Friday, February 29, 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 Highway at Bukit Beruang. There will be a new linkroad to Terunjing as well. Plus the Seria bypass double carriageways.

Those who travel regularly on the highways would be fascinated with the Third Carriageway on Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Highway. There are lots of other projects throughout the four districts which you can read for yourself, but of Jalan Tutong, I could only find one - a flyover at Babu Raja/Jalan Tutong junction. Okay... that would be okay if I am heading that way but I am not. So I could only assume improvements to Jalan Tutong will come under one big project - "upgrading of high density roads in all districts". Jalan Tutong better be in there....

Thursday, February 28, 2008

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.

At the end of the 19th century, Brunei was certainly in a dire strait. The Sultan too has lost his main income especially when Limbang was forcibly taken away in 1890. The Sultan knew that he had no choice if he wanted to run services in the country including a postal service, even though the deal was decried as unorthodox and the 1895 stamps in some quarters were not acceptable and labelled as 'bogus.' But the Sultan used the then concept of PPP by having someone else print the stamps and then run the post office at no cost to him. In fact he managed to keep all the local proceeds as well. What could be more PPP than that?

Similarly, the Sultan also agreed to coins being minted by a private corporation of which he gets to keep half of the approximately 1 million coins being minted in Birmingham. At no cost to him or the government, the Sultan was able to have a postal service as well as a modern currency. Whether it was intentional or otherwise, PPP was certainly the norm for Brunei more than 110 years ago.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

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 their retirement while they sort out what they want to do next. These people ought to know better. They ought to have settled their housing problem much earlier. But they know they could get away with it because it has been done before. The lady in the earlier story thinks she can get away with it. She probably has been told that sob cases might be given priority.

This is worrying. Why? We, Bruneians are so dependent on the government that we stopped taking care of ourselves. If the debts get too much, the debtor will try to go to Treasury and see if they can reduce their government housing loans or their government car loans. They don't go to the banks to see if they can reduce their bank loans because they know the banks will not give it to them. The debtor will not want to build a house or prepare for one because they know the government will eventually give them a house. Even if they don't pay for it in the end, they know we can't kick them out of the house. This behaviour goes on and on. We don't worry about our health that much because the government gives our medication for free. We don't save for our education because the government gives university education for free. We don't pay for our rubbish collection because we expect the government to pick up the rubbish for free. We don't pay for people to cut the grass outside our house because we expect the government to cut them for us for free. We don't pay for our water or our electrcity because we expect the government to provide them for free. In the end, we stopped saving and we stopped caring.

Economists (and my minister) call this moral hazard. Moral hazard arises because we do not have to bear the full consequences of our actions, therefore we have a tendency to act less carefully than we otherwise would, leaving someone else to bear responsibility for the consequences of our actions. But it is not just us. The depressed global economy is a result of moral hazard - the subprime crisis.

I really wish I am Superman.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

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 1895.

These are $1 stamps issued in 1895. One has a postmark of August 1896.

If I could ask or beg, if there are artists out there, drawing old Brunei scenes, can we have drawings of these boats and not of the padians?

Monday, February 25, 2008

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 made reference to our non tax paying status, our oil wealth, our shellfare state and the mosque. It was still a pleasant place for the writers to walk around, and to live. There were a score of handsome buildings being built, far too many automobiles and one of the largest memorial in the world to Sir Winston Churchill. This one has at least changed. Sometimes it's kinda scary when things don't change....

There were a number of photographs in the article. Some interesting ones including that of HRH Prince Jefri in a mod suit taken at a reception at the British High Commission. I was wondering what was in the mind of the writers then.

A number of them showed Brunei you wouldn't have recognised anyway whether then or now. These included photographs of the jungle, baboons and proboscis monkeys. Visits to long houses (the old ones, you wouldn't recognise today's longhouses), works of foundry and photographs of the army on training. In fact, to be honest, I wasn't sure where the article was going. It was just a plain old reporting about Brunei. Maybe that's how they do National Geographic articles in the 1970s.

The writers also visited Melilas and took photographs like this one.

Anyway, if it wasn't for some historical interest, I wouldn't really put all that much to this article on National Geographic. Search for it by all means and keep it but you wouldn't find it that interesting.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

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 administration capabilities."

"I have spoken to His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam many times on these subjects."

"I think the biggest problem of oil-producing states is that their citizens feel that the world will provide for them whatever they do or don't do, and that is a very demotivating problem."

