Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Brunei Football

When I attended the ceremony for BAFA, I was quite surprised to learn about the history of BAFA. BAFA as you know is the Football Association of Brunei Darussalam. BAFA did not start off as BAFA.

BAFA was originally known as the Brunei State Amateur Football Association. It was founded in 1952 with His Highness The Sultan as the Royal Patron. BSAFA was founded in 1952 in Seria. A few employees of Dutch and English origins working with the then BMP Co Ltd (now known as BSP Co Ltd) started the association. The Association was affliated not to any regional or national body.

It was registered on 12th March 1956. On the 15th March, BSAFA was officially gazetted by the British Resident through Notification number 67/1956. BSAFA paid $10. The interesting bit was, BSAFA was affliated to The Football Association (England). I guess technically speaking BSAFA could have played in the English FA Cup sine then.

The first few Presidents were Englishmen before YAM Pg Jaya Indera Pg Hj Mohktar Puteh became the first local president in 1961 and the local presidency continued until today.

BSAFA became BAFA in 1969 and affliated to FIFA. In 1970 BAFA joined the Asian Football Condereation and in 1984 became founding member of the ASEAN Football Federation.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Brunei's New Stamps of 2008

This post is slightly late (5 days) but so is the commemorative issue (2 years late). On Thursday, 24th April 2008, the Post Office issued the first of this year's commemorative stamps. This issue is to celebrate 100 years of moving Brunei's capital to dryland. Prior to 1906, Brunei's capital or administrative centre was always on the water. Though reading some of the older books, it may have been that the palace was not always on water, but tre rest of the administrative capital was always on the water.

Prior to that Bandar Seri Begawan or Pekan Brunei as it was then known was a city on water. Peter Blundell in his book ‘City of Many Waters’ published stated that the “town was unique, the only one in the world built almost entirely over the water, and the Bruneis were justly proud of it. They were folks who live a semi aquatic life, and their methods of living, household arrangements, family life, and town government, adapted as they had been to life over the water.”

When did the capital move to dry land? The official record was that of the first British Resident, McArthur, who wrote in his report the following words “I want a clean, dry village with suburbs of kampong houses. I also want to discourage building on the water village.”

The government persuaded a group of Pengirans to move out to dry land and to build their houses in the Tumasek area. His Majesty Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam built the first Istana on dry land in 1909. This was followed by some of the populace who started to build their houses in the Kianggeh and Sumbiling areas.

A group of Chinese businessmen moved out from Kampung Pekan Lama (then known as Kampung Bakut China) which served as the business area in Kampong Ayer, and started to build their shops on dry land. In 1910, there were six shops, the year after, in 1911, there were 26 shops and just before the Second World War in 1941, that number has increased to more than 80 shops. The shops are built along the current Jalan Sultan.

As for the population, it was not only in Kianggeh and Sumbiling, but they have also moved to Sultan Lama, Barangan, Sungai Kedayan, Tasik, Tungkadeh and Pusar Ulak. Although there were a number of houses now built on those areas, there were still many more left on Kampong Ayer.

The Post Office was quite innovative this year compared with other previous issues. You can buy the First Day cover with stamps, the miniature sheet of the four stamps, a sheet of 20 stamps for each stamp in a mounted frame and also a booklet of stamps. The stamps commemorated the beginning of modern Brunei and I think it is worthwhile to keep them. The stamps are available at the Philatelic Unit at the General Post Office, go there, get the stamps and visit the stamps gallery at the same time. You can see the earliest stamps of Brunei including that of the 1895 stamps.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Rubber Industry in Brunei


At the beginning of the 20th century, many Bruneians have forgotten that it was not oil that sustained us. It was coal, rubber and cutch. I wrote about cutch in my Brunei Times' Golden Legacy column last week. Yesterday I wrote about rubber. But I couldn't get the photograph I wanted to place in the newspaper. Instead it was an old photograph about Labu Estate in Temburong.

The photographs I wanted were these ones here. Many people pass by these two places without realising what these are. This house is located at the simpang, I could not remember the name of the road but it is just off the road that one uses to go through to ISB in Berakas. This house and the rubber factory in front of it are clearly visible whenever one passed by the area.

The house belonged to the Manager of the Berakas Rubber estate. Berakas, remember, used to be a major rubber plantation. In fact, around the Lambak area, I remembered in the 1960s and 1970s many rubber trees remained.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

FIFA GOAL Project in Brunei

I was at the Brunei Football Association new headquarters at Jalan Menteri Besar. To be precise, it is at the Jalan heading towards MOF and MOH but don't turn up to Commonwealth Drive.

BAFA apparently did not pay a single cent for the building which will later consist of a main building, a training centre as well a football pitch. The building cost some US$1.4 million. FIFA gives BAFA $400,000 for the building. On top of that FIFA gives US$250,000 a year to each of its members. Brunei being more prudent did not take it and kept it at FIFA and now drawing the last four years to pay for that building. At leat BAFA will now has its own headquarters. I sure that that will help the state of our soccer. PLease......

I spoke to the FIFA regarding our FIFA rankings. He said it is not that hard to raise it. All Brunei has to do is play against higher ranking teams and beat them. Playing against lower ranking teams means winning would give us more points. Trashing Timor Leste 10-0 means we get about 1 point but a draw against Germany would do wonders. Time to change strategy.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

14 Things to do in Brunei

I found the following descriptions of 14 things you can do while in Brunei from the Travellers Worldwide website. Interestingly enough, not all the things to be done are in Brunei and I am not sure about the legality of one or two of the suggestions:-

Island Getaways:
If you want to be ahead of the backpacker crowd and head out on your own there are islands around Brunei where you can veg out for a weekend or longer on a low budget. If you are truly intrepid, our organisers can arrange for you to visit a deserted island (with equipment, of course) and pick you up the next day or longer if you wish. You must demonstrate basic first aid, consideration for the environment, basic camp craft and be able to light (and put out) a fire.

Pulau Labuan is a small duty-free island about an hours' boat ride from the mainland. This island, part of Malaysian Sabah, is popular with local Brunieans who go there for tax free shopping and, if they are not Muslim, to stock up on alcoholic drink to take back with them to Brunei.

On the way to Labuan small boats can stop at the picturesque island of Kuraman. This tiny idyllic paradise island has a handful of guest rooms for the use of tourists but is mostly inhabited by local families. The small fishing community that live here are very friendly and will call out "orang-putey" (westener) at you as they smile and laugh! A truly magical place to visit.

"Next morning us Gap students as we are called headed off to the island of Kuraman (an hour on a speed boat). We were greeted by 3 dogs that followed us everywhere. This is a malaysian island so they can serve tiger beer. After a few beers we walked around the island with snorkel gear and went in the HOT sea from shore. A bit of coral and a few fish. Then we carried on walking around and came across lots of villages not sure if they were Malay or from the Philipines. They had shacks!! We walked past some who were chopping up coconuts and they offered us some. There was even a tiny little girl with a knife practising.

