Monday, June 30, 2008

The Last of a Great Sultan

I bought recently a magazine article entitled 'The Last of a Great Sultan' written by Poultney Bigelow. The article was about Sultan Hashim which makes the article about 100 years old as Sultan Hashim died in 1906. The article was pulled out of Harper's Monthly Magazine. I was clueless about Harper's.

Recently I did a quick check on the net and found that Wikipedia has an entry on it: "Harper's Magazine (or simply Harper's) is a monthly general-interest magazine covering literature, politics, culture, finance, and the arts from a progressive, left perspective. It is the second oldest continuously-published monthly magazine (the oldest magazine being Scientific American) in the United States, with a current circulation of slightly more than 220,000."

Apparently Harper's Magazine began publication as Harper's New Monthly Magazine with the June 1850 issue. It changed its name to Harper's Monthly Magazine for the Christmas 1900 issue, and to Harper's Magazine for the March 1913 issue until today. My article must have come out between 1900 to 1913. A quick check at Harper's and the website listed out archives as well, I found that I could have got my article cheaper by downloading a pdf. Anyway, I found that the article about Sultan Hashim was published in the October 1906 magazine, 102 years ago.

The writer described Sultan Hashim having '.. his face was very kindly and his manner dignified ..." Of Brunei, the writer was symphatetic. She appealed in the magazine for the American to return several islands adjacent to Borneo - islands very precious to Brunei and 'worse than useless to the United States'. I was not sure which islands she referred to but apprently they are the islands on the Southern Philippines which included the Island of Taganak, Tawi Tawi, Balabak and Kagayan Sulu. At that time, Sabah or North Borneo was still in the sphere of Brunei. She also realised the dire predicament of Brunei then of '.. being choked to death economically by the state of Sarawak, which now controls not only the territory to the south of him, but the very river that passes his door and on whose trade he has depended from earliest times..' Yes, the Limbang River.

The article is interesting but added nothing much to my Brunei history knowledge. There is a couple of photographs which makes the photographs around 102 years old now. So it has a historical value. If you go to Harper's and pay some $16 fee, you can get a pdf of the article. I can only console myself that I have the original of the magazine's article.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Brunei during the 2nd World War

For my article this Sunday on Brunei Times, I wrote about the history of Brunei during the Second World War. I sent a number of photographs to Brunei Times but I think only one or two are usually selected. So in case you are still wondering how the other photos look like, here they are in full:-

These are Australian soldiers along Jalan Muara. They landed in December 1944 and marched from Muara to recapture Brunei Town.

Brunei Bay was used by the Japanese Naval Forces. These are Warships Yamato, Musashi and Nagato.

Allied Forces capturing a Japanese soldier.

Brunei Town was virtually flattened by the British and Allied Forces. I personally disagreed why this has to be done. We virtually had to restart Brunei Town in the 1950s.

This is a scene I hope will no longer be repeated in Brunei. Our own countrymen running away from Seria. You can see Seria burning in the background smoke.

Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin did not have anything to do with the Japanese. The Japanese treated him still as the Sultan and paid him a pension.

If you want to read the article in full, go to any book store and buy a copy of the Brunei Times Sunday edition.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Brunei in FIFA

In this football fever season, I thought I will check up on what's going in with Brunei. So in FIFA.com, a new FIFA ranking was in place. Brunei is currently 188 and apparently we went up 2 higher in June. The next ranking will take place on 2 July and that will be interesting as most of the Europeans and South American teams played during the summer.

Brunei apparently got 42.5 extra points for drawing 1-1 with Bhutan (rank 196). Apparently Bhutan too got 42.5 extra points for drawing with Brunei and went up 2 places higher. So I guess we should have more games with teams more to our standards. Perhaps that would boost up our positioning a bit. Losing a game gets us 0 points so it does not matter. But if the winner is below us, that might give them a boost and overtake us.