"How do you get rid of it? I don't know, it is very difficult to say. Let me put it simply, it is not meant to criticise you, but I would say straightaway that if Singapore has Brunei's per barrel per capita, we wouldn't have today's Singapore."

"It is because Singaporeans know and we keep on reminding them that this is all they have, and if they don't make use of it and train themselves and learn how to play those instruments and work the computers, they are going to go very hungry."

"So they exert themselves, and that is why we are here. But once we are here, we keep on building the capabilities, we build the infrastructure so that your brain, your fingers and your organisations can lift your people up to a higher level."

"Which is what happens with developed countries. We have seen it. It is not a news analysis. It is what has happened with the Americans, Europeans, the Japanese, and what the Chinese and Indians would be doing."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

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 nilainya yang tersendiri untuk diambil manfa'at oleh bangsa dan negara.

Belia adalah aset negara. Kerana itu, agenda pembinaan belia adalah amat penting untuk diberikan fokus. Mereka yang dibangun itu akan menjadi cemin kepada corak kepimpinan masa yang penuh dengan teka-teki.

Jika mereka baik, maka kita pun bolehlah tersenyum lega, tetapi jika mereka menjadi insan yang cair moraI, maka akan merintihlah negara memikul bebannya.

lnilah yang merisaukan kita. Di hadapan kita sedang terpapar tanda-tanda yang tidak menyenangkan. Statistik telah menjelaskan, bahawa tahun 2007 sahaja, sebanyak 732 tangkapan kerana menyalahgunkan dadah telah dilakukan, yang melibatkan 606 orang lelaki dan 126 perempuan. Dari jumlah ini, 649 orang adalah warga tempatan, 35 penduduk tetap dan selebihnya adalah warga asing.

Kemudian paling mengejutkan ialah, majoriti penagih, seramai 664 orang adalah orang Melayu, cuma 27 Cina dan selebihnya bangsa lain.

Tidakkah ini satu cerita rnalang kepada bangsa? Di manakah Tunas Bangsa? Di mana generasi pemimpin yang bakal lahir 20, 30 tahun akan datang dari kalangan Tunas Bangsa itu?

Bolehkah mereka lahir selaku pemimpin unggul, jika dari tunas lagi mereka telah lemah dilemahkan oleh dadah?

Ejen pembawa perubahan, seperti institusi keluarga, institusi pendidikan, dakwah, media dan lain-lain, perlu melihat perkara ini dengan keinsafan yang mendalam, supaya kita dapat sama-sarna fokus bagaimana mengubat dan sekaligus melahirkan modal insan yang berkualiti.

Selain itu, satu fenomena lain yang juga turut merisaukan kita ialah meningkatnya indeks jenayah. lni juga adalah menjadi beban yang berat kepada negara.

Menurut data, tangkapan terhadap pelbagai kes adalah meningkat sehingga 23 peratus.

Jenayah yang paling kerap berlaku dalam tiga tahun kebelakangan ini, ialah jenayah curi, iaitu pada tahun lalu sahaja ada sebanyak 443 kes, berbanding tahun 2006 sebelumnya, sebanyak 359 kes lni tidak termasuk kes-kes jenayah lain.

Tetapi ada lagi laporan mutakhir menyebut, bahawa jenayah harta benda adalah paling banyak dilaporkan iaitu sebanyak 2,030 kes atau 60 peratus dari keseluruhan indeks jenayah. Sementara jumlah total kes jenayah yang telah dicatat pada tahun 2007 ialah 4,519 kes.

Laporan juga seterusnya menyebut, bahawa jenayah 'kekerasan rompak' menunjukkan peningkatan sebanyak 100 peratus.

Para penjenayah adalah terdiri daripada lelaki dan perempuan yang berumur antara 19 dan 35 tahun, termasuk 57 orang adalah penuntut.

Jenayah yang bertambah adalah satu perkara, sementara pelakunya puIa, yang terdiri daripada para belia, adalah perkara yang lain lagi.

Siapakah belia-belia ini, kalau bukan mereka yang kita panggil sebagai 'Tunas Bangsa?' Tunas Bangsa telah menjadi penjenayah. lnikah dia Tunas Bangsa itu?

