and
Singapore 1959 - are all much younger. That shows how Brunei statehood was very much established. Another interesting thing was the originality of the design..the uniqueness. And I don't know if other countries have personal flags for the top offcicals like, the Sultan and royal family members, cheterias, pehins etc if Tuan BR can shed some light on this...

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