According to FIFA charts, we have been on a downward spiral since 1993. Then we were ranked as high as 140 in December 1992. Our lowest have been 199.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Bang Toang Long House in Sukang

Last week, I was accompanying my Minister for a Hari Gawai celebration at Bang Toang located at Mukim Sukang, Belait. I am not really sure how far Bang Toang is but I would say it is a good 150+ km from Bandar. You have to drive left at the Sungai Liang simpang. Then drive until you see the Sungai Mau/Merangking simpang and then drive through there all the way to the southern end of the Belait District.

First the road will be like what you and I used to see before turning into a rock covered road and finally a sand covered road and by then you can forget about sleeping in the car. The road bumps gets one's bums off the chair every few seconds and at places you can see that the road has eroded away that you wonder how the 4 wheel driver can actually drive through it. In the rain, you can forget about driving as the roads will turn into liquid mud.

Why has not the government improved the roads? It will be. It is part of the next RKN. Other than the Bang Taong longhouse and another longhouse, about 25 minutes drive further south and into the interior of Brunei, there are no other residents. Even the Bang Taong longhouse, during normal days, when the residents are all away working and studying in KB or elsewhere, we were told that only about 8 to 10 elderly people stayed there. The roads are difficult to maintain to a good condition because they are used by logging trucks.

The Bang Taong longhouse is a completely modern longhouse (see photo - the cars there are all MOD, PWD and the District Office's four wheel drives). It actually resembled more like a terrace house but with a common corridor or rather common hall where everyone can run and used it as they like. I was surprised with the opulence of some of the quarters. The Ketua even had a big chandelier in his quarters though with electricity generated with a small generator, the bulbs barely lighted!

I had to go do a tinkle and I went into one of the toilets and the owners apologetically said there was a chicken in there. There was no attempt to take the chicken out when I went in and I was wondering whether I should. But I decided not to do anything. So I did my thing and the chicken cocked its eyes and me and I was wondering what it wondered. One of my colleagues went in next and he too told me that he was wondering what would happened if the chicken had flown up or start pecking at the sensitive part. I guess the chicken must have been fairly stunned by the succession of people doing their things with all shapes and sizes....

We had a great time and our gift was a thick document full of requests on how to make life better for the residents. The residents were genuinely pleased to see us and it makes the three hours drive and occasional bumps to our heads by the jolting drive there was all worth it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Brunei's Latest Debts

I saw Reuters picked up on our Ministry of Finance's press release on the latest issuance of sukuk:-

KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 (Reuters) - Brunei has sold B$28 million ($20.5 million) of 91-day Islamic bonds at a yield of 0.88 percent, the government said.

The issue, which matures on Sept 18, is the 14th sale of short-term Islamic securities based on the "ijarah" or leasing arrangement.

With this issue, Brunei has so far sold B$1.1 billion worth of short-term Islamic bonds since its maiden offering in April 2006, the government said in a statement sent out on Monday.

Oil-rich Brunei is flush with cash but is issuing debt to build a market to become a regional hub in Islamic finance.

Islamic bonds do not pay interest, which is banned as usury under Islamic law, and are structured as profit-sharing or rental agreements underpinned by physical asset. ($1 = 1.36 Brunei dollars) (Reporting by Soo Ai Peng; Editing by Lincoln Feast)


If some of you are going "huh??!" why the government is issuing public debt, you may want to read about sukuk. I wrote about the first issuance of Brunei's sukuk when I was still at MOF way back in March 2006 here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Padang Besar in Bandar

[Note: This was my article that appeared in Brunei Times yesterday.]

NOT that many nations' capital cities have a field in the middle of them.

Tourists often wonder why Brunei's capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan has a nice big field situated in the middle of it. Not many realised the historic role of that field. If that field could talk, the stories it could tell would astound many.

The Padang Besar as it used to be known or simply translated as the "Big Field" is now officially known as "Taman Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien" named after His Majesty's late father who was the 28th Sultan of Brunei Darussalam. The Padang has been in existence for at least a hundred years. In his book, "The City of Many Waters" published in 1922 but talking about Brunei at the end of the 19th century, Peter Blundell described the following "At the back of the town behind the Sultan's palace was a large plain known locally as the Padang, an ideal site for a big Malay town ... and that the town of Brunei be gradually moved to the Padang."