Then the next village (about 5 huts) starting screaming with excitement as we walked passed and they all came running down smiling. We got our cameras out and they all jumped in for a photo. We for a night snorkel about 8 and it was brilliant, we had torches." Christina Taylor on her visit to Kuraman Island, Brunei

Sailing: By special prior arrangements volunteers are able to use the facilities of the Royal Brunei Yacht Club which come is very useful after dives and for enjoying a sunset dinner or Sunday Roast lunch. If you are able to sail and can prove it, you can go further and join as a temporary member which would entitle you to sail in the weekend club dingy sailing.

Regatta and Passage Keelboat Yacht Racing: If you can't handle a dingy but are keen then we suggest that you think big and crew on a racing yacht and work your way down! Depending on the season you may have the opportunity to crew on a yacht doing the Borneo Cup Yachting Challenge. This involves a week of regatta racing with a passage race in the South China Sea in the middle much like doing a marathon between sets of sprints. The experience of racing at night by the stars while flying the spinnaker is quite memorable. Cruising back after the race is even better in some people's mind.

Canoeing: Sit on top canoes can be obtained at the RBYC for no charge if you are eligible to use the facilities.

Temburong district is a beautiful area of unspoilt jungle, located just 2 hours away from the capital city. Reachable by a combination of boat, car and boat, the Ulu Temburong National Park is a wonderful haven and an incredible place to experience the rainforest. The cacophony of sounds that you can hear will amaze you! Visitors here can climb a nerve wracking canopy walk that will take them high up to the top of the rainforest for some of the most stunning views across the trees.

The Northern Interior: The Northern Interior of Borneo is one of the great places for exploration with many areas uninhabited and practically unknown. While you are unlikely to make any major discovery, new species are being discovered on a weekly basis. Our managers in Brunei occasionally arrange trips in this area for their own staff or for school and corporate clients such as the Headhunter's trail to Mount Mulu or to long houses in the Upper Baram. You are welcome to take part in such excursions during your visits, but there will be an additional charge.

Riding: Riding is available at the Trijaya Equestrian Centre, set in the grounds of the Jerudong Polo Club. If you can play polo, or wish to learn, that can be arranged.

Parasailing: Parasailing can be done at the Marine Centre at the Empire Hotel & Country Club.

White water rafting / kayaking: White water rafting in rubber rafts can be done on the Padas River (Grades III/IV). Rafting is open by anyone of average fitness but Kayaking is available only by prior arrangement and you must have current White Water certification and experience. Our managers in Brunei occasionally bring corporate or expedition groups to the Padas and may invite you to come along as a paid logistics assistant if they think you are suitable. Otherwise you would be encouraged to do the Padas after climbing up Mt. Kinabalu.

Mountain Trekking: Nearby Sabah is home to Mount Kinabalu (4000m) and Kinabalu Park offers many opportunities to walk around the lowland and upland forest. The summit can also be attempted without technical equipment. This climb is very popular and sometimes booked up far in advance. If you want to climb the mountain speak to us before your departure and we can assist you in making a preliminary booking.

Pulau Ranggu: Situated in the middle of the river near the Sultan�s Palace is Pulau Ranggu. Here you can see the Proboscis monkey, with its large nose and rounded stomach! A water taxi will take you along there river where you can look out for these amazing creatures living amongst the trees. Particularly impressive as the sun is setting.

Jerudong: After a trip to Disneyland the Sultanate of Brunei decided to build his own amusement park in Brunei as a playground for his family! Also open to the general public, this park is large and impressive with a collection of rides for both old and young. It's also usually deserted due to the limited number of tourists in this country, hence, this really is disneyland without the queues! Right behind Jerudong amusement park is Jerudong beach - alive with fish stands and surrounded by cliffs. Brunei also has numerous natural waterfalls, coral reefs, hot springs, fresh water swamps, beaches and forests in one of the richest cross-sections of tropical biodiversity in the world.

Diving: If you are a suitably certified diver and would like to do scuba diving you can go out with the Brunei Sub-Aqua Diving Club on their weekend dives. This long established club has a large 11m catamaran that takes 16 divers and the focus is on wreck diving. The Brunei Sea has some of the best wreck diving in the South China Sea with several modern and WW2 wrecks to explore. All are quite 'atmospheric' in different ways and visually exciting. If you can't dive, you may want to consider taking a scuba course during your placement, which can be arranged locally.

Oil Platform Diving: Brunei is the only place in the world where you can dive (legally) on operating oil production platforms without being a commercial diver. Decommissioned rigs exist in California and the Gulf of Mexico but being under a working one and hearing the pressurized oil rushing up the 'risers' (pipes that bring the oil above the sea bed) and feeling the heat warm up the risers is a unique experience. Contrary to popular belief, diving on platforms is quite safe since you are diving inside an enormous steel cube and there is little chance of getting lost.

Described as cathedrals of steel and light, platforms are home to a variety of soft corals and other animals, including a myriad of fish from the very small to the very large, which are protected by the 500m exclusion zone around platforms. You must be an Advanced Open Water diver to take part in this activity.

Jungle walking: Over 70% of Brunei is covered by forest so there are lots of opportunities for jungle walks, lasting for a few hours or days. The terrain is varied but always interesting and challenging. Many walks take you up ridges followed by descents into ravines and crossing streams. If this appeals to you take a good pair of walking boots on your placement!

Hashing: If walking is too sedate for you then we suggest that you get on the hash. This is not an invitation to break the law but to join in one of the great traditions left behind by the departing British. Brunei is home to the third oldest hash chapter in the world and the source of several of the rituals of this jungle paper-chasing sport.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Boss

5 days in Singapore is a tad too long without your family. I am reading my old entries when I was still using msn spaces before moving to blogspot. Just in case, you are interested, I started writing entries here in December 2005 before moving to blogspot in March 2006. It was a different kind of entry but I thought I had more fun blogging. I picked up one entry for you to enjoy:-

My 5 year old son always tells me, whenever my official car arrives, 'kereta boss datang'. Now that I am holding this position, for whatever reason, he says I am now a boss and that's why I have an official car. We would have conversations that goes like 'masa babah balum boss ...' According to my son, that means even when I was the head honcho of the retirement agency looking after $1 billion fund means I was still not a 'boss'. His definition of 'boss' apparently refers to higher value position. Interestingly, the other day, one of my institution's officers also refer to me as 'boss', I smiled, thinking about my son.

