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Showing posts from May, 2008

Infamous Brunei Video

I was very curious when a news search about Brunei gave me a news article about the Royal Marines of UK and Malaysia. Raised eyebrows. I linked up to the news site and found a news article entitled " Royal Marines advert 'portayed Malaysians as terrorists' ". The news clip is here for you to read:

The 45 second clip , which was airing in cinemas and on the Royal Marines’ website, showed a man on a beach firing an AK47 in the air while he shouting in the Malay language: “I'm the most evil man in the world. Come fight with me. I will kill you all.”

The advertisement cost around £1 million to make.

“We regret that this recruitment advertisement has been interpreted that Malaysians could be involved in terrorism,” said Anton Hanney, a Navy spokesman. “Having been made aware of the potential for offence it was immediately withdrawn from the recruitment website and from cinemas.”

He said the film was made in Brunei and the Malay language was used because the actor happen…

Encounters of the Spooky Kind

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To believe or not to believe: that is the question. A slight adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet there. We often hear our elders in the past about certain things like not go out at night, be careful in the forests etc. Sometimes we scorned them. Old fashioned. But encounters do happen. When they do, either we believe or start believing or try to find explanations as to what had happened.

This photograph was taken a few years ago using a non-digital camera by PWD senior officers when they visited Belalong. When the photograph was processed, everyone was surprised to see that sitting figure on the rock. This photograph was taken at one of the rapids of Belalong. In fact, I was told that a couple of lady officers even took their photograph on the rock after this photo was taken. But the sitting figure was not in their photograph. It only appeared on this one. The owner of the photograph said that the photograph was not tampered with.

I had my own share of encounters of the unusual kind …

Musabaqah Al-Quran in Brunei

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The musabaqah quran reading competition final will be on tonight and tomorrow will be the results. I wrote an article about the history of musabaqah sometimes last year for the Brunei Times. I don't quite remember whether I have posted that article here or not.

Anyway the short history is that the musabaqah has always been around. Even immediately after the second world war, it was held at Masjid Kajang. Masjid Kajang was the temporary mosque used by Muslims in Brunei while waiting for Masjid SOAS to be built. The photograph is showing how the atmosphere and what the astaka used to look like in those days.

After Masjid SOAS was completed, the musabaqah was held at the Bahtera in the middle of Masjid SOAS lagoon where everyone would be seated by the lagoon watching the finals. I have a photo of that too but I will put that up tomorrow when I post the entire Musabaqah history article.

Where am I?

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This photograph was taken in 1953, about 55 years ago. This is taken in the centre of Bandar Seri Begawan. If you were to look at the same place now, you cannot imagine this photographs is what is used to be.

This building housed the first Information Department out in Jalan James Pearce.

Brunei Economy 2008 (according to IMF)

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Have you ever had the experience when the ATM spat your card out with the screen flashing "INSUFFICIENT FUNDS". Surprised? Did you forget to top up your account? If you think running out of money is an inconvenience, imagine the same problem on a national or even global scale. Investors, bankers, and government policy-makers all hate these kinds of surprises, too. Without up to date economic data, a local problem in one country can cause trouble for other countries that have financial dealings there.

One of the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) most important jobs is to conduct an annual "checkup" of the economy of all the IMF's member countries. These checkups help uncover issues in a country's economy that other member countries may be unaware of. Sharing accurate, objective information avoids nasty surprises in international trade and monetary exchange.

The annual economic checkup is called the Article IV consultation. The name "Article IV,"…

Istana Sultan Hashim

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In Peter Blundell's book, The City of Many Waters, published in 1922, there were many old photographs of Brunei. Peter Blundell was the British Engineer who worked at the one and only cutch factory in Brunei. He spent quite a number of times with Sultan Hashim during his tenure in Brunei and he was able to describe Brunei very well. Sultan Hashim died in 1906 and this book by the time it was published in 1922 would have been a little bit out of date. But it remains one of the few that actually described Brunei at the beginning of the 20th century.