Kita, janganlah hanya sedap dan seronok menyebut statistik-statistik jenayah, dan bermegah dengan slogan 'Tunas Bangsa', tetapi yang penting, kita mesti tumpaskan jenayah, apa pun bentuknya, untuk kesejahteraan rakyat dan penduduk, serta juga supaya para pelancong dan pelabur tidak akan takut-takut untuk datang ke negara ini. Sementara para 'Tunas Bangsa' pula mestilah betul-betul menjadi tunas yang sihat, yang turut berusaha mewujudkan Negara Brunei Darussalam yang bebas jenayah.

lnilah patriotisme sejati, di mana kita semua - sepatutnya - sama-sama menjadi penyelamat.

Di samping memberikan perhatian kepada hal ehwal dalaman, kita juga akan terus meningkatkan hubungan baik dan persefahaman dengan negara-negara sahabat, serta bekerjasama pada mengukuhkan kestabilan politik, ekonomi dan sosial sejagat.

Kita juga insya Allah, akan terus aktif dalam menjadikan rantau ASEAN sebagai sebuah rantau yang dinamik dan kompetitif, di samping turut menjanjikan kualiti hidup yang tinggi bagi penduduknya.

Akhirnya, Beta dengan ikhlas, merakamkan ucapan penghargaan dan rasa terima kasih kepada ahli-ahli Jawatankuasa Tertinggi dan Iain-lain Jawatankuasa Sambutan Perayaan UIang Tahun Kedua Puluh Empat Hari Kebangsaan, dan semua peserta serta petugas yang turut berusaha menjayakan perayaan Inl.

Beta juga tidak lupa untuk merakamkan penghargaan dan ucapan terima kasih yang tulus ikhlas kepada sekalian rakyat dan penduduk yang Beta kasihi, termasuk semua peringkat ahli Perkhidmatan Awam, Pasukan-Pasukan Keselamatan serta mereka yang berkhidmat di sektor swasta.

Sekian Wabillahit Taufik Walhidayah Wassalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.

Friday, February 22, 2008

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 nice of him. I will not try to summarise the letter but I thought I will reproduce it here. It approached the problem from a different angle but I found that refreshing. We all as civil servants can learn a lot from it:-

"I found your social problems case study very interesting. There appears to be no formal provision for a response, but let me make some observations, as a challenge to keep you thinking! Your response to these social problems is mainly about bureaucratic organisation - what officials do - but aren't social problems, of their nature, about non-official behaviour? It seemed to me that the people whose behaviour is being complained about don't seem to be active participants in this analysis; their behaviour is the consequence of their 'deficiencies' and the actions of bureaucrats.

Take your example (a good one) of teenage single mothers as a social problem, with the linked problem of babies being abandoned. What if you started from the premise that sexual activity between males and females is in fact normal, but that all societies have rules to regulate sexual activity, but that these rules are being challenged in Brunei and elsewhere. The idea that all sexual activity must be contained within marriage, and that this rule will be enforced by moral pressure, is under pressure right round the world.

One response to this pressure, in Brunei and elsewhere, is denial. Since sexual activity outside marriage is illegitimate, there will be no instruction about sexuality, no discussion of its impact on human relation, except to those who are about to marry. As a result, a number of teenage girs become pregnant. Would it be fair to say tht in Brunei, the policy response to these pregnancies is extreme stigmatisation combined with criminal prosecution and forced marriage, and not surprisingly, girls often respond by attempting to conceal the pregnancy and even the birth. Abandonment of the child is, you say, rare, but the doctors at RIPAS say that a much greater problem is that the girls will not come for ante-natal care, endangering the life and health of both mother and baby.

'Come to the doctor,' they say, 'I am a medical professional and will not tell anyone that you are pregnant'. Well, perhaps not, but the clerks outside are not medical professionals and they will copy the girl's details and pass them on to Religious Affairs and the religious police will turn up, fine the family $3,000 and compel the girl to marry the boy. So girls, who no official sources of advice open to them, often try to avoid this outcome by hiding the pregnancy, and they and the baby suffer. Does this sound like a lack of coordination to you? If so, how would 'better coordination' resolve it? Or does it compel us to look more closely at the problem? Is the problem that the girl had sexual relations, or that she got pregnant, or that once she was pregnant, there is very little help for her, only various forms of punishment?

Do you see what I mean about including the people we're talking about at subject, actors in this drama, and not simply as the objects of our plans? If you look through your report and say 'who are the actors here?', would it be true to say that they are officials and that the role of girls (and presumably boys, who seem to have some part to play in all this) is to listen to instruction from adults about the things that they must not do - and as you say, it's not evident that preaching at young people has much effect on their sexual behaviour. Does thinking about social problems push us to look at the way in which the working of the bureaucratic machine impacts on our everyday life? It's easy to make speeches; almost as easy to enact laws; the question is (as you recognised) whether these have any impact. There are now laws requiring all childreen carried in cars to be restrained with seat belts; what impact do you think this has had? Perhaps the first requirement of good analysis of social problems is humility among officials!