That actually sets me thinking. We instinctively know that a boss is someone you report to like your immediate manager, your supervisor, your overseer. Its meaning is clear enough, you know a boss is someone who directs someone junior than he is. It sounded so colloquial, yet is almost universal in its usage that you can go anywhere in the world and instantly know when someone is refered to as 'boss' means that person is someone to be respected (or feared).What is the origin of the word 'boss'?

According to experts, the word most likely originate from the Dutch word 'baas' meaning Master. The older meaning of that Dutch word was apparently 'uncle', and it was also possibly derived from the German word 'base' meaning 'female cousin' (again from another Old High German word 'basa' meaning 'aunt'). 'Boss' is first recorded in English in 1635 in New England, when a John Winthrop wrote in his journal during an English group arrival in Massachusetts Bay: "Here arrived a small Norsey bark, of twenty-five tons, sent by the Lords Say, etc., with one Gardiner, an expert engineer or work base, and provisions of all sorts, to begin a fort at the mouth of Connecticut." That base was the Dutch word we now know as boss. Since then, 'boss' grew in popularity over the years, gradually taking the place of master as that latter word became associated with slavery. 'Boss' was seen as plain and emphatic, making it a useful informal substitute for words like employer, supervisor, and foreman. 'Boss' became a respectful way of addressing a person to acknowledge that person's leadership or authority.

In Brunei, I remember a time when, parents are referred to as bosses when referring to them in the third person, 'boss laki' for the father and 'boss bini' for the mother. I am not sure whether this colloquial usage is still in use nowadays. But whatever it is, be it in Brunei or elsewhere, when someone is referred to as 'boss', we know what he means, even my 5 year old knows that.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ease of Doing Business in Brunei

I am attending a short course at NUS in Singapore. Yesterday was interesting. There are a few PS in the group and yesterday, the lecturers were showing us the Ease of Doing Business Report prepared by the World Bank. You can get the latest report here. I think BT and BB has highlighted it earlier. I had to look in closely and this is the interesting position we are in:-

Ease of Doing Business (Overall) = Rank 78 (out of 178)

Sectors:
Starting a Business = 117
Dealing with Licences = 66
Employing Workers = 4
Registering Properties = 178
Getting Credits = 97
Protecting Investors = 121
Paying Taxes = 28
Trading Across Border = 36
Enforcing Contracts = 158
Closing a Business = 35

Checking against our ASEAN neighbours, Singapore (1st), Thailand (15th) and Malaysia (24th) are ahead of us. We beat Vietnam, Indonesia, Philipppines, Cambodia, Myanmar and Lao PDR.

Clearly, there are many things that my colleagues and I have to improve on.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Old Brunei Palaces (reposted)

I posted this entry on 1st March 2007. I thought I will repost it again as someone did ask about it and could not find it.

It would be quite impossible to find anybody in Brunei who don't know where Istana Nurul Iman is. The degree of knowledge obviously tapers off as you go down the list of Istanas or palaces in Brunei. Istana Nurul Izzah in Jerudong, Istana Darul Hana in Jalan Tutong, the guest palace Istana Edinburgh in Jalan Menteri Besar, Istana Darussalam in Kampung Sumbiling, Istana Manggalela in Belait and Istana Pantai in Tutong. I have written about the latter two.

During the 100th year anniversary exhibition of Brunei's capital moving to dryland (still on at the Commercial Centre in Bandar Seri Begawan), there was a number of old photographs on other recent past Brunei's palaces. There were three in particular - Istana Mahkota, Istana Majalis and Istana Kaca. I was lucky that during the ceremony, there were enough people who happened to have gone through those eras and managed to see the buildings themselves.

Istana Mahkota was in fact used by Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin (27th Sultan) and located where Istana Darul Hana currently is. I was told that the building was demolished to make way for Istana Darul Hana. Someone further commented that the current Istana Darul Hana is built lower than Istana Mahkota as the hill where this old palace was located was too high. So the hill was flattened slightly but still high enough that Istana Darul Hana is still on a hill. This photograph of Istana Mahkota is about the only one I know. Most people asked why is that man standing on the roof. I have no idea.

Another major Istana being used by the royals was Istana Majalis. This was used in the 1920s and 1930s. I am not sure when it was demolished but many records indicated that a number of princes and princesses of Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam died there - so the palace was used quite extensively by the royal family then. Istana Majalis used to be located where the General Postal Office is currently in Bandar Seri Begawan.

Another two palaces - more like guest houses - are very near the Istana Majalis. I suspected that these two are annexes to Istana Majalis originally. Unfortunately only one of the two had surviving photographs which is Istana Kaca. Though by the 1960s, this Istana was so dilapidated that one of my senior PS colleagues during the exhibition was telling me how when he was a kid, he and his friends used to break the window panes there to make 'belahan' for the kite. 'Belahan' are powdered glasses that one rubs on the strings of kites so that the string can cut other kites' strings.

Istana Kaca is also known as Istana Sugara. Another nearby palace is called Istana Cermin. I don't have a photograph of this Istana but I have been told that this Istana is next to Istana Kaca. I saw the location of this Istana on a 1950s map where it was located next to Istana Kaca or Istana Sugara. Both Istana Kaca and Istana Cermin are located where the Lapau is currently. Both were in fact demolished to make way for the Lapau.

There were a number of other Istanas being used during the late 19th and early 20th century. So far I know the names of Istana Kampung Ayer, Istana Pekan, Istana Kota at Kampung Sultan Lama and lately I came across another Istana's name called Kafidunya. I have not seen any photograph and other than only one source citing them, I have not seen any additional sources. Future blog fodders should I be able to come across new materials regarding these.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kuala Belait, the Oil Capital

[Note: I wrote about Kuala Belait in my Golden Legacy column on Brunei Times edition Sunday, November 18, 2007. I thought I had put this up on this blog but realised I have not.]

IN 1904, MSH McArthur was assigned by the British Government to assess Brunei. In his report he stated that "the principal villages and hamlets on the Belait (River) are Kuala Belait, Pengkalan Balei, Pengkalan Siong and Pengkalan Dato Bakong".

He then went on to describe Pengkalan Balei — today known as Kuala Balai — as the local centre with about 400 inhabitants. He did not say anything about Kuala Belait which we can infer not to be of significant importance in 1904.

A 1959 Borneo Bulletin article described Brunei in 1904: "In those days, Kuala Belait did not exist except as a little fishing hamlet".

Looking at Kuala Belait today, it is almost impossible to imagine that it was once a little fishing hamlet; just as in the 1900s, no one could imagine that it would become the administrative capital for the Oil District.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, Kuala Belait was a tiny fishing village. The people who lived there were Belait Malays. Most of them were fishermen.

Local folklore said that there used to be a community there, but a falling out occurred between two groups. One of the groups moved west and formed another community at the mouth of the Belait River, at Kampong Sungai Teraban.

