Showing posts from March, 2008

Brunei's Highest Value Miniature Sheet

In 1996 when His Majesty celebrated his 50th birthday, our Postal Services issued Brunei's highest face value stamps ever. Five stamps in a miniature sheet each with a face value of $50 per stamp was issued. The miniature sheet was sold at $250 in a framed cover. This remained the most expensive face value item that the Postal Services had issued in its entire history (though in 2006, the postal services issued a $60 stamp to commemorate His Majesty's 60th birthday).

That miniature sheet now has a catalogue value of some $1,000 and almost impossible to find. I managed to find one - the last one in this particular philatelic agency I went to - and luckily not at the full catalogue value. According to the agency that sold it to me, it bought 10 in 1996 and only managed to sell all 10 in the period of about 12 years. This sheet must not be that popular because of the expensive cost.

Anyway, I have the feeling that not many have seen it and since it is quite attractive and not to me…

Brunei's $1 note 1911

For those expecting daily postings, my apologies. I was away in Singapore and only arrived back. I managed to visit a number of philatelist and numismatist agencies in Singapore and managed to find a few gems on Brunei and the region. When I arrived back, there were also a number of items that arrived from ebay.

One of them is the Straits Dollar $1 note of 1911. This is part of the 1906 to 1924 series which the Straits Settlement Government in Singapore issued. This note was legal tender in Brunei way back then. In 1906, the first British Resident McArthur passed a law which makes only the currencies issued by the Straits Settlement Government can be used in Brunei. Though not many Bruneians would have seen the $1 note then as $1 then is worth a lot lot lot more than the $1 of today.

Rural Tutong, Brunei's Different Side

[Note: I published the following article for my Golden Legacy column on Brunei Times 10th February 2008.]

TUTONG District with its capital Pekan Tutong or Tutong Town is sparsely populated compared to either Brunei/Muara or Belait Districts. Despite that, it is a unique district, so ethnically diverse that it presents, in fact, a completely different side of Brunei.

Even though only a half hour's drive from the hustle and bustle of Bandar Seri Begawan, it has a diverse culture and retained the unique lifestyle of rural Brunei.

It has an abundance of natural beauty ranging from the white sands of Pasir Puteh to the rocky outcroppings of the beautiful seaside beach of Pantai Seri Kenangan and all the way inland to the scenic and mysterious Tasek Merimbun, a serpentine lake surrounded by swamps and hundred years old burial grounds.

The natives or the locals of Tutong speak the Tutong language, a language which is completely different compared to the other native languages in Brunei w…
During the weekend, I got into a conversation with one of my older brother in laws and he started telling me all sorts of things that happened when he was still living there. The conversation went around to the subject of fishing.

He described a way of catching prawns called merigis. At that time I could not imagine it but he described as something that you go around in a boat making a noise using an instrument called rigis. Apparently the prawns could not stand the sound and out they will come and jumped into the boat! Your boat has to be appropriately fitted to catch the flying prawns.

I found a photograph of 'merigis' but I am still not sure what equipment 'rigis' is that can make a sound so terrifying to the prawns. More of this in the future.

Old Brunei Photographs

I got an e-mail with the following photographs taken of Brunei around 1970s and probably older. These are interesting as I have not seen these photographs before but they are good quality ones for a change.

The bottom three are scenes from the old Tamu which used to be the triangular area immediately behind the Jardine Wharf Building. What do you mean you don't know the Jardine Wharf Building? That's the dilapidated building immediately facing the Padang next to the IBB Takaful Building. That's the building seen in the first photograph. There is an interesting hexaganol shape just at the corner of the padang. I can't quite remember what it was used for but if I am not mistaken, for a time it was used by the parking attendants.

Brunei in Asia Magazine 1968

[Note: I am not in Brunei currently. I am recycling materials I posted on my Golden Legacy blogspot (not the newspaper Golden Legacy) where I did some of my writings when I stopped writing for BR last year.]

Remember The Asia Magazine? You don't? I guess you are not old enough then.

The Asia Magazine used to be given away with The Borneo Bulletin many years ago. Then the Borneo Bulletin was only a weekly edition and The Asia Magazine was the accompanying magazine. Nowadays our two national dailies don't give anything anymore which is sad. When I was studying in England, I used to love the Sunday newspapers. The first Sunday I was there, I bought every single one of them. All of them had magazines and it was fun. Later on I stuck to a few but the magazines that accompanied them was the fun bit.