Thanks for the discussion. I hope that my comments are helpful."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

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 jokingly told one of the architects whether he can move the AHU, he looked at me horrifyingly. Hmm... [Note to self: Remember, PS of MOD cannot talk about moving infrastructure to serious looking architects even if meant as a joke.]

Anyway, back to my senior architect friend. He told me that the MOF building is not the highest building structure in Brunei. I just could not imagine any taller structure than the MOF Building. But he said that there are taller structures and not many people realised it.

Anyway, .... drum rolls ...., according to my architect friend, the tallest building structure in Brunei is the minaret, not of SOAS Mosque but of the Lambak Kanan Mosque. In fact, the Lambak Kanan Mosque which is situated on top of a hill has two minarets, so there are two tall structures in Brunei. The Lambak Kanan Mosque has a twin - the Kampong Pandan Mosque in Kuala Belait with exactly the same design which also meant that it has 2 minarets. So there are 4 minarets in Brunei Darussalam which hold the title for the tallest building structures in Brunei.

These 4 minarets are about 60+ meters tall each. Remember, when measuring heights of tall buildings, everything is taken into account, including the pinnacle and what nots connected at the top. The SOAS Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan has a tall minaret but not as tall as the one in Lambak Kanan and Kampong Pandan. The SOAS Mosque minaret is around 52 meters.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

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 da3wah)
dewan - hall (from Persian دیوان/diwan)
duka - sadness (from Sanskrit duhkha)
dunia - world (from Arabic dunyā)
falsafah - philosophy (from Arabic falsafah)
gandum - wheat (from Persian گندمGandm)
garfu - fork (from Portuguese garfo)
gereja - church (from Portuguese igreja)
gratis - for free (from Portuguese)
guru - teacher (from Sanskrit)
had - limit (from Arabic hadd)
huruf - word character/letter (from Arabic ḥurūf)
ini - this (from Persian این)
jawab - to answer (from Arabic jawāb)
jendela - window (from Portuguese janela)
Khamis - Thursday (Arabic al-khamis)
kamus - dictionary (from Arabic qāmūs)
kapal - ship (from Tamil கப்பல் /kappal)
katil - bed (from Tamil கட்டில் /kattil)
kaunter - counter or desk (from English)
keju - cheese (from Portuguese queijo)
kemeja - shirt (from Portuguese camisa)
kepala - head (from Sanskrit kapala "skull")
kereta - carriage, car (from Portuguese carreta)
komputer - computer (from English)
kongsi - share (from Hokkien kong-si 公司)
kuda - horse (from Hindi kudh)
kuil - temple (from Tamil கோவில் /kovil)
kurma - date (from Persian خرما/Khurma)
lif - lift, elevator (from English))
limau - lemon/orange (from Portuguese limão "lemon")
lori - lorry, truck (from English)
maaf - sorry (from Hindi māf "forgiveness")/(from Arabic Ma3fu)
maha - great (from Sanskrit)
makmal - laboratory Arabic
mangga - mango (from Portuguese manga)
manusia - human being (from Sanskrit manuṣya)
mentega - butter (from Portuguese manteiga)
mee/mi - noodles (from Hokkien miᴺ)
meja - table (from Portuguese mesa)
misai - moustache (from Tamil மீசை/meesai)
miskin - poor (from Arabic miskiin)
muflis - bankrupt (from Arabic muflis)
nujum - astrologer (from Arabic al-nujum)
nanas/nenas - pineapple (from Portuguese or Arabic ananás)
paderi - priest (Christian) (from Portuguese padre)
pau - bun (from Hokkien pau 包)
pesta - party (from Portuguese festa)
pita - tape (from Portuguese fita)
putera - prince (from Sanskrit putra "son")
raja - king (from Sanskrit rāja)
roda - wheel (from Portuguese roda)
roti - bread (from Sanskrit roṭi)
sabun - soap (from Arabic) sàbuun
sains - science (from English)
sama - same (from Sanskrit)
sama-sama - together (derived from sama via reduplication)
sekolah - school (from Portuguese escola)
sengsara - suffering (from Sanskrit saṃsara)
sepatu - shoe (from Portuguese sapato)
soldadu - soldier (from Portuguese soldado)
syariah - Islamic law (from Arabic shāri`ah)
syurga - Heaven (from Tamil சொர்கம் /sorgam)
syukur - thankful (from Arabic shukr)
singahsana - location (from Sanskrit singahsanam)
sistem - system (from English)
suka - happiness (from Sanskrit sukha)
tangki - tank (from Portuguese tanque)
tauhu - beancurd (from Hokkien tao-hu)
tarikh - date (from Arabic tārīkh)
teh - tea (from Hokkien tɛ)
teko - teapot (from Hokkien tɛ-ko)
televisyen - television (from English)
tuala - towel (from Portuguese toalha)
tukar - to exchange (from Portuguese trocar)
Agama - Religion (from Sanskrit agama)
unta - camel (from Hindi ūnṭ)
utara - north (from Sanskrit uttara)
warna - colour (from Sanskrit varnam)
waktu - time (from Arabic waqt)
wira - hero ([[from Tamil வீரா /veera]]
zirafah - giraffe (from Arabic zirāfah)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

