Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium 25th Anniversary

[My article below was published in its usual Golden Legacy column in Brunei Times Sunday Edition, last Sunday.]

ONE of Brunei Darussalam's iconic structures recently celebrated its silver jubilee anniversary, though the event went by without any official celebration. The Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium was officially opened on 23rd September 1983, exactly twenty five years ago.

Not many remembered that the date chosen for the official opening of the stadium was to commemorate His Majesty Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien's (then His Royal Highness Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan) 70th Birthday. It was His Majesty who had initiated the project eleven years before that. The construction of the stadium, then considered the most modern in the region was one of the most memorable events for the people of Brunei Darussalam.

Everyone was excited about having a national stadium that a fund was set up to allow Bruneians to contribute towards the cost of building the stadium. Unusually for a public building in Brunei Darussalam, members of the public donated and contributed towards the building of the stadium. Although the final collection of $1,102,761.57 accounted for a little more than 1.1 per cent of the total building cost ($100 million), the public participation showed the Bruneians' great interest and support for this project. According to a book about the stadium specially issued during the Merdeka Games of 1985, the original idea to build the stadium came from His Royal Highness Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien. It was to commemorate the Royal Visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to Brunei on 29th February 1972. The Royal Visit became an important event to commemorate the strengthening of an excellent and friendly relationship between Brunei Darussalam and the United Kingdom which had existed since 1847.

The National Stadium is located on a 70-acre site off Jalan Berakas. The construction works were carried out in various phases including Earthworks which commenced in August 1980. The main building construction works commenced in January 1981. The Stadium was finally completed in July 1983. The Architect for the project was SAA Partnership; the Civil and Structure Engineers were Bolton Hennessey Pte Ltd (Earthworks and Phase I Substructure) and PWD Structural Section (Phase II Superstructure); the M&E Engineers were Leong Consulting Engineers; the Quantity Surveyors were Contractor Services Consultants; the Main Contractor was Swee Pte Ltd; the Scoreboard Contractor was General Electric Co of Singapore Ltd; the Landscaping Contractor was Pyramid Construction Ltd; and the Synthetic Track was Maju Jaya Pte Ltd/Voight and a number of smaller subcontractors.

The entire project cost for the stadium is about $100 million. When it was first completed, the stadium can hold 30,000 spectators including 110 royal seats, 550 VIP seats and 3,000 grandstand seats. The stadium internal road system is linked to Jalan Berakas and to the Jalan Delima Berakas. Parking spaces are provided for 2,785 cars and 158 buses. The public enters the Stadium through four main points on the first floor concourse level which segregates the public from the ground floor level.

The stadium is orientated on a north-south axis so that the participants are not affected by the sun. The grandstand is similarly located on the west to avoid the afternoon sun. The stadium is 850 feet long and 632 feet wide. The height of the flood light towers is 198 feet. The aluminium sheet finish roof is 198 feet high and 135 feet long and cantilevers 59 feet beyond to cover the grandstand seats. One round of the top tier spectator seats is 2,368 feet which is about half a mile long. The stadium was officially completed on July 31, 1983, when the architect officially handed it over to the Public Works Department who in turn handed it to the Welfare, Youth and Sports Department (now the Youth and Sports Department) for its management and maintenance. With the date of the official opening less than two months away from the handing over date, the Welfare Youth and Sports Department faced a great and momentous task in preparing for the official opening ceremony. Despite that, they were able to complete the preparation.

[The Stadium after it was built in 1983]

On the day of the opening, thousands of students and other participants performed a massive display on the field making the first of its kind to be performed in Brunei. To get that display, two helicopters were deployed. The days before the opening ceremony, the sky opened up and drenched the field. It took two helicopters flying about six feet above the field to help disperse the water from pools on the field. This was certainly an expensive way of drying the field but nothing was going to stop the massive display. Surprisingly too, on that afternoon, the sky was clear and allowed the display to go ahead. More than 35,000 people turned up to watch the official opening of the Stadium. His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah consented to officially open the stadium and named it Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium. More than 3,000 balloons were released during the massive display. In the evening, a friendly football match was played between the Brunei Darussalam national team and an invited English League team, Sheffield United. This was the first football match played in the stadium. Despite the jet lag and the humid weather, Sheffield United won 1-0. The next day another match was held between Sheffield United and a Brunei invited team which ended in a 1-1 draw.