Anyway, this particular copy of the magazine I got especially from the internet for about US$20 I think. I can't remember what price I auctioned it for. I got this one dated 13th Octobe…

Save Water - Save the Environment

According to Department of Water Services yesterday, we used about 450 litres of water a day for which we only get charged 5 cents (if you had to buy Sehat Water, that will be equal to $240). How do we use up 450 litres a day? On average, you used up about half that to take your bath and your shower; about 12% to flush the toilet, 5% to wash clothes, 5% for your plants, 5% for cleaning yourself after toilet, 4% to wash your car, 4% to wash the toilet, 3% to wash the dishes and the remainder for other things.

There are many ways to save water. If you turn off your shower while soaping you can save 155 litres a day, if you use half flush (if your toilet has half flush) you can save about 29 litres a day, if you water your plants using a watering can, you can save another 91 litres a day. There are many ways to save water.

The problem is that the demand for water in Brunei is increasing. The government cannot keep on supplying water without damaging the environment. We already have a few d…

World Water Day

In Brunei, not many people realised just how much water we used that the possibility of running out of water is not an impossibility. I remembered sometime last year, the Minister of Development, now my Minister, stated in a speech that each of us Bruneians consumed almost 400 litres of water per day or the equivalent of about 300 bottles of SEHAT water every single day. What is that in comparison to our neighbouring countries? In Singapore, each Singaporean only consumes 160 litres a day, in Hong Kong 203 litres a day and in Tokyo, the Japanese only consumed 260 litres a day. So 400 litres is a lot of water to be consumed by us Bruneians. You may want to ask yourself why that is so. Is it any hotter here compared to Singapore? Or are we any cleaner, say, compared to the Japanese?

Last January, when U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, his primary focus surprisingly was not on the impending global economic recession but on our wor…

A Matter of Crowns

Someone asked on the comment box about the crown worn by HM Sultan Omar Ali and HM Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah. I remembered our own Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah wearing an elaborate crown during his coronation in 1968. I remembered having that photograph somewhere in my hard disk. I had to search a bit to find HM Sultan Omar Ali's photograph during his coronation in 1951 (31st May). Here are both of them and here are the two different crowns.

Maulidin Rasul 1429 Hijra

Last year I remembered describing that I was watching television the night before the Maulid when there was someone from the Religious Affairs Ministry talking about the history of Maulud Nabi or as we now call it Maulidin Rasul - the ceremony to commemorate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad SAW. I was quite intrigued as he was talking about how grand the first celebration was which was surprisingly only held a few hundred years after the death of the Prophet.

It seemed that the first tribe to hold the ceremony was Bani Ubaid Al-Qoddakh who call themselves 'Fatimiyyah' and this tribe came from the Syiah Rafidhah. They entered the City of Cairo in 977 (362 Hijra) and since then the practice of holding maulid spread.

It was not just Maulidur Rasul which was celebrated by the Fatimiyyah but also members of Rasulullah's Family such as Zainab, Hassan and Hussain. They also celebrated other prophet's birthday including that of Nabi Isa A.S. In 488 Hijra, Prime Minister al-Afdal…

National Car Workshop?

It's only three days into my mandatory leave and I am trying to get rid of all the stresses of my life. So, I am not into anything serious, no siree... Not even on the blog. Today is the not so serious stuff. I have time to go through my photographs collection - about 22 CDs full of old black and white Brunei photographs from a friend of mine who burned them from ... let's just say somewhere ... in the government.

I found this intriguing photograph of a workshop in Seria, photo taken around 1950s. My university lecturer would say look at this photograph and what does it tell you? Lots of things. For instance why would a workshop like this be allowed to call itself the National Workshop? Seria only had 3 digit telephone numbers?! Lots of other things in that photo.

Brunei's Beauty Queen Pageant

In the 1950s and 1960s, Brunei still have beauty queen pageants. In those days, I was told that the contestants did not wear bikinis or swimming suits but the much more modest baju kebaya. But even then those were the days. I don't know who these winners were. It would be interesting if they could tell us how it was like in those days.