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 had a dream that he should beat the water with a rope made out of tuba roots. The villagers followed the advice and many fish died to the point that the river was choked (terbabang). That's why the river was called Sungai Penabang.

One group that left the village ended up in Banjarmasin. That's why up to now you can still find some Tutong speakers in Banjarmasin, Indonesia.

Monday, February 18, 2008

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 Brunei.

If I can get hold of 2007 statistics, I am sure the ratio would have increased again as many new cars were bought when the salary acceleration was made in 2006. If this goes on, every road would look like Jalan Tutong (Telanai Junction to Bengkurong Junction) at its peak where traffic crawled every morning and afternoon.

The government is building more new roads especially to where the development are. But what is more difficult is increasing the capacity of existing roads. There are several solutions. Mass transit is one in whatever form. Perhaps with the new enlarged capital, the Municipal authority can start looking into the possibility of improved bus services. Secondly, additional carriageways on existing roads (in other words, built roads upwards). Thirdly provide additional relief outlets. All of which require effort, time and money. We are going to have our hands full.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

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 hat or skull cover.

Songkok is an interesting headgear for Bruneians and many in the region. Wearing a headcover has always been part of the Bruneians' old tradition. No one knows when it first started. In the past, it was used to tell society one's social strata or place in life. Today, everyone uses a songkok. It has become a symbol of being a Malay or a Bruneian.

Before the songkok, Bruneian males would be wearing a dastar or a tanjak. A dastar is a traditional Malay headcover made of cloth or thick fabrics where the knot or the fold moves upwards to the top and curls slightly sideways and tied around the head.

Many depictions of ancient Malays would show the men wearing a dastar. Nowadays it is generally worn only by the groom during weddings and by nobility during formal or special public ceremonies at the Istana. Sometimes it is also worn in coming of age celebrations and on other special occasions. However, generally, the dastar is not worn as much as it used to be and it remains the adornment of high palace officials at the palace courts.

With the coming of Islam, introduced to Bruneians by Arab traders — some of whom doubled as Islamic missionaries — more than six or seven hundred years ago, the popularity of headcovers must have redoubled.

This was quite logical because the religion encourages its followers to cover their heads. In fact it is considered "sunnat" (a voluntary good deed) for Muslim males to put on a headcover as long as it is done appropriately.

Originally it was the serbans or turbans which were also very much in evidence at about the same time. However, turbans were seen more as something that was worn by the Islamic scholars or ulamas rather than by ordinary people.

For the ordinary folks, something else caught on — the songkok. According to experts, the songkok became a familiar sight in the Malay archipelago around the 13th century when Islam began to take roots in the region.

While the origin of turbans never made any doubt, much speculation has arisen about the songkok simply because it is no longer seen among the Arabs. Even though in some Islamic countries, something similar to the songkok became quite popular.

In Turkey, there is the fez and an almost similar one called tarboosh in Egypt. The fez originated from Ancient Greece and was adopted by the Ottoman Turks.

Originally a long turban would be wound around the fez but, over time, the turban was dropped and only the fez remained. The fez was originally rounder but became harder and longer. In Turkey, it became red.

In South Asia — India, Pakistan and Bangladesh — the fez was known as the Roman Cap or Rumi Topi. It became a symbol of Islamic identity and showed the support of Indian Muslims for the Caliphate headed by the Ottoman Empire.

According to some experts, this is the same headgear which is the predecessor to the songkoks in the Southeast Asian Archipelago.