This particular photograph was that of Sultan Hashim's palace. The palace is located with its back to the padang. This was described later in the book.

Xibit - Brunei's Very Own Comic

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Do you know what this is? This is Brunei's very own comic book. Forget the Marvels, the DC Comics, the Dark Horse etc. This is Brunei's own brand comic. Written by Bruneian, drawn by Bruneian and printed by Bruneian. You can't get this anywhere else by in Brunei.

The Xibit team's project coordinator is Ambuyart and there are 6 featured artists in the comic made up of Emerald, Fay, San San, Rezuan, Yee Xin and Miao. Ambuyart you should know, he draws cartoons for Borneo Bulletin.

The comic book is available for $3.50 and I was able to get my copy at Bismi in Delima Satu. So, it is fairly accessible.
The stories are interesting. The comic is made up of several stories, all in the style of tales from the crypt or very science fictionalish.

I enjoyed it. The story line was nice and the drawings were fantastic. This is just s sample of them.

So, go get them already.

Bagas Tangan Bu Apsah

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My wife bought this book at Best Eastern last night. We have already known about the book from Nina Suria.

The book is a compilation of 'resipi nyaman-nyaman' from Brunei. I am not sure how to translate nyaman-nyaman, but the word that comes to my mind is succulent dishes. Anyway, the book is an early compilation of very nice dishes from Brunei which were prepared by a Brunei lady known as Bu Apsah. Apparently there are many more dishes waiting to be published still kept in the 'kaban' (Brunei word for chest or cupboard).

Bu Apsah is Dayang Halimah @ Hafsah binti Haji Yusof. She became well known by winning many cooking competitions at the Brunei-Muara District level organised by PERTIWI (a women's association) in commemoration of His Majesty's Birthdays' celebrations. Later on she appeared on RTB's programs such as Serikandi and Mari Memasak. She was also well known in Singapore as those programs were shown there when RTB and Mediacorp TV12 of Singapore…

You know you are in 2008 .

YOU KNOW YOU ARE LIVING IN 2008 when...

1. You accidentally enter your PIN on the microwave.
2. You haven't played solitaire with real cards in years.
3. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of three.
4. You e-mail the person who works at the desk next to you.
5. Your reason for not staying in touch with friends and family is that they don't have e-mail addresses.
6. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home to help you carry in the groceries.
7. Every commercial on television has a web site at the bottom of the screen
8. Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn't even have the first 20 or 30 (or 60) years of your life, is now a cause for panic and you turn around to go and get it.
10. You get up in the morning and go on line before getting your coffee.
11. You start tilting your head sideways to smile. : )
12. You're reading this and nodding and laughing.
13. Even worse, you know exactly to w…

Brunei versus Spain - The Castillian War

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[Note: I wrote the following article for my column, The Golden Legacy on Brunei Times, edition 11th May 2008]

BRUNEI attained its golden age under the reign of its fifth ruler, Sultan Bolkiah, known as Nakhoda Ragam. During his reign, the Brunei Empire spread not just over the whole island of Borneo but as far as Sulu and Saludang (Luzon) in present-day Philippines. He not only increased Brunei's trade but was also able to help spread Islam.

Brunei's Golden Age continued even after the death of Sultan Bolkiah in 1524. Sultan Abdul Kahar was also able to increased Brunei's territories which included the whole of Borneo, Palawan, Sulu, Balayan, Mindoro, Bonbon, Balabak, Balambangan, Bangi, Mantanai and Luzon. With the Brunei traders, Islam spread far including to the southern Philippines islands and Brunei was recognised as a centre of Islamic propagation.

This was so widely acknowledged that the Governor of Manila, a Spaniard by the name of Francisco de Sande, wrote to the son…

The Boxer Codex

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Many aspects of Brunei history is known only through western sources. One of the most important ones is called the Boxer Codex. The Boxer Codex depicted life in Brunei at the end of the 16th century.