No Water in Kampong Ayer

Throughout its existence Kampong Ayer residents only had the waters of the river but that water can be salty and normally water is taken from elsewhere.

One of the interesting place names near Sungai Kebun is called Ayer Terkunci or Locked Water. This name was derived if I am not mistaken when the Americans or British mining for coal and oil had water tanks. The water tanks had taps which of course can be turned off or 'locked'. Hence, the area known as Ayer Terkunchi.

The other source of water was the small river near the British Residency or Bubungan Duabelas. The water was piped from the river down to the riverbank and many small boys were asked to go there with all sorts of pots etc to fetch water. If the pots are too heavy, the boat can flip over. The boys then were always scared of being scolded by their parents and the boys would literally flung themselves overboard to retrieve the pots from the river bottom.

Piped water direct to Kampong Ayer started either in 1930s or 19…

Our Young Ruler

I am starting my two week leave (my very first double digit leave in about 5 years, would you believe) from today. But today is also my son's birthday party, so I don't really have much time to update this blogsite from today onwards. Technically I have plenty of time but I rather spend it catching up at the museum and searching for hidden treasures at the tamu and elsewhere.

I did a little bit of spring cleaning last night and I found this photo on a Brunei Times supplement sometime last year or the year before. You would not believe that this cheeky little boy is now our beloved ruler. I thought this photograph is rather cute. It is actually much bigger than this on BT's supplement last year.

Bunut - the 1st Perpindahan

Tomorrow's Golden Legacy column on Brunei Times will be my article on the history of public housing in Brunei. I wish I had more words but I am limited to about 1,000 words and that's not a lot. When I first started writing for BT, the column space I had was limited to 800 words (about 3 column space) but I regularly submitted about 1,200 words (now with one or two photographs, about half a page).

It is interesting that despite the government's efforts as early as 1906 when the British Resident declared that he would like Bruneians to move onto dry land, no systematic efforts were made to do so. It was not until 1952 when the first systematic program was made to move a group of villagers from Kampong Pengiran Bendahara Lama in Kampong Ayer to Kampong Bunut in Mukim Kilanas. The area that was allocated for the program was some 56 acres.

Twenty eight families were allocated two acres each. This enabled them to build a house and to plant fruit trees. The mostly wooden houses we…

A Bruneian in Hiroshima in 1944

In 1944, when the Americans dropped the two atomic bombs over Nagasaki and Hiroshima during the Second World War, not many people know that, our elderly statesman Pengiran Haji Mohd Yussof was a student at the Hisroshima Bunrika Daigaku school Hiroshima. Pengiran Yusof survived the bombing and eventually became the State Secretary in 1964 and Menteri Besar in 1967. Along the way he was made a a Cheteria and carry the title Pengiran Setia Negara, he also wrote the lyrics to our national anthem as well as a number of books. He was also formerly an Ambassador to Japan and currently is a member of the Legislative Council.

I first read Pengiran Setia Negara's personal account of the Hiroshima bombing when I was in Primary 4. At that time, an excerpt of his account was part of the stories in my Malay comprehension text book. I was not sure where the excerpt came from. Last year, I came across his book entitled "Barat-Timbur dan Bom Atom" which was published by DBP Malaysia in 2…

Economic Growth

This table is what my JPKE (Economic Planning and Development Department) colleagues love to highlight to me. During the last Leg Co, only one member if I am not mistaken raised this issue - the government's under capacity to spend despite the ability to have money. This problem I can assure you is what other countries love to have but a problem we don't need.

Every year, all agencies are given a sum of money to spend under the RKN which amounts to some $1 billion a year. Out of that amount, sometimes only as much as 30% are spent. Some people might think 'oh that's good, the amount unspent gets saved'... Well, technically yes. If you don't spend it, then the government gets to keep the money and use it another year or invest it. But economically, it's not so good. Any $1 the government spends is $1 that gets into circulation. And that $1 can go a long way depending on many factors. Imagine $1 that gets paid to contractors who in turn pay their workers who t…

The Leg Co Debates and the Environment

Today will be the end of the current session of the Leg Co. Members will be making their speeches and it's back to one speech per member in the main Council. Over the last few days, the Council sat as a Committee making a free for all and asking as many questions as the Speaker lets them. I have not been able to sit in all of them but the four members of the four districts compared to the other members have been particularly full of questions which no doubt are fed from their constituents. I have been following the debates over the last 3 years and the style of questioning too has been changing. You would get the members first doing a little praise and then coming in with the thorny question. This is more akin towards the British MPs which I used to follow back in the 1980s. I just wished we have longer session especially in approving the legislations.