What could have happened is that the Malay craftsmen of that period must have started to modify the original hat, which was somewhat round, and came out with a slightly oblong shape with a horizontal or flat top.

Their creation served as the model for the Malay songkok makers that followed and survived to this day. A number of modifications were made along the way. These included sewing pieces of paper between the linings, which are made of satin to make it sturdier. The songkok itself was made out of black felt.

Today the main ingredients of a songkok are cardboard, velvet and stain. The cardboard has replaced the old method of using pieces of paper as stiffener. When all the parts are sewn they are then assembled and knitted according to the shape, height and head size required before the velvet is stitched on.

Songkoks were also known as Peci in Indonesia. Like the songkok, peci is black with a more ellipse shape and sometimes decorated.

After a period of time the wearing of songkok became a tradition and synonymous with being a Malay. It became the symbol of a Malay. Over time it replaced the dastar as part of the Malay's national dress on most formal occasions.

Today, like other gears, the songkok comes in many colourful variations to suit individual tastes and styles.

The more common ones are the black flat top. This can be bought ready made or it can be custom made if one wants a different felt or material.

There are those who prefer other shades of colour such as purple but nowadays this is not normally done. Yet a number of organisations do wear differently coloured songkoks, like blue for the Marine Department officers.

Some prefer their songkoks with slightly raised sides or in Brunei Malay called "bergunung" ("mountainous"). This type of songkok will no longer have a flat top.

Some prefer their songkoks with laces or with some decorations along the sides of the songkoks or in Brunei Malay called "berlis" ("with laces").

Some combined the two making the songkoks much heavier than normal.

Nowadays there are those who prefer their songkoks "berkalimah" (literally, with ayat on top) — usually the name of Allah written on top of the songkok.

Other innovations have taken place too. Wearing a songkok the whole day can be troublesome as it is quite hot. At first, some studs would be punched on the top of the songkok but nowadays you can see openings at both ends at the top of the songkok where an air ventilation system has been put in place.

In addition, there are songkoks without the stiffener and can therefore be folded up or flattened.

In the 1960s, the songkok could be worn tilted to one side (in Malay called senget). This style was very popular in those days but seldom found today.

The art of songkok-making has been taken up in Brunei through the Brunei Arts and Handicrafts Training Centre which was set up in 1975 where young school leavers learn from master craftsmen. Today, a small cottage industry exists for the making of songkoks

Saturday, February 16, 2008

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 report on his visit to Belait and Tutong Rivers was dated 14th July 1904 and his report on Brunei was dated 5th December 1904. When the reports arrived in London in early in 1905, it was greeted with unanimous approbation and considered as the best report ever written and very useful. He was able to honestly report the real attitudes of the Brunei people despite Rajah Brooke's efforts to discredit him. As a result of his report, the British government decided to underwrite the separate existence of Brunei, thus giving reprieve to Brunei. Even though I am too proud to say we owe our existence to this man, it is no doubt that this report played an important part to the survival of Brunei as a nation.

This document is the most important document in the history of Brunei. It was republished by the Ohio University Center for International Studies Center for Southeast Asian Studies and printed in 1987. It is still available on Amazon and the copy that I have, I bought as recently as last year. I would suggest you all read it and the lesson is that we should NEVER let our beloved Brunei be in that situation again.

Friday, February 15, 2008

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 Brunei flag was unavailable because the material for the flag was unavailable.

BARIP members held an emergency meeting trying to obtain material for the flag. Remember this was immediately after the Second World War where shortages of any items were quite common. Money was collected and the Supply Depot was able to provide white, black and red clothes but there was insufficient yellow material. One member Pengiran Muda Abdul Kahar managed to get sufficient yellow material from his father Pengiran Pemanch Pengiran Anak Haji Mohd Yasin. The flag was immediately sewn by a tailor and rushed to the British Resident. A flag pole was also built to accomodate the new flag.

It was only then that the Brunei flag was flown everyday while the Union Jack was only flown when the British Resident was in the office.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

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 today it is maintained by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports to become an exhibition hall.

The interesting thing about the stamps is that the old house on the $1 stamp is not that of Bubungan Duabelas. I am not sure whether it is deliberate of the Post Office or pure ignorance on their part. The house on the $1 stamp is that of the British Counsul General's and was actually built in the late 1890s at the foot of the hill and is actually on water. It was in 1907 that the Bubungan Duabelas was built further up the hill. The site for the Bubungan Duabelas used to site another old house built by the British Counsul General as far back as the 1850s.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

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. There was no satellite images then and neither was there any aeroplanes. This map they produced is a masterpiece of accuracy. Imagine that.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

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 literacy at 44th; secondary and tertiary enrolement at 67th and all this measured against our GDP which is high on 22nd place. The underlying tone is that we should have done much better.