The Boxer Codex surprisingly is not English. It was purchased in 1947 by Professsor CR Coxer of Kings College, London University. He bought a collection of manuscripts in Spanish which was previously kept in Lord Ilchester at Holland House London. The purchase was called Boxer Codex.

Professor Boxer started translating the manuscript in 1953 first about China. In 1958, two other experts, Carlos Quirino and Manro Garcia translated the part about Philippines. It was not until 1960s that one John S Carrol translated the part about Brunei.

No other document has been able to talk about Brunei in the late 16th century other than this one. The interesting bit is that no one knows who the writer is. Professor Boxer theorised that it written by Gomex Perez Dasmarinas, Governor of Philippines, then a …

Brunei International Airport 1970s

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Speaking of airports, it took us 4 hours to get a visa on arrival in Tehran. My LO commented on why not enough people come to Iran, I remembered that 4 hours. I do hope that our own visa on arrivals do not take 4 hours to process.

Anyway, this not too old postcard of Brunei is the current airport minus its new air bridges. In the 1970s, one had to walk down the ramps on the sides of the airport and then get on the stairs to get up on the airplanes. Similarly for arriving passengers, one had to walk up the ramp to get to arrival lounge. It must be the late 1980s that the airbridges were being built.

Brunei-Iran 2008

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I was away in Tehran representing my minister at the 2nd Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development. The first conference was held in New Delhi in 2006 and the next biennial meeting will be in Indonesia in 2010. There is a lot to talk about Iran and Tehran but this is not the blogsite for it.

On the day of our departure, our host surprised us delegates when we were given Iran stamps with our own countries' flags. This block of 4 stamps are probably the most unique and to see Brunei's flag and Iran's flag flying side by side. The stamps commemorated Iran's hosting of the ministerial conference.

On hiatus

I have to take a break. I am away in Tehran, Iran and will be back next Saturday. I have no idea what the internet connection I am going to face, so to be on the safe side, I will take a hiatus. See you all next week.

CIPTA 2009

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[Note: I remembered promising the CIPTA people I would put up the entry about CIPTA award a few weeks ago. Yesterday, the press release finally arrived, so here it is.]

Press Release

CIPTA 2009
Information & Publicity Committee
Institut Teknologi Brunei

CIPTA is a biennial competition for Creative, Innovative Products and Technological Advancements.

Since its inauguration in 2005, CIPTA has been held twice with a large number of participants. The competition is graced with the patronage of the Crown Prince, His Royal Highness Pengiran Muda Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah. It carries the prestigious Crown Prince’s Creative, Innovative Product and Technological Advancement (CIPTA) award or the Crown Prince’s ‘CIPTA’ Award as grand prize for the overall winner of the competition. The main aim of the competition is to encourage innovation and
creativity for national development in Brunei Darussalam.

Institut Teknologi Brunei has been holding a series of Technical briefings at a number of educational …

What is a barrel?

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I saw the oil price zooming past US$120. It's really amazing how the oil price keeps going up. One strategist for Goldman Sachs predicted it will even reach US$200 per barrel. The intersting bit is that how do we measure oil barrels? I am recycling this entry which I wrote two years ago.

One of the interesting thing you find about Bruneians is that a lot of us don't know much about oil which is the lifeline of this country. Practically everything we touch in Brunei owes its existence to oil. And yet there is so much about the oil industry that we don't know. All we know now is that the world oil price is about US$70 per barrel. And yet ask this question - how do we export oil? It's priced in barrels. So, do we still use barrels to store oil and export it?