The main community, however, was not at Kuala Belait. Until the 1920s, the old historic administrative capital of the Belait District was at Kuala Balai, a place further up the Belait River.

Kuala Belait was virtually unheard of at that time. It was only accessible by boats and not through land routes. Not until very recently was a road carved through the thick, dense jungle, allowing cars to reach Kuala Balai.

With the discovery of oil in Seria in 1929 (then called Padang Berawa and all filled with swamps), a new administrative center for the district had to be established at the mouth of the Belait River so as to be more accessible. The original district capital, Kuala Balai, was considered as inaccessible as there were no roads linking it to the rest of the country.

To support the new oil fields in Padang Berawa, most of the equipment had to be brought in from Miri, where oil had been discovered about a decade earlier. It was much easier to carry it across the river to Kuala Belait rather than Kuala Balai.

According to the Brunei Annual Report of 1927, a sizeable community had grown around the Kuala Belait area by then. The British Malayan Petroleum Company (BMPC, the forerunner to today's Brunei Shell Company) was also using the community as its entry port, bringing in equipment to the Belait District.

In 1928 the Government decided to move the capital from Kuala Balai to Kuala Belait. The following year BMPC decided to also move their administrative centre, which was then in Labi, to Kuala Belait. This was the birth of Kuala Belait as we know it today.

Official Kuala Belait began with the establishment of the Kuala Belait Sanitary Board in 1929. This marked the transition of the old village to a town. Administratively too, the post of Assistant British Resident was revived and the holder was posted at Kuala Belait.

It was much later that the Kuala Belait Sanitary Board, together with the town of Seria, became the Kuala Belait/Seria Municipality Board, the largest municipality area in Brunei Darussalam. Until the capital's enlargement in August 2007, Bandar Seri Begawan was actually smaller in size than Kuala Belait/Seria.

The first government building, an entirely wooden structure, housed government offices. This building was situated between Sultan Jamalul Alam Mosque and the new government office building in Kuala Belait.

Telephone services from Brunei Town to Tutong were extended to Kuala Belait in 1932. At the same time, several proper roads were built in the district for the first time. An English school — the first in the country — was also built, followed by another.

In 1931, the population had increased to 3,000 compared to only 1,193 people in 1911. By 1931, the town had a brand new hospital built by BMPC, which was said to be the best in the country. By 1936 it had a bank. By 1938, it had a specialised health centre for infants.

By the eve of World War II, Kuala Belait was a cosmopolitan town made up of many races because of the oil industry.

With the coming of the Japanese, the British ordered the oil fields in Seria burnt in December 1941 in order to prevent them from getting the spoils of oil. Nonetheless, the Japanese managed to get the pumps up and running again by forcing the people of Kuala Belait and Seria to help.

Towards the end of WWII, Kuala Belait and Seria suffered heavy bombardment, this time by the Allied Forces. During the war, Kuala Belait was used by the Japanese as its naval headquarters.

It was after the war that Kuala Belait was restored. Under the rule of His Majesty the late Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien, Kuala Belait blossomed as commercial buildings such as the current shophouses along Jalan Pretty and the local branch of the HSBC were built.

In December 1958, Kuala Belait was finally graced with a road linking Kuala Belait, Seria, Tutong and Bandar Brunei. Prior to the completion of the bridges across a number of rivers in the three districts, the original road only ran from Bandar Brunei to Tutong.

Those in Kuala Belait and Seria who wanted to go to Brunei Town had to brave rough driving along the beaches until they reached Danau before taking a ferry to Kuala Tutong and then going by road all the way to Brunei. It could take a whole day getting to Brunei Town from Kuala Belait in the 1950s.

By 1960, another building was built for the purpose of housing government offices, including the Municipal office, located opposite St James School in Kuala Belait, which still stands. The Municipal Hall was established in 1967.

After Brunei gained its independence in January 1984, a number of new government buildings were constructed to house the local services of the Brunei government.

The administration of Kuala Belait changed too. Originally, the Municipal Department was looked after by the Belait District Officer. By 1985, however, the Municipal Department had its own chief administrator.

Today, the total municipal area of Kuala Belait (22sq km) and Seria (0.6sq km) is about 23sq km.

At the turn of the 21st millenium, a number of hotels were built in the center of Kuala Belait, drastically changing its skyline.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Before Oil: Cutch in Brunei

[Note: My article below was published yesterday on the Brunei Times in the usual Golden Legacy column.]

TODAY everyone in Brunei and the world knows Brunei as an oil exporter. But Brunei has only been an oil exporter from 1929 onwards. Nobody remembered what Brunei had before oil was discovered in commercial quantity in 1929 (oil was discovered as far back as 1899 but not in commercial quantity).

At the turn of the 20th century, Brunei's main export was neither oil nor gas. There were a number of industries then contributing to Brunei's economy. Brunei then exported among other items, livestock, hides and tallow as well as some local produce such as sago which was one of the major export items produced at Kuala Balai, Belait District's capital then.

But the most important items being exported were coal, rubber and cutch.

Coal was produced in Brooketon (today's Muara) through an open cast method. During the period of 1888 to 1924, more than 650,000 tonnes were produced. Even during World War II, the Japanese tried to reopen the mine but very little was produced then.

The coal production fluctuated depending on the world's demands but by 1924, the price fell so low that the coal mine had to be closed although it was the main source of employment opportunities and hence commercial opportunities for those living in Muara.

Rubber was first introduced into Malaya before coming to Brunei. In 1906 the then British Resident government approved a number of applications from European to open up land to be planted.

The biggest plantations were the Batu Apoi Estate in Temburong which was owned by the Liverpool (Brunei) Para Rubber Estates Limited and the Labu Estate owned by the British (Borneo) Rubber and Land Company. These produced the largest output but by the 1920s, it was the plantations around Brunei Town which did better.

Many parcels of land were handed out by the British Resident government with several large estates of over 100 acres to the big plantations. Medium sized ones of about 25 to 100 acres were handed to Chinese owned plantations and Malay owned ones were mostly small holdings.

It is estimated that by 1942 more than 15,000 acres of state land had been handed out to these plantations both big and small. The peak of production was around the mid-1920s before dying out completely by the 1950s.

Surprisingly, it was a product called "cutch" that formed the major export of Brunei before the discovery of commercial oil in 1929. What on earth is "cutch"?

Cutch is a sticky substance obtained from the wood of mangrove trees and sometimes referred to as catechoo. Cutch is obtained by boiling mangrove barks. This process produced a liquid known to Bruneian as ubar and used by local fishermen to dip their nets so that their nets became stronger and lasted much longer.

Cutch was therefore used to dye nets, sails and cloth and for colouring leather. So it is much used in the tanning or leather industry as well as in the fishing industry. Since this is obtained from mangrove trees and mangrove formed a large proportion of Brunei's coastal and riverine vegetations, this easily became Brunei's main export earnings then. Brunei had economic potential to be a large producer of cutch and hence raised commercial interests from Western companies to produce it.