When compared against gender related development, our position flies out of window and we really looked like an underdeveloped country. In general we ranked 79th. On life expectancy around 105th, adult literacy 83rd and school enrolment 68th. In keeping the earth green, compared to China's supposedly more polluted reputation, per capita we are indeed worse than almost anyone on the planet. Each one of us released 24 tonnes of CO2 per year compared to China's 3.8 tonnes per year.

Overall HDI in ASEAN we are second - 1st Singapore (ranked 25th - 0.922), 2nd Brunei (0.894), 3rd Malaysia at 63rd with 0.811, 4th is Thailand at 0.781 on 78th, 5th is Philippines on 90th, 7th Indonesia on 107th with 0.728, 8th Cambodia on 131st with 0.598 index, 9th Myanmar on 132nd with 0.583 and 10th Laos on 130th place with 0.601. I will do what I can to better our situation. In the meantime, we all have to do our part too.

Monday, February 11, 2008

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.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

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 the way we could see the fast flowing flood laden river and a lot of logs and debris in the waters. Nearer Bangar, we could see houses under water.

When we got there, the flood had subsided but there was still a large area of Bangar still under water. Roads have indeed became canals. Motorcars being replaced by speedboats.

And what worried us more was the pile of logs and debris at the Bangar Bridge. With more rains being predicted, we are worried that more logs and debris will come and affect the safety of the bridge's columns.

The rain that fell in Temburong the night before was 267mm which is roughly equivalent to the average of 2 months rain. So that night's rain was equal to 2 months' worth of rain and that's the amount of water that flowed down the river. According to the experts, that kind of rain is a 1 in 10 storm event meaning the likelihood such rain happening is about once every 10 years. No matter how much you prepare for it, you just cannot prepare for all contigencies. The best that can be done is to develop a flood early warning system. Hopefully with the National Crisis Management Centre which is being set up, such system can be in place in the future.

The other thing that we can do is to learn to live with flood. In Tutong where many people live in the flood plain, it is very difficult to control. The best that can be done is to prepare people for it such as building an all weather road, improve the channel and other waterways, ask people to build houses higher or on stilts etc.

As for Bangar, once again, our sincere thanks and appreciation to the heroic men of the Fire and Rescue Services who worked hard to remove the logs and debris.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

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 $70k for the deluxe.

There are several other designs for other housing areas. So the new development phases will show interesting houses. However what's important for those who will be staying in these new houses, is that the prices that is paid for these houses barely covers the construction cost of the house; the government still provides all other infrastructures, the roads, sewerage, lighting, electricity and water and most importantly the land is given free at no cost. Many people around the world will give an arm and a leg to enjoy these. Master Yoda would say "Appreciate we must."

Friday, February 08, 2008

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 some physics either because of the hanging bridge or because of the glass blocks, the handrails are full of static electricity and holding to them would be quite painful.

By then I had no choice and decided to walk across saying my prayers. I did and 10 days later I am still saying my prayers everytime I walked across the bridge which is about 20 times a day. The other day, the DPS told me that he was the engineer in charge of building the bridge and that it is very safe. I looked at him and thought about all the engineers and architects in the documentaries who certified that those buildings later involved in disasters were safe. It's not that I don't trust engineers but they are just as humans as you and me despite their engineering prowess. I am going to say my prayers just to be on the safe side.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

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.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

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.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

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 administrations. So BMA in order to restart postal services needed new stamps.

In some countries, they were lucky to find existing stamp stocks which had no Japanese overprints such as those in Sarawak and North Borneo. For Brunei, no such luck. And at the same time, in order to simplifly administration, all three states were treated as one. So for a time in 1946, Brunei's postal authorities had to use either Sarawak or North Borneo stamps overprinted BMA and hence, that's why for a short time, foreign stamps were in use in Brunei.

When else did we use foreign stamps in Brunei? I will give a genuine 1907 Brunei stamp to the first right answer.

Monday, February 04, 2008

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 leadership. Link here. Perhaps we should consider paintball?