A couple of members stood out and hopefully they will continue to do so in the future. But what is frustrating is still the lack of…

Roads Galore...

There were many questions about roads yesterday at the Leg Co. So I thought why not post the entire list of RKN roads that will be built from April 2008 onwards for the next 5 years. I have been told that projects can be added on later. Here are pages 192 to 194 of the NDP including that bridge ........


Seria History in Brief

Everytime I go to Seria, I remembered the Shell Wooden House at Lorong 2 - my aunty's house and my birthplace. I was born in that house and where today's birth certificates mostly say RIPAS or any of the major hospitals in Brunei, my birth certificate says "Wooden House, ****"

But Seria is still a new town relatively speaking. Carved out of the swamps for the oil company. It was once known as Padang Berawa (Wild Piegon field). The town sat on extensive marsh and peat swamp. It was cleared to allow for oil exploration work. The only structure standing in the 1920s were two nipah roofed, log ladder houses occupied by the exploration company crews. Soon after provision shops sprouted, catering for workers working on the oil fields. It began with two rows of wooden and kajang roofed shops. As work on the oil field intensified, the town too grew.

The Tobacco Smoking Tradition in Brunei

[Note: I wrote this for my Golden Legacy column on Brunei Times' Sunday 17th February 2008 edition. No wonder sometimes it is a uphill battle for the health authorities to eliminate smoking.]

IN DAYS of yore, a Brunei man sat on the steps of his house on the Brunei River rolling a piece of leaf with tobacco, lighting it and inhaling the smoke without a care in the world. In those days, the scene was one of tranquillity, about Brunei being quite literally an abode of peace.

Today, such a scene is no longer tolerated. Health concerns have taken such a serious turn that even Friday sermons at the mosques cite the dangers of smoking as well as the sins that one may be committing by unnecessarily endangering oneself by inhaling all the poisons from cigarettes — and endangering others by exhaling them. With such high levels of warning, the Brunei "sigup" or cigarette is almost nowhere to be found.

But then, the Brunei "sigup" has disappeared many many years ago. It was …

Leg Co - the old days

Nothing much today. I spent my Friday desperately trying to complete my Sunday article for the Golden Legacy column on Brunei Times about the history of the Brunei's Legislative Council. You have to buy tomorrow's Brunei Times if you do want to read it with the nice photographs.

For those who don't want to wait till tomorrow to see the photos, attached are two of them. The first is a Legislative Council meeting in 1948 with Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin chairing and the second in 1952 with Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin. Compared to the grand and opulent building of today, those days were very much less.

Day 3 Leg Co

I can only talk about a bit of yesterday's Leg Co afternoon sessions. I was only able to attend for a couple of hours yesterday but I was told that a lot of the more interesting discussions took place in the morning. Currently the members are still in committee session and going through the individual ministries and departmental budgets and approving them one by one. Technically questions about the budget should be raised but members take the opportunity to ask related matters to the ministry or department concerned.

Nobody asked anything during Foreign Affairs and Defence budgets which surprised me. Plenty of questions there. Lots of questions for departments under the PMO. The only one I managed to listen to was the Belait member asking whether with the new Lumut Methanol Plant this will have any impact on the supply of electricity to Belait (Electrical Department comes under the Energy Division, PMO). One member raised two popular issues - higher bonuses for government officers …

Day 2 Leg Co

It was an interesting day yesterday. After the pomp and ceremony on the first day of the Leg Co, yesterday the members got down to business. The first order of the day was the notified questions. This is the time when members ask question to the government members in advance. This allows the government members to prepare and when called upon the various ministers stood up to answer the questions. This would have been a wonderful opportunity if members of the public had asked one of the sittng members to post a question. This feature, common place in other parliaments were not in the new Brunei Leg Co until this year.