The first British Resident, McArthur noted in his report that he wanted a clean, dry village with suburbs of kampong houses and he wanted to discourage building on the river. With those policies, development on dry land abound.

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, all surrounding the Padang.

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.

Up to the 1980s, many water villages retained their positions surrounding the Padang.

Technically they were on dry land but during high tides, the houses would be on water.

However these houses were demolished, firstly during the construction of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and secondly during the construction of the current buildings belonging to Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah.

Village names that used to be there that are now slowly becoming memories include Sultan Lama, Bendahara Lama, Pemancha Lama, Sungai Kedayan, Pemukat and Sumbiling Lama.

The Palace of Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam was in Kampung Sultan Lama. It was known as Istana Kampung Air. His Majesty Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien was born there on 23rd September 1914. The Padang itself was the sentinel for the development around it. In its early days, the Padang was used for grazing cows and cattles. Even in the latter days, when it was no longer used by cows, cows were still kept there prior to them being transported to the pound to be slaughtered in Kianggeh. It was only after World War Two that the Padang transformed itself. Along with the many development surrounding the Padang that occurred after the end of World War Two and coinciding with Brunei's first five year national development plan, the Padang changed its role.

Bruneians living around it slowly transformed it into a proper field that can be used for many events. Football was one of them. A number of Brunei's historic victories were played there including when Brunei won the Borneo Cup. Another historic game included the defeat of Singapore then at the top of the Malaysian Cup league. Football games stopped when the National Stadium was completed thus taking away Brunei's main advantage playing on a muddy field.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Padang was especially utilised for 'Hari Besar' or 'Big Day'. The big procession for His Majesty's birthdays, the firework displays, the performances, the fun fairs and the nightly stalls. The stage shows and performances then were almost unlimitless. There were singing, dancing, drama, cultural events, magic tricks and ronggeng. Before the completion of the SOAS Mosque, Eid prayers would be held at the Padang with His Majesty Sultan Omar Ali himself as one of the many devout Muslims praying there. Developments surrounding the Padang include the Secretariat Building on its east wing and the Jardine Wharf building on its west wing.

The Padang also saw the first cinema, first described located on its west wing before moving to the site of the current Dar Takaful Building. The first cinema was interesting that many of its patrons would book seats by tying handkerchiefs to the seats. Many others would huddle around the building including making their own peepholes watching the movies through the peepholes. The latter cinema called the Boon Pang Baru was even used as the detention centre for the 1962 rebels. The rebels were first held in the tennis court which was located at the north wing of the Padang. The tennis court was part of the police compound complex with the police station located in the centre of the north wing. That police station together with all the police barracks and facilities were demolished when the Padang was enlarged in preparation for Brunei's Independence held on the eve of 1st January 1984. Brunei's Independence Declaration was read at the Padang and many Bruneians were there during that historic occasion. Brunei's National Day celebrations continued to be held at the Padang until today.

On the Padang's South Wing was the Civic Centre building which also housed many government departments before being acquired by TAIB to be its headquarters today. In October 1970, Brunei's capital of Brunei Town was renamed Bandar Seri Begawan. The ceremony was held at the Padang. Today at the south wing of the Padang is a small park built in memory of that occasion. As time passed by, only the more important events are held being at the Padang. Gone are the fun fairs, the school kids performing gymnastics, the Brunei schools sports days, the odd football games and even the stage performances. Nowadays only big and important royal and religious events are held there.

The Padang Besar now renamed as Taman Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien has seen many things and will continue to see many things in the future, fitting with its position as the Padang Besar or the Big Field. Its iconic position and its importance in Brunei's history will remain for a long time.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Our Ambuyat

[Note: I found this article on our national food 'Ambuyat' written for Denver Post by John Henderson and syndicated on the The Times of South Africa (of all place!). Ambyuat indeed is an acquired taste.]

If Bruneians want to expand tourism, they’ll need to hide their national speciality.

I saw the sultan of Brunei the other day. He walked right by me as he entered a national Qur’an reading contest.

I wanted to ask the sultan a key question about his country’s cuisine: Hey, sultan, why can’t a man worth 22-billion, whose 400-million palace has a 110-car garage and 257 bathrooms, afford a better national dish?