There are many food bloggers in Brunei. But there are not that many chefs blogging. This one The Self Inspired Chef is probably one of the more interesting ones. I remembered that this one linked to me when I was daily and was quite surprised to see the link still present. I am into food and watched the food channel whenever I can persuade either the Mrs or my little one to give me the remote. And everytime I go to the palace, I am always intrigued by the presentations done by the chefs there. Judging by the amount of time a food presentation need to be done, it does take a lot of skills and patience.

We have a number of Bruneians now working abroad both as diplomats and expatriates. Is this the thin edge of the wedge? When I sat in our oil companies' board meetings, it is quite sobering to read the hr report about people leaving our companies in search of greener pastures abroad. The enticing package was too much and literally we lost a whole generation of future leaders in that industry. When I was last in Qatar and UAE, the diplomats there were telling me of Bruneians who had joined the oil companies there as well as our airline's pilots who had joined the airlines there. One of such overseas Bruneian which linked to me runs a blog called Life in Oman. This is the new Brunei.

I have always enjoyed economics ever since my A Level days but it wasn't until I was doing my masters at Harvard that I enjoyed economics that much more. We had great professors both at Harvard as well as at MIT. The one online economics related website which began its life when I was there in 1996 was and that perhaps remain one of the websites that I go to regularly, not of late though. I was pleasantly surprised when I came across this webiste entitled Local Freakonomics, a self professed Bruneian economist who reads slate as well. I enjoyed the economcs writing on the style of slate and her writing really emulates that of slate. So really, you should make this your regular reading on how economics affect everyday reality of us here in Brunei.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

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 litres of water. And how much does a sehat water bottle cost in the supermarket? About $1 for 0.6 litres. Think about it. Despite having the cheapest water supply in the whole world, there are still people not paying their water bills. And because it is so cheap, people use water, like water.

We have a choice. We can continue to use water just like we use it today because it is so cheap and expect the government to continue to supply as much as we want at whatever cost. Or we can reduce it so that the supplies do not have to constantly keep up with demand. Or we can pay the right price for it. Thankfully we still have enough raw water to supply the country. But at sometime in the next 30 years or so, we have to start making hard choices as the easy water will get harder to get if we continue to use up our water, like, water.....

Saturday, February 02, 2008

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 pancur.

A pancur is like a natural shower - water sprouting or squirting out from a natural source. So she asked Samurai to make it. So Samurai scouted around and found the place and built it as requested by the Princess. When it was completed, the Princess took her bath there. That place became so famous that it was named as Pancur Samurai which later became Pancur Murai. So many people wanted to marry the Princess but she rejected all suitors. It was said that because she did not want to be married and so she fled to Mount Mulu in Sarawak.

In Tutong, two village using the word ‘pancur’ are Kampong Pancur Papan and Kampong Pancur Dulit. Both are naturally named after sources of water – spouting from a hill or any water source.

Pancur Papan gets its name from the way the villagers who stayed in the area obtained their water. In Pancur Papan, they used wooden planks (or called papan in Malay) to divert the water from the source to their houses. And hence the name of the village, Pancur Papan.

Whereas Pancur Dulit also gets its name from the way the villagers get the water into the village. In their case, they did not use wooden planks but used the bark of trees (or called kulit kayu in Malay). Hence over time, the place name became Pancur Dulit. In fact the amount of water which came from Pancur Dulit was so plentiful that the authorities in the 1950s decided to use it as the source of water for Tutong Town. It was used until the 1970s and stopped being use as a water source when Layong came into full operation.

Friday, February 01, 2008

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 major company were not paying their housing loan instalments. After discussing it, there was indeed a small group who for whatever reason or other has no means of paying their loans. These people retired some 3 to 5 years ago and by now their lump sum pension and provident funds had been used up and were insufficient for them to live on their own for the rest of their lives. Some of them are now on welfare despite having earned some two to three thousand dollars a month before their retirement. Theirs are not isolated cases. Some would jump up and said that the government should bring the pension system back forgetting that not everyone worked for the government.

Financial planning is a phrase which I used to bandy about at MOF and I am glad my friends there still do. Financial planning means we have to plan our income not just for the short duration but over the long haul. People have to wake up and realise that after retirement most of us will continue to live 20 to 30 years beyond that. If you have children who can help you, well and fine. If your children can't or won't, then you are on your own. One of our neighbouring countries has a system called workfare which basically means that old people have to work and look after themselves with a little bit of assistance from the government. That's why in that place, you will see old men and women working at fastfood outlets. Will you want that to happen here as well?

Inspirational Quotes