The questions were interesting ranging from that bridge (yes again) to TAP to narcotics. The various answers given by the ministers were okay - remember, they were notified and therefore prepared. What's not in place is the 'supplementaries'. In most other parliaments, the supplementary question is a place where the minister after giving a glorious answer to t…

The Leg Co Members

A few people asked me how to get in touch with the members of the Legislative Council and whether that can be done. I asked them whether they knew who the members were and most indicated the negative. So I thought I will do a service and put the members faces up which yesteday's opening session program has kindly provided. The full list I have made available since 2005 on my library website The council is made up of all the government ministers as ex-officio members and appointed members made up of members of the public representing the communities, businesses and the mukims and kampongs. In fact the ketua kampong institutions is an alternative mechanism - get issues of your kampong to be brought up by the ketua kampong and he can contact the Leg Co representative.

A New Leg Co!

Today is the start of the Legislative Council since it reconvened in 2004. I won't say much but look forward to it. I wrote about it last year which you read here and I also wrote about it in 2006 which you can read here.

The very first Council meeting took place on the 29th June 1907 with the following members in attendance i.e. the Sultan Muhammad Jemalul Alam, the Acting Resident H Chevallier, the Pengiran Bendahara Pengiran Muhammad bin Pengiran Tajuddin, the Pengiran Pemancha, the Pengiran Shahbandar bin Pengiran Anak Ismail, the Pengiran K[erm]aindera bin Pengiran Suma, Dato Perdana Menteri H. Abdul Rahman bin H. Othman, Jawatan Abubakar, and the acting assistant resident JC Sugars. The two absentees on the day were Tuan Imam bin Jambul and Orangkaya Laksamana bin H. Nuruddin. The Brunei State Council, known as Majlis Mesyuarat Negeri in Malay, functioned for little more than half a century from 1907 until the promulgation of the Brunei Constitution on 29 September 1959. Duri…

Help me, please....

I read the attempted suicide on Leo and I blogsite about that guy off the Gadong overhead pass. In the first place, I am not even sure whether that guy wanted to commit suicide or otherwise. Whatever the merit of his case, it does raise to one big issue. We either in the government or among the NGOs do not have an outlet in whatever form for anyone to ask and be counseled. If there is, it sure is hidden.

I only know of dialing 141 where you can call JAPEM (Development and Community Development Department) if you want to ask for assistance (I am not sure if this number covers suicide help) but other than that, I have not seen any. I don't know if the hospital does it. Someone correct me please if I am wrong.

I remembered when I was beginning my Masters in the States, I was surprised that our whole group was asked to attend a depression counselling session. Apparently the university had experiences in the past about overseas students facing depression studying there. Depression comes …

Conservation versus Development

I was at the ICC yesterday for the opening of the ISB Borneo Global Issues Conference VI by Her Royal Highness Pengiran Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah. I was very impressed with her delivery. I was also impressed with the organisation of the whole affair bearing in mind I did not see a single Adat Istiadat people. Protocols were correct. But most importantly it was not a boring opening.

We had Monty Halls of Animal Planet and Alison Cronin, Director of Monkey World-Ape Rescue Centre, also another Animal Planet presenter. Monty Halls was a very dynamic and inspirational speaker. With his humourous touch, the whole opening was made that much more livelier. Though he did remind me a bit of that British actor Monty Price. He also brought reality into what goes on if anyone wants to be a nature conservationist. I thought that was really good. It is a lot of hard work but in the end, you get a planet that is safe to live in complete with its biodiversity.

The Borneo Global Issues Conference has n…

The Royal Brunei Police and My Grandfather

Within the last 7 days there were 20 thefts according to the papers. I thought that was a bit worrying. I spent my Thursday evening and early Friday morning researching about the Brunei Police for my Sunday Brunei Times weekly column. That recent statistics was a far cry compared to Brunei in the early 20th century.

I discovered that in those years, murder, rape and armed robbery were virtually unknown even theft was considered as rare. Luckily for the Brunei Police in the early years as it was manned by a detachment of sikhs from Labuan considered relatively inefficient. According to records at the end of 1914, there were only 14 people who had ever been held. At the end of 1936, there were only 2 people who were actually in jail then.

Brunei prior to 1904 did not have a single policeman. As soon as McArthur was appointed as the first British Resident in 1906, among his first act was to get two policemen from Labuan who was a Pathan and a Sikh. After this there was a detachment of Sikh…