It’s called ambuyat. Don’t look for it at an ethnic restaurant near you soon. It’s not going anywhere, and it’s here for reasons only historians and the streets’ starving cats can appreciate.

After four days in Brunei, I’d describe ambuyat (pronounced om-BOO-yacht) as a big pile of gelatinous, transparent goo dipped in coagulating blood.

First, a little background. During World War II occupation, the Japanese controlled Brunei’s rice paddies and cut off the food supply. One of the lone food sources was found inside the sago trees that fill Brunei’s jungles.

For centuries the Penan people, an indigenous, nomadic tribe who roam the jungles of Borneo, have lived off the sago tree. They still do. During a three-day trek through the jungles of Malaysian Borneo, I came across a Penan family squatting next to a stack of sago pulp.

They put what looked like leafy sawdust in a wooden bowl the size of a rubbish bin and pounded it into small chunks. They then mix it with hot water and the result is a starchy mass that has all the daily nutrients of raw lard.

Brunei, however, has advanced a bit since World War II. With the discovery of oil in 1929, Shell and the beloved sultan have put petrol in every pot. Shaped like two humps on a camel and occupying a small corner of Borneo’s northwest coast, Brunei has gone from a backwater British protectorate to a thriving Islamic republic of 375000 people with a glittering capital and prosperous economy.

Don’t believe me? What’d you pay for petrol this week? Exactly.

The sultan wants to expand tourism, and while he won’t open Hard Rock Brunei any time soon, he is promoting his country’s history. Part of that history is ambuyat. Tourism has grown 7% a year. I’m assuming ambuyat has nothing to do with it.

To try ambuyat, I went to a food-court stall where it was not pictured among the 31 dishes on the menu. No wonder. A picture in focus would scare off wharf rats.

Two young female cooks invited me into the kitchen to watch the process. It was little different from how the Penans make it. Ema poured a bag of sago that looked like blue-cheese crumbles into a pot of boiling water. She stirred for 60 seconds.

She handed me the result and the necessary dipping sauce, binjai, a gross mixture of chillies, salt and what looked like last week’s tomato soup. Hunks of bulbous matter floated in an orange- brown sea of repugnant fluids.

I was handed chopsticks , around which I was to twist the gooey ambuyat and then dip into the sauce.

The slimy mess slid down my throat like crushed, larvae-coated insect embryos. The sour binjai made my face wrinkle as if I woke up in a dairy farm. I looked over, and a young woman in a head scarf couldn’t stop laughing.

I tried it without the sauce and the ambuyat had no taste. None. But without the lubricating sauce, it nearly stuck halfway down my throat.

So hats off to Brunei for surviving World War II, where ambuyat was probably a tougher obstacle than the Japanese. But if the sultan invites you to the palace, forget the five swimming pools and 564 chandeliers. If ambuyat is on his menu, don’t go.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Love Document

Remember the late Sudirman? He was a lawyer though not many people knew that. Well, we have our own singing lawyer, Hans Anwar, though many Bruneians would know him for his singing and not for his legal practise.

I don't know his legal prowess but I do know his singing prowess. This new CD containing 15 of his newest songs written mostly by him not only shows his singing capability but also his songwriting capability. It also contained the song which he did with a Japanese singer, Yuri Chika 'Treasure the World'. In Malay the song is known as Hargailah Dunia Kita. I loved that song when it came out about a couple of years back and had waited for it to appear in an album

Hans not only had won a number of singing awards but also a couple of songwriting awards as well so it is not surprising that this album showcased his capability in both singing and song writing.

This album is the first if I am not mistaken that Hans Anwar showcased his singing. He had appeared in a number of compilation albums before including that of the 20th SEA Games 1999, Variasi Sukmairama, Phuturephase Presents, Asia AID Brunei and Rentak 914. The songs in this album are interesting and varied but definitely shows off Hans' style. They are worth every single cent of the $12 that I had to pay for it. You should get one too.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Just Like the Others

What can 4 good Bruneian singers and a Malaysian producer come up with? A surprisingly good CD. 'Seperti Yang Lain' is the product of that combination. 4 Brunei singers - Fakhrul Razi, Fairuneezan, Faiz and Sri Nazrina produced the album under Julfekar, a Malaysian producer who owns MillenniumArt Sdn Bhd. The album was produced with the cooperation of Brunei's Phuture Phase Productions.