It is true that previously oil is stored in classic wooden barrels. In America, back in 1859, customers paid by the barrel, but there was no standard size. Different oil buyers would get different amounts when they fill…

The Seizure of Labuan

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This lithographic print of Brunei is probably one of the most reproduced old scene of Brunei. This print came from a book written by Frank S Maryatt entitled Borneo and the Indian Archipelago and printed in 1848. I managed to get a reprint edition of that book in Kino during my last trip to Singapore. I think there were a couple of copies left and it is sold for $159.43.

Frank Maryatt was a British Midshipman (more or less equal to a 2nd Lt or something similar in the navy) and served on HMS Samarang from 1843 to 1846. The ship supposedly was on a surveying mission and went round the Borneo and East Asia going round to Singapore, Nagasaki, Korea, Sarawak, the Spice Island, Hong Kong and Manila. It did go to Brunei though unfortunately not to survey.

HMS Samarang was the ship that played the gunboat diplomacy and threatened to blow up Brunei if Labuan was not given up to the British. There were obviously incidents related to the demand but I personally think the demand was a dastardly …

Brunei 1955 - Does anyone know the building?

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I bought this old photograph from someone in Penang sometime last year. I have posted it before but I did not get any response. This photograph was taken sometime August 1955 and the person who wrote it (at the back of the photograph) told his daughter how tiring his journey was using a jeep to get to Brunei from Miri.

The interesting things about this photograph is that this was probably one of a few photograph taken of Brunei Town without the SOAS Mosque which was built a couple of years later. So there is no impressive mosque in this photograph. The Boon Pang Cinema was still the old Boon Pang Cinema and the new one was not yet built. Of course, that has disappeared today.

What picqued my curiosity is the wooden building to the left of the photograph. The roof structure is insteresting. I was thinking that this was part of the old Kajang Mosque (on the site of today's TAIB Building) but I did not remember it as being that grand. Does anyone know?

Old Survey Photograph 1950s

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How is it that everytime we looked at a photograph we can tell instinctively approximately what year it belonged it? Is it the way people dressed? Is there any other tell tale clues?

I have been to many places and in each of those places, I have not been able to blend in. Maybe my physique has something to do with it but even then people have been able to tell people apart. We are able to tell who the strangers are in our society and even in our building. They emit a different aura, I guess. Anyway, this photograph is indeed taken in the 1950s of a group of Survey Department people taking part in the float procession. The dresses are a complete giveaway to a different era and a different time.

Food Security in Brunei (Revisited)

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I am quite alarmed reading the various news about rice and other agricultural products. I remembered when I was at another place, we always discuss on the implication of Brunei relying solely on Thailand only as the rice supplies. But other alternative producers such as Vietnam and Indonesia curb exports as soon as there are problems in their domestic economy. Understandable but definitely worrying if you are a rice importer like us. Given our size and our soil condition, Brunei will never be able to achieve 100% sufficiency in rice, that we have to accept (unless we can find a variety of rice that can grow 12 times a year or something). I remembered asking an economist friend about food security in Brunei more than a year ago. I thought I will retrieve that entry and here it is:-

Recently, I got engaged in a little, yet very interesting, discussion with Mr. BR about the notion of “food security” in the context of Brunei Darussalam. Interesting because of two reasons. First, food is ab…

Sabah Stamps in Brunei

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I spent a fair sum of money buying this old envelope. No, no, no. I haven't gone el loco just yet. This envelope is important. I have talked about the time when Brunei did not use Brunei stamps. This envelope is proof of one of those times.

For about a year after the British took over Brunei (or as the Australians would claim, it was the Ozzies and not the Brits) from the Japanese in 1945, the British Military Administration had to get a semblance of normal life back including running the Postal Service. The British could not use the local Brunei stamp stocks as those had been overprinted by the Japanese. So they used North Borneo (Sabah) stamps or Sarawak stamps and overprinted those with the words BMA which stands for British Military Administration.

This envelope written by someone in Brunei to someone named Clueit in Manchester. He used those stamps that I had mentioned. The stamps were postmarked 1946. It wasn't until the year after in 1947 did Brunei stamps came back.