Barks were easily obtained from the plentiful mangroves along Brunei River. These trees were cut down and their barks were stripped off. These barks were collected and brought up river by boat to the factory. These barks were then cut into pieces and crushed before being boiled. The liquid was evaporated to produce cutch which was a brownish red sticky substance. This substance was further hardened into large blocks or balls to enable it to be exported.

Despite the many commercial interests, only one company emerged and was given monopoly rights by His Majesty Sultan Hashim to collect mangrove barks and produce cutch in Brunei. The company was the Island Trading Syndicate. Peter Blundell, the author of The City of Many Waters, the only known book written about Brunei, was at first the engineer for the company when he arrived in Brunei at the turn of the 20th century.

The company was established in Brunei Town in 1900. It opened its cutch factory the following year in Subok by the banks of the Brunei River. Some said that the current location of the Brunei Handicraft Centre is where the factory used to stand.

Before the oil industry emerged, the cutch factory hired the largest number of labour in Brunei. Many villagers living in Kampong Ayer worked for the company. According to estimates, as many as 1,000 people worked for the company, about 700 of them collecting the barks from the mangrove trees and about 200 processing the cut barks at the factory. With such a large workforce, it is no wonder that cutch was the largest export at that time.

At the same time, there was a number of services industries as well that sprang up around cutch exports. The best opportunity was in the shipping industry where a number of Bruneians were recruited.

Brunei's cutch was sold mostly to Britain but some was also sold to Japan, China and the United States. The Americans halted the cutch exports in 1907 by imposing high tariffs. By 1911, the company produced its highest export of almost 3,000 tonnes. The demands kept on increasing but unfortunately the company was unable to produce supplies to keep up with the demand.

By the 1920s and 30s, barks had to be collected from mangrove trees outside Brunei Town. There were not enough mangrove trees around the Brunei River as there was insufficient control of cutting down of trees around Brunei Town leading to wasteful felling. This reduced the supply of barks. Supplies had to be obtained from North Borneo (Sabah) as well as Tutong and Belait.

Despite being the largest employer, the company was unable to get people interested in being employed there. There was inadequate workforce as other industries opened up. This included fishing as well as the other industries such as rubber and oil by the 1920s and 1930s. These other industries brought more income.

The company also depended on shipping through Labuan. At first the company relied on the Sarawak Government, which ran a steamer from Brooketon to Labuan but that stopped in the 1920s. It relied on other vessels plying between Labuan and Brunei but that was not enough. WWI also imposed restriction on cutch output.

By 1917, cutch production declined and by 1918, it declined even further. In 1921, coal brought in more revenues than cutch and by 1923 even rubber exports brought in more revenues than cutch. By the 1930s, oil became Brunei's main export revenue earners. Despite the setback, cutch production continued and stocks continued to pile up by the 1930s.

However, by 1938, production was drastically reduced. It was no longer feasible or profitable for the company to continue as by then all its barks came from North Borneo.

The company concentrated on its new factory outside Brunei in Rajang Sarawak and thus ended Brunei's export of cutch.

The only remnant of the cutch industry is an old rusting boiler used by the company now being displayed at the Malay Technology Museum in Kota Batu.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Kampong Batu Ampar

I am in Singapore for the next few days. So I will be recylcing materials that I wrote in the past mostly from the Golden Legacy blogspot.

I remembered in the DBR talking about a few place names in Brunei where the place names are a tad unusual. In fact, not many people would want to live there if the place names resemble their names. The places included Kampung Parit (ditch) and Kampung Sungai Hanching (smelly river). One particular place name which I liked was Kampung Batu Ampar. My colleague, the DPS for PMO lived there. Kampong Batu Ampar for those wondering where it is is a village on the way to Lumapas. Yes, it's on that side of Brunei.

It took a while for me to find out how Kampung Batu Ampar was named. I remembered speculating what is it about the rocks there that they become so knackered. 'Ampar' in the Brunei language in the definition of Kamus Nusantara is 'tidur nyenyak kerana terlalu letih' (sleeping too soundly because of over tiredness) which to me translates to the British word 'knackered'.

Why are the rocks then said to be so knackered or tired?

According to Syair Awang Semaun, which is our oral tradition poems, the village got its name because that was where Awang Senuai used to compete in gasing against Mambang Dewa. Awang Senuai was in the the same syair is the guy who owned Mutiara, the cockrel that fought against Asmara that eventually transformed into the two islands of Pulau Pilong-Pilongan and Pulau Lumut Lunting. The gasing competition was so intense that rains come down and that the rocks became flattened as if they had turned to 'tikar'.

In the Syair Awang Semaun, it was said that:

Hujan lalam bersatar-satar,
Batu pun pipih seperti tikar,
Menjadi halaman si pantai kittar,
Dinamai orang Batu Ampar.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bangar December 1962 Memorial

December 1962 was a sad period of Brunei's modern history. If I can quote His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed in his book 'Remember, Remember, the 8th of December' who said "bad things happened. Very bad things." People were killed and the only memorial of that event is this memorial at Bangar, Temburong. Eight names are inscribed, those of government servants killed during the period.

In my recent visit to Bangar, I visited the memorial and it is indeed a sad testament to that period. The memorial is right by the bank of the Bangar River and is on the right hand side of the bridge crossing the river. For those wanting to visit it, once you arrived at the jetty, continue walking towards the bridge and go under it and you will be able to almost see it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Brunei Town's Old Wharf

I was trawling through my photographs collection in my hard disk when I came across this photograph. This photograph was taken in the 1950s showing the two buildings on the wharf facing Kampong Ayer. The one with the red circle was the first Chinese temple, which I wrote about a few days ago. The building next to it was the Government Rest House. The temple was demolished and rebuilt a few blocks away facing Sungai Kianggeh. The Rest House lasted until the 1970s. It became for a time the office for the Information Department, and later for Pelita Brunei if I am not mistaken and then was demolished. Now the sites are vacant lots and used as a carpark.

In the centre of the photograph is an empty piece of land. That was the old bus station and of course nowadays there is a multistorey carpark with the bus station there.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

In Kandila, we will meet

Yesterday was a busy day but today will be busier. I will be in Mentiri, Lambak and Rimba accompanying HM visiting all three housing estates after the key giving ceremony in Mentiri. That's not too bad. On Wednesday I was in Belalong in Temburong to check on the renovations to the UBD centre there, on Thursday I was in Lumut for the Belait District Masterplan presentation and on Saturday, I was somewhere in Ulu Belait to check on the new Belait Dam and that's where I realised mobile phones became deadweight useless items in your pockets as there is no signal.