All the singers have won singing competitions in Brunei as well as have performed on stage, on televisions and have represented Brunei in some of the bilateral Brunei-Malaysia, Brunei-Singapore, Brunei-Thailand productions. Fakhrul Razi also worked on National Radio as well as being a Rampai Pagi presenter. The singers have experience on their side. There are 12 songs, so each presented 3 songs each. On two of those 12 songs, Farawahida, another Malaysian singer also did a duet with Fakhrul Razi and Fairuzneezan.

Their CD was launched recently which I must have missed. I remembered reading an article in one of those Malaysian entertainment magazine about the CD and that was a couple of months back. I found the CD last Sunday at the Mall and this was priced at $19.00. I would have put up the songs here but these are our local singers who need to earn from their singing. So go buy the CD and listen to yourself how their singing goes. I will give you a hint .... they are good.... Though I don't quite agree with the title - 'seperti yang lain' or 'just like the other' implied this is nothing special. I disagree with that.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Short History of Brunei's RKN

[Note: The following article was published on Sunday in my Golden Legacy column on Brunei Times. I got rapped by the economic planning people for calling the ninth RKN, the ninth RKN and despite that being the ninth RKN, it should not be called the ninth RKN. I guess them planning people used a different numerical scale. Heh. Anyway, it is officially called RKN 2007-2012. By the way, the code in the budget book for RKN 2007-2012 starts with the number 9. I guess the finance people used another numberical scale. The illustrated photo accompanying the article is that of Kuala Belait in 1955.]


On 4th June 1950, Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin passed away in Singapore due to a haemorrhage. His brother, Pengiran Bendahara Omar Ali ascended to the throne two days later.

The ascension of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin III as Brunei’s 28th Sultan can be considered one of the most significant milestones of Brunei’s history. His ascension marked the beginning of the modern Brunei as we know it today. It was His Majesty’s contribution that led to the political and infrastructure development of modern Brunei.

Under the guidance of His Majesty, Brunei’s status as a British Protectorate was changed to self rule with the British Resident replaced by a British High Commissioner. His Majesty reinstated the Sultan’s internal sovereignity making him the supreme executive head of the Brunei’s government.

He introduced the 1959 Constitution ending the British Resident’s authority in Brunei. Brunei’s self rule meant that it is now Bruneians that rule the country even though its external affairs and defence was conducted by the British.

He granted permission to build mosques and suraus throughout the country as part of his efforts to expand and strengthen Islam in Brunei. The most significant landmark was the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque which was opened in 1958.

However one of his most important contributions was the introduction of the five year national development plans. Until the Second World War, Brunei has made steady economic progress. This would have continued had it not been for the war and the dastardly deeds of both Japan and the Allied Forces. The Japanese bombed and razed to the ground Brunei Town and Seria. Then the British and the Allied Forces bombed the Japanese installations as well as raze the remains of Brunei Town.

When the Australian moved in, in 1945, the only building left standing in the city was a Chinese temple. Everything else in the city, Brunei Town were blazing ruins with oil wells filled and fired in Seria Town.

The first duty of the government was to feed and restore the bare necessities of the people. Rehabilitation of Brunei Town was also started. In the period after the War, nearly 200 shop houses were rebuilt as well as new government offices. By early 1953, Brunei showed few signs of the war. However the government felt that a long term development structure was needed. So a 5 year national development was conceived and launched.

The first national development plan was launched in 1953 and covered the 5 year period from 1953 to 1958. The main objectives of the plan were to bring Brunei out of its lowly status in Southeast Asia; to modernize Brunei within the framework of the Malay Islamic Monarchy; to improve the living standards of Bruneians and to develop non-oil and gas industries.

A British expatriate by the name of ER Bevington was appointed as the Commissioner of Development. He was then working in the Colonial Office in Fiji. As Commissioner, it was his responsibility to carry out the new plan worth $100 million with the funding voted by the State Legislative Council.

What did that $100 million supposed to do?

The first national development plan gave special emphasis on the expansion of education and medical services; the implementation of resettlement schemes; the provision of water supplies; the improvement of agricultural methods and fisheries; the extension of roads and communications; the construction of bridges, buildings and electrical stations; and the installation of broadcasting and telephone systems.

More than 59.78% of the budget goes to infrastructure development with Health, Education and Welfare with 21.77% of the funding.

The plan also identified that Brunei should start diversifying its economy and not to be dependent on the oil industry. The plan identified several schemes including better use of waste gas; improving agricultural methods; the replanting of rubber and more focus on the fishing industry.

Unfortunately most of the plans to diversify the economy did not work. The waste gas was supposed to help start an aluminium industry and the manufacture of cement and nitrogen fertilizer but the projects did not materialize. Rubber prices fell drastically after the Korean War and the plan to replant rubber immediately failed.

But most importantly the plan also focused on improving the social welfare of Bruneians. The living standards of Bruneians improved tremendously. A pension scheme was granted under the plan to persons over 60 and the disabled. The scheme is still in place and enjoyed by many Bruneians despite not having to contribute anything to the scheme. The scheme which originally pays $20 per month in 1957 now pays $250 a month to any Bruneians who have reached the age of 60 and to those who are disabled.

Many of the important buildings and infrastructure Brunei was conceived and built during the first national development plan. This included the trunk road from Brunei to Tutong to Belait with all its bridges. The new wharves at Brunei town and Kuala Belait were built. Muara was also studied as a potential port for the future. The first airport at Old Airport was conceived. Automatic telephon exchanges were built in Brunei and Kuala Belait. More than 30 new schools were also built during these times. A new hospital at Kuala Belait was also built.

The second national development plan for 1962 – 1966 succeeded the first one with the aims to develop the economy and improve social conditions. The first two national development plans did not immediately follow each other. It was not until the third national development plans that the 5 year plans followed immediately after the last one ended. The third national development plan began in 1975 and ended in 1979 and this was followed by the fourth national development plan (1980 to 1984), the fifth (1986 to 1990); the sixth (1991 to 1995); the seventh (1996 to 2000) and the eighth (2001 to 2005).

Last year, the Ninth National Development Plan for 2007-2011 was presented at a meeting of the Long-term National Development Planning Board. The Ninth NDP for 2007-2011 succeeded the 8th NDP which ended in 2005. This time, the Government allocated a total of $7.3 billion for the Plan and placed emphasis on the diversification of the national economy especially in the non-oil sector.

At the same time, His Majesty had also set up the Long-term National Development Planning Board whose role is to provide a framework and development plan for a period of 30 years beginning with the 2006 financial year.

The Government’s National Development Plans are now widely anticipated by economic observers and investors as they generally outline the focus of economic development of the country for the next five years.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Borneo Cinema, Bandar Seri Begawan

I know I am a part time historian cause I write and do research on Brunei history, I am also a philatelist because I collect Brunei stamps, first day covers and related philatelic materials and I am also a numismatist because I collect Brunei currency notes, coins from ancient to modern times as well as other currencies. What most people do not know that I am also a deltiologist. And no, this has no connection to any of the religious '-ologist' - deltiologist is someone who collects postcards.

As a Brunei deltiologist, I buy old Brunei postcards because it has something to do with my primary hobby of being a historian. The old Brunei postcards tell me what's going in Brunei generally in the 1950s and 1960s. I do not have postcards going beyond those times. But I do have photos and pictures of postcards issued in the 1920s and 1930s.

Last night I was going through my collection and was looking closely at this particular one:


Most Bruneian would be aware of this scene. In the background is the Kampong Ayer and the Brunei Wharf complete with a ship berthing. The white road is the uncompleted road connecting to Jalan Stoney. There is no SOAS mosque yet. On the foreground, we can see the old wooden barracks for the police station. There is the Jardine Wharf building, then considered one of the most modern building in Brunei. The interesting bit is the building under construction in the middle of the photo.