Anyway, yesterday was the rehearsal and the whole MOD entourage went round visiting the three housing estates. In the last stop at one elderly person's house, we took a rest and during that coffee break, I learnt a lot of new Brunei words from my Minister which I thought I will share today.

I would say that Brunei's sense of time is different. We have words for them. For instance for the period of infinity, the Brunei word is 'Kandila'. I asked for the usage of it. An example goes - '... Fikirnya ia berhutang atu lapas tia nda membayar masa ani. Di kandila karang dituntut masih tu ...' 'Kandila' can also be referring to the time period of 'akhirat' or end of time. The opposite of 'Kandila' is 'Pendaratu' which refers to the far past. An example - '... Zaman pendaratu dulu, alum ada manusia berjalan-jalan ...'

Just as the eskimos have 14 words to describe the condition of snow, Brunei, I discovered have about 5 different words to describe almost similar things. What does 'kamul', 'kumbang', 'tajung', 'kakun' and 'chokin' have in common? These are various words to describe a cloth like or towel like cloth which you used to cover or wipe yourself. The words are not exactly similar but they are close enough to each other. My question is why? The eskimos needed those words because they live in a snowy place and needed to know what condition their snow is as they may impact on their livelihood. But why do we need to invent those 5 words.... Interesting...

The Brunei Law Enforcers

Note: My article on the Royal Brunei Police Force was published on the Golden Legacy column, Brunei Times on 2nd March 2008. The accompanying photograph was that of my grandfather and his policemen friends. My grandfather retired in 1970s as a Sergeant Major.

THE Royal Brunei Police Force counts among the oldest government agencies in this country. It certainly is the oldest paramilitary organisation in Brunei.

Since its official formation in 1921, many important and significant events had taken place throughout Brunei history as well as internationally. The Royal Brunei Police Force had taken part in those important events. To look at the history of the Royal Brunei Police Force, one has to look all the way back to the beginning of the 20th century.

In 1904, a British officer, one MSH McArthur who eventually became the first British Resident was asked to look at Brunei and compile a report on the country for consideration of the British Government in London.

Part of his report was a very short statement on who did the policing in Brunei. He stated that "with no public expenditure ... there are no salaried officers ... no forces, no police, ... and most crying of all no gaol!"

The signing of the 1906 treaty between Brunei Darussalam and United Kingdom laid down the foundation of a new government with the formal introduction of the British Resident. Among McArthur's first acts as British Resident was the introduction of the first officers to police Brunei.

The first group was made up of one Pathan and one Sikh before a detachment of Sikhs was seconded from the Straits Settlement government in Labuan. Surprisingly in 1916, it was one of these Sikhs who murdered the Resident, EB Maundrell. In fact, according to AVM Horton in his paper "The British Residency in Brunei 1906-1959" there was scarcely any crime in Brunei and the burden of court work was negligible.

These seconded officers from Labuan were eventually replaced by local Malays. The Brunei Police force was officially formed on January 1, 1921 immediately after the 1920 Police Enactment was passed. The local force took over all responsibilities from the Police Force of the Straits Settlement.

The Brunei Police Force was founded under G McAfee who also continued as Chief Police Officer for Labuan. Chief Inspector McAfee was appointed as the Brunei CPO in 1917. He was not the first CPO, the first Chief Police Officer in Brunei was Inspector SG Crummy who was appointed in 1909.

Even though there was hardly any crime in Brunei, maintaining an enforcement agency and jail took up a high proportion of the government's revenues which in the days prior to the discovery of oil was not much.

As such, since its formation, the Police Force has been tasked with a wide range of duties and responsibilities including those of executive roles. Their secondary functions include being a "fire brigade" and registrar of almost everything that required licensing in Brunei such as aliens, firearms, dogs, bicycles and motor vehicles.

In the 1930s, the police also manned the Brunei telephone exchange. It was not until the 1960s and 1970s that a number of these function were surrendered to the various agencies such as the formation of the Fire Services Department, Immigration Department (1958) and Land Transport Department (1960).

However, the Royal Brunei Police Force has always been a para-military organisation since its establishment to date. The continuation of such characteristics should be viewed from its early formation based on colonial policing introduced by the British.

In 1950 the Police Headquarters was moved to Kuala Belait and the CPO was answerable to the CP of Sarawak. It was in 1950 that the CID was established. The following year its own Training Centre was established in Seria. A Police Band led by RE House was also set up.

In 1959 with the introduction of Brunei's own Constitution, the Police had its own Commissioner of Police and no longer reports to the CP Sarawak. In 1960, with the establishment of the Reserve Unit, the Brunei Police Force no longer depended on the Sarawak Field Force Platoon.

Among the early successes in the history of the Royal Brunei Police Force was its success in defending the country from an armed rebellion led by the Tentera Nasional Kalimantan Utara and Partai Rakyat Brunei on 8th December, 1962.

In the incident, four police personnel were killed. They were Sergeant 20 Pengiran Ali bin Pengiran Ghani, Constable 175 Chien Tong Seng, Constable 179 Selasa bin Othman and Constable 465 Mohammad bin Haji Tahir.

The title "Royal" was bestowed upon the Force on 23rd September, 1965 by the late Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien. From then onwards the Brunei Police Force has been known as the Royal Brunei Police Force.

In 1971, the Royal Brunei Police Force celebrated its Golden Jubilee. On 14th August of that year it was once again honoured with the "Royal Standard" bestowed by His Majesty Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien when His Majesty himself consented to become the "Inspector General" of the Royal Brunei Police Force.

On September 23, 1974 His Majesty Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam consented to appoint Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Paduka Seri Pengiran Perdana Wazir Sahibol Himmah Wal-Waqar Pengiran Muda Haji Mohamed Bolkiah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien as the Honorary Commissioner of the Royal Brunei Police Force.

On February 15, 1975, His Majesty Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam, consented to appoint Yang Teramat Mulia Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Puteri Hajjah Masna Binti Al-Marhum Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien as the "Commandant of Women Police" and Yang Teramat Mulia Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Puteri Hajjah Nor'ain Binti Al-Marhum Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien as the "Deputy Commandant of Women Police".

It was in 1975 too that the first local Brunei Malay officer was appointed as Commissioner of Police. He later became Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Setia Raja Pengiran Haji Jaya.

Soon after the independence in 1984, the Royal Brunei Police Force was involved in keeping peace and security of the region and in the international level by participating in Interpol, the International Police Organisation on September 4, 1984 and later joined Aseanapol, the Asean Police Organisation on November 20, 1984.

Its professional competence and credibility are on par with other police forces in other countries after successfully participating in the United Nations mission in Cambodia (Untac) in 1992 and after having been an observer at South Africa (Comsa) in 1993.

In 1993 the Special Branch was disbanded and absorbed as the Internal Security Department.