What I did not realise is that this is the Borneo Cinema under construction. I was under the impression that this building was much older than the 1950s but apparently I am wrong.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Brunei, 1963

I found this book on ebay and decided to purchase it. For once, it did not cost me a fortune but it does provide some interesting insights what other people think about Brunei.

This book is part of a series of books written for West Malaysians and Singapore to know more about their 'neighbours' thus Our Neighbours Series. The series was published in 1963.

I am not sure who the book was aimed at. It is quite critical at times and not just about Brunei but about the three countries - oops, I should say, two states and one country. There was a passage which I am not sure how to interpret in this early morning, perhaps readers of this blog would like to explain it. The paragraph goes - 'A further characteristics of the territories is that are confronted with the many problems of a largely agrarian economy. At least this is true of North Borneo and Sarawak, and the problems existing in these territories are accentuated by the reluctance of Brunei to help develop a hinterland which lies in these other territories.' What is it that are we supposed to do? And don't these 'territories' belong to another country?

Of Brunei, the authors said that 'everyone knows that the supply of oil which provides Brunei's wealth will not last forever. There seems little attempt at a serious answer to the question "what then?" The future must provide for itself'.

Of Brunei Town (now BSB), the authors said that 'in spite of the grandeur of individual buildings, there seems to be no attempt at a plan for the whole town; it is therefore not impressive, but merely disorderly. It also has an air of impermanence'.

Interesting. You should see the map at the end of the book:-

Did we lose Brunei? Or is this the authors' prediction what will happen to Brunei? Scary....

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Brunei Days by TS Monks

I was rereading one of my Brunei books when I came across this one by TS Monks. This is so far the only book that I know that was written about Brunei at the end of the Second World War. Captain Monks, a British officer was seconded to the Australian Army and was part of the returning forces forcing the Japanese out of Brunei and Borneo.

He and another officer were tasked to jumpstart the new government and this book is an account of those early years in the mid 1940s just after the end of the Second World War. The book was written more or less like a personal journal of what he went through. Though one sided, he has given an accurate and descriptive account of what actually goes on at that time. For that, you can not get anyone better than Monks.

Surprisingly Monks did not return back to Brunei a full 35 years after he left. He was only here in Brunei for a couple of years and it took him 35 years after he left. The description of the changes in those 35 years alone makes the book a worthwhile buy.

I would suggest if you can still find the book in Brunei, buy it and hold on to it. I bought it more than 10 years ago for $37 but I dare say you would probably have to pay a lot more for this 1992 publication.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Bandar Seri Begawan 1955

This is Bandar Seri Begawan in the mid 1950s. I like looking at old photographs. It's not because I want to live in the past. But by looking at old photographs only can we see the physical development of Brunei.

This 1956 photograph is interesting. This is taken out of the State of Brunei Development Report January 1956, just before Brunei first launched its 1st RKN or 1st National Development Plan. There are many things which are different. The Sungai Kianggeh is still a big river and has not been turned into a huge drain as it is now. Only the rudimentary buildings of Jalan Sultan are there. There are lots of other buildings which have disappeared since then.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

More What Happens Next?

More photographs for you to consider what happens next to the characters in the following photographs.






Monday, June 02, 2008

What happens next?

The following photographs are nothing with Brunei. But I like them when I received them yesterday and I thought I will share them with you all. I supposed the quiz would be - what do you think will happen next - for each of the following photographs?









Sunday, June 01, 2008

Old Airport Government Complex

If you were to go around the government complex with all the government offices buildings at the Old Airport. You could not have imagine the place 50 years back. Many realised that by calling it the Old Airport, there would have to be an old airport there. Just in case you did not know it, there is indeed an old airport there and the old runaway as well.

The current Printing Department main building is indeed the old airport terminal. And the round top on top of that building was indeed the control tower. The road in front of the SPA, JKR and MOE was indeed the old runaway stretching all the way to what was formerly the place where people learned to drive. The government complex is fairly recent. It was only since 1980s that buildings were built there.

Recently while doing my research on something else, I stumbled upon these two photographs. These are taken when the runaway was still being built in 1953 and 1956. There was nothing there 50 years ago.


Inspirational Quotes

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