With the advancing technology and globalisation posing a new challenge to the Force, it became imperative for the police to adopt and formulate plans to face these challenges. The changes were made in 1995 with the Royal Brunei Force reorganising its administrative structure by introducing five Directorates at Headquarters level and creating three more Police Districts to make a total of six Police Districts altogether.

In 1996, the Royal Brunei Police Force celebrated its Diamond Jubilee. It has celebrated its 75th year in existence.

Despite having a small population, Brunei Darussalam has a credible police force to be reckoned with. The roles and the credibility of the force have earned Brunei a high esteem in the region and internationally.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Past Maulidur Rasul

I did an article on Maulidur Rasul in my Golden Legacy column yesterday on Brunei Times, about a month behind the actual Maulidur Rasul celebrations. This time my editor was accomodating and put up about 5 of the 6 photographs which I gave him. Normally I get only about 1 photo per article. BT does pay for each photograph and the more BT publishes the more they have to pay. Though to accomodate all those photographs, I lost about 1/4 of my article - the controversial bits. You see, Maulidur Rasul has not always been celebrated throughout the world.

Anyway, this particular photograph strike me. This is typical of the uniform that was worn in the 1950s and 1960s when taking part in Maulidul Rasul. Typical cara Melayu but with a sash. I don't know why the sash. I have a number of photographs and guess what? They all have sashes. And this photograph has that interesting background - a Workers Union shop. BSP is the only organisation nowadays which has a workers union. I don't know whether there is still a union shop.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Trains in Brunei

To the faithful readers of this blogsite who came in the last couple of days and finding nothing new can thank the providers of espeed for the absence of my postings. I don't know about your espeed but my espeed has decided that it is better off going AWOL so that I can rethink my options of continuing with espeed or go to the other provider. I didn't know that part of espeed's strategy was to go off line so that the other provider can benefit. Hmmmm.....

Anyway, I have lost my postings. But today's posting is nothing new either. Remember the old train track I keep talking about in last year's entry or is it 2006's entries? There are only two train tracks in Brunei. One is in Muara running from the old coalmine somewhere from Serai Pimping all the way to Serasa. This one hauled the coal from coalmines. The other track is in Badas linking to Seria. I have not been able to find an old photograph of the coal mines train but I have photographs of the tracks. As for the Badas ones, I have two photographs. One is from National Geographic and the other is from an old magazine.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Brunei's First Chinese Temple

The Chinese Temple at Jalan Kianggeh attracted a lot of Brunei photobloggers during its annual Chinese New Year celebrations. It has been there for so long that not many remembered that there is an older one in the city centre.

I remembered looking at an old photograph of the wharf and seeing an old temple there. When I asked around, most elderly Kampong Ayer folks remember that until about 1960, there was a Chinese temple was there. It was demolished around then and not just the temple, a few of the government buildings around the area were also demolished to make way for the expanding port. The Brunei Port was the one in the city centre until Muara Port was operational in about 1972.

According to a research paper I came across, this first Chinese Temple was built in 1918. As the first World War raged on in Europe, apparently times were good for the Chinese towkays in Brunei. The Chinese businessmen were among the first to heed the British Resident's call to set up shops away from the Kampong Ayer. The original town centre on Kampong Ayer then was Kampong Bakut China, now known as Kampong Pekan Lama. The Chinese community then, mostly Hokkien from the Island of Quemoy were engaged in 'revenue farms' - agricultural areas let by the British Resident to grow cash crops such as tobacco and opium as well as do business including spirits, kerosene and matches. They were also engaged in amassing land especially rubber plantations and also rice plantations. So, it was a prosperous time for the community.

In 1918, Dato Cheok Boon Siok was the Dato Temenggong and he owned land and shophouses up and down the street now known as Jalan Sultan. The site chosen in front of Brunei River was geomantically suitable and owned by him which he donated to the building of that first temple. The temple when it was built was considered as a remarkable piece of architecture and cost around $8,075.50 (Straits Dollar) which is a considerable sum in those days. The money came from donations from shops and individuals in Labuan, Limbang and Brunei as well as levies on tobacco and white rice imports. The top contributor was a shop named Choon Guan.

The temple was named Teng Yun Temple (Temple of Flying Clouds) but it became better known as Twa Pa Kung Temple (Great Uncle Temple). The new temple in Jalan Kianggeh is also known officially as the Hall of Flying Clouds. The temple survived the bombings of the Second World War but by then the need of the expanding port led the government to acquire the area of the temple and that was when the temple was demolished and a new one is built where it is currently. The government provided $45,000 to the building of the new temple in 1960.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Good Brunei Blogsites

I bought a few books when I was in Singapore. One was Harvard Professor Jeffrey Sachs's Commonwealth, rather a heavy read about world economics. The next two were law related, John Grisham's The Appeal which taught me a lot on the politics of the American States' Supreme Courts and the other which I completed last night after a marathon 5 hour was Lord Jeffrey Archer's A Prisoner of Birth. Lord Archer ever since his release after a stint of about two years in the British penal system has managed to acquire a lot of knowledge about how the penal system works. The last book is Eoin Colfer's The Airman. Eoin Colfer is not an adult read but I enjoyed his books.

Anyway, just as there are good books, there are also I noticed a number of very good Brunei blogsites. I recommended Local Freakonomics the last time I talked about good local blogsites and that has remained one of the premier sites that talked about Brunei economics. Another which I noticed talked about law which is Papa Law on Brunei Law whose catchphrase was Laws are not only for lawyers. I loved this site as similarly to what I do, it focused on an something about Brunei, this one on an area of Brunei law for every entry. Even though I know most of them but it is still refreshing to read about them from someone who clearly knows something about how the law and legal system works in Brunei.

Another one which AnakBrunei has beaten me to it in introducing this website touched on very weighty topic especially on the state of Brunei's economy and many other topics besides is Debating Brunei whose catchphrase is Discuss, Debate, Analyse, For a Brighter Future for Brunei. They recently asked my advise on where they should be going. Well, I don't think I need to. They obviously know what topics they need to focus on. With blogsites like this, I think the future of Brunei is quite bright.

Moving on to a lighter but equally interesting is Nina Suria whose speciality is cookery and books - in Malay. This is probably one of the few Malay language or rather mixed Malay Brunei language which I think has been able to write in our language without us thinking that it is written in the Malay language, if you know what I mean. There are times when we read certain thing, we automatically switch languages without us realising it. Ninasuria is like that. You automatically read the blog in Malay and enjoyed reading it. Go there and visit.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Still Overly Dependent on Oil and Gas

My foreign affairs colleagues on the trade side had been having a tpr (trade policy review) with the WTO sometime end of February. Both IMF and WTO hold some kind of, if I can use the word, annual interrogations, IMF calls it Article IV Consultations and WTO calls it Trade Policy Review. Of course, it has its usefulness and being a citizen of the world that needs to trade and may one day need financial assistance, Brunei cannot ignore either one.

The WTO report summarised that Brunei is a prosperous, relatively open economy still overly dependent on oil and gas.

Brunei Darussalam is a small, relatively open economy that has intensified its participation in regional trade agreements and has reduced tariffs to low levels although there is still a large gap between applied and bound MFN rates. In several trade-related areas — notably TRIPs, customs procedures, telecommunications and standards — Brunei has made significant improvements to its regulatory framework since the previous review, according to a WTO Secretariat report on the trade policies and practices of Brunei Darussalam.

The country owes its prosperity to its abundant petroleum (oil and gas) resources whose share of GDP stood at 69% in 2006 accounting for 96% of exports and 94% of Government revenue. This leaves Brunei vulnerable to external shocks, particularly given the prospect of an eventual depletion of these resources probably over the next couple of decades.

The Government has faced the challenge and has been encouraging economic diversification, mainly into manufacturing and services, especially financial services, tourism and transport, but despite the provision of investment incentives for the private sector success in achieving this goal has been slow so far.

The report also notes that lack of transparency and public accountability in government policies might adversely affect the aim of encouraging foreign investment. The report are divided into several parts, all are in pdf format but the most important one is the one on the economy.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Graveyard in the City Centre

Last year around this time, I was in Bandar trying to get a much better photograph of Raja Ayang's grave - you know the one in front of the General Post Office, next to TAIB's carpark. I was rewriting an earlier blog which I did in November entitled Grave in the Middle of the City which I rewrote as my second or third article to be published in my column Golden Legacy in Brunei Times. I rewrote the blog as a proper article entitled Mysterious Grave in the City Centre for my Brunei Times column.

I could not get a good shot as the whole grave was surrounded by blue canvas. I figured that the appropriate authorities must either be cleaning up or trying to make it less conspicuous. If you read my blog entry or article, the grave is not exactly something you find it easy to explain but it does make everything else around Bandar not as interesting. Like I said, among the words you have to explain would be incest, stoning, death sentence etc.


It was recently that during the LegCo that I heard the Minister of Culture explaining that part of the efforts that his Ministry is doing is improving the grave yard and its surrounding as well as doing a lot of research on the grave. I finally found a photo of the work in progress in Berita Muzium. So, expect something new to come out from the improvement work that they are doing soon.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Old Police Station

Bandar Seri Begawan's buildings have more or less remained intact from the 1950s. Most of the major changes have been at the commercial areas along Jalan Sultan where the two storey shophouses are on their way out. However government buildings tended to last longer with the exception of this one building.

This building stood the test of time until about 1983. That was the year that to increase the space or rather the area that was needed for the independence at the end of the year, the government decided to remove this police station. This police station was situated where the current outdoor carpark for the Yayasan Building.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Seria in the 1950s

This is Seria Town in the early days. I can make out the Marina Cinema but I am sure Serians can more than just identify Marina but also which of the buildings no longer exist.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Anniversaries in 2008

I was having a chat yesterday regarding the program for this year's commemorative stamps. I understand it has not been finalised yet but in the works are stamps to commemorate the 100 years of moving BSB to dry land (this process was in 1906, so the stamps will be about 2 years over the 100 years), to commemorate 100 years of health, 40 years of His Majesty's Coronation and 50 years of the SOAS Mosque.

His Majesty's Coronation was in 1968 even though he ascended the throne in 1967. The last big celebration was in 1992 when His Majesty celebrated the Silver Jubilee of Ascending the Throne. Last year would have been his 40th anniversary. However the 40th Anniversary of the Coronation would be this year. Someone posted a video of the 1968 Coronation on youtube and I thought I will put up here for you to enjoy as well.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Origin of 'Ringgit'

Someone asked on the shoutbox when did we use Ringgit as a word? I got this information quite sometime ago and always wondered when do I have the chance to show it. Well, someone asked and finally here is the answer that I have kept all this while:-

Ringgit - The word ringgit denotes a unit of Malaysian (or Brunei) currency made up one hundred sens which displaced the respective English words dollar and cent used before. 'Ringgit' was already in the Marsden's Dictionary of the Malayan language published in 1812 which referred to it as a unit of currency. Abbot Favre's Malais-Francais Dictionnaire also contains this word, meaning a silver coin. 'Ringgit' originally meant a jagged or serrated edge or crenellation, e.g. 'beringgit-ringgit' - jagged or serrated. It is itself related to the word gerigi or rigi-rigi which means with notched or jagged edge like the teeth of a saw.

As to how coins came to be minted with serrated edges, it is necessary to go back a few hundred years into the history of coinage. The historic hammered coins had irregular edges and after being put into circulation, they were subjected to much abuse by unscrupulous tradesmen and moneylenders. These persons resorted to two generally known methods of reducing the metal content of these coins, one was clipping and the other sweating. Clipping involved shaving or clipping the edge, making the coin progressively smaller. Sweating was to put several coins in a fine leather bag and either shaking or jostling them which resulted in friction of the coins and thus fine particles of the gold or silver dust accumulated in the bag. After the founding of mechanical and therefore more efficient methods of producing coins, especially with the use of steam power, coins were struck with a raised rim or beaded rim. Some had a floral edge or an incused edge, others had a jagged or serrated edge.

From as far back at the 17th century European nations trading in the East had brought the silver dollar coin from the Spanish American mints as the coin of commerce in our part of the world. These round silver pieces had edges with a floral design. Later, coins of the Republic of Mexico were also introduced by the colonial government for use as currency in our lands. These heavy silver coins after some circulation in our territories came to be nicknamed 'ringgit' irrespective of whether they were from the Spanish American or Mexican mints. Thus the word 'ringgit' came to acquire a second meaning which was applied to all silver coins of either serrated or floral edges of the same size, weight and quality of silver.

Apart from generally calling these silver coins 'ringgit', local names were given to the different coins in use in Malaya such as 'ringgit patong' (British Trade Dollar) or ringgit geroda or matahari.

The word 'ringgit' appeared for the first time on the 5 dollar banknote of the Oriental Banking Corporation of Singapore as early as 1849. On Malay coins, the jawi script for 'satu ringgit' was first used on the reverse of the British Trade Dollar in 1895.

It can confidently be said, therefore, that the word 'ringgit', denoting a unit of Malaysian or Brunei currency, had been in use in this area for at least 200 years.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Housing Projects 2007-2012

I just remembered I promised someone a couple of weeks ago to upload the RKN housing projects. Here is the list of housing projects. Unfortunately it is not as detailed as I would like it to be. But at least it gives an indication of approximately what is being done.


Inspirational Quotes

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