Since then, the stadium had undergone renovations. One of the more visible one was the construction of the Royal Dais in 1992 in time for the first major tattoo display in Brunei. The Royal Dais required the building of a second layer of roof over the stadium. In 1999 during the preparation of the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games), that roof was removed. The electronic score board was also replaced to a more modern one. The seats too had been upgraded. Brunei Darussalam celebrated many national events at the Stadium including the first ever National Day celebrations. The first National Day on February 23, 1984, was celebrated at the stadium. Students and youths performed their displays on the field in front of the huge crowd at the Stadium. There were more than 10,000 students holding coloured umbrellas and flip cards to display various slogans.

[The Stadium after 1992 renovation to include a Royal Dais with a rooftop. The rooftop was removed in 1999]

That first national day was marked with 1,984 balloons and 1,404 pigeons being released to mark both the Common Era and Hijra calendars. The first few National Days were held at the stadium before the celebrations were moved to the Taman Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien at the capital. The Stadium also witnessed Brunei Darussalam successfully hosting the 20th SEA Games in 1999, her first ever hosting of the SEA Games. The stadium also saw many Malaysia Cup matches being played on its field since 1984 with the greatest crowds during the run up to Brunei Darussalam winning its first ever Malaysia Cup also in 1999. Brunei Darussalam's Silver Jubilee Anniversary for the National Day will be celebrated at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in the evening of 23rd February 2009. This will be another great spectacle which members of the Brunei public will be clamouring to watch in the next few months.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Oldest Mosque in Brunei

Pg Runa commented yesterday about the SOAS Mosque "in all the fuzz and glorification of SOAS Mosque 50th anniversaries I couldn't resist myself into thinking this mosque is perhaps the oldest in Brunei. If this is true then, this mosque should pointed out as the 'most barakah' mosque in Brunei!" I certainly wished the SOAS Mosque is the oldest, but it is not.

There were many mosques built in Brunei throughout the years. Most of the surviving wooden ones were built in the 1920s and 1930s. However none of these mosques as far as I can tell are being used currently. Some you can still see standing next to the modern counterparts but no longer being used. Some have been demolished and you only have the site of where the mosques used to be. Most of the new mosques built to replace the older ones were built in the 1980s and 1990s.

That would make the oldest mosque still currently being used is the Masjid Seria. It beat the SOAS Mosque by about 4 years. The first Seria Mosque was built in 1938 by the Muslim residents and the Muslim Workers of the then British Malayan Petroleum Company. That was replaced by the current mosque when it was built in 1953 at a cost of a quarter million dollars. It was completed on 19th September 1954 and His Majesty Sultan Haji Omar Ali came to officially opene the mosque. This mosque was enlarged in 1984. This is what the mosque looked like when it was first built in 1954.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Masjid SOAS on Brunei Currency Notes

The 50th Anniversary of Masjid Sultan Omar Ali Exhibits at the Kota Batu Museum had a small exhibit on currency notes. Being a numismatist, I am very much drawn to that particular exhibit. That small exhibit near the staircase of the museum, if you are interested in them, has 10 pieces of currency notes, each of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien series of 1967 and the first Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah series. The only difference was the photographs of the two Sultans, the rest of the currency notes are identical.

These notes had the Masjid SOAS in the reverse side of the notes. The notation on the exhibits said something along the line that these notes had the photograph of Masjid SOAS. However they missed out on a few other Brunei notes which prominently feature the Masjid SOAS as well. One of the oldest which I thought they missed out was the $500 issued together with the first Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah series. This note is the first $500 note, nowadays we used the polymer $500 note, which is the third $500 note design.

If you noticed, the photograph of Masjid SOAS is as prominent here as it is in the rest of the notes on exhibit at the Museum. I just wanted to point that out.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

SOAS Mosque at the Museum

Yesterday, HRH The Crown Prince launched the book commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the SOAS Mosque and also the Exhibition at the Museum in Kota Batu. The book is a fantastic collection of events at the Mosque right from its construction all the way to the various Royal Nikahs that had taken place at the mosque. It is a priceless collection that must be kept in your collection. I know the book is available for sale at the mosques department at the Religious Affairs Ministry and also at Pusat Dakwah. I am not sure how much it will be. I would presume around $50.

The exhibit too is worthwhile going. There are many photographs about the mosque and the events as well as additional exhibits about some of the mosque's artifacts. The exhibition booth is much nicer than the permanent exhibits at the museum, if you ask me. It's a pity that the exhibit will be taken down after a couple of months.

Yesterday too while waiting for the Crown Prince, we were ushered into the new Natural Science exhibits. This is certainly the newest of all the exhibits at the museum. The museum used to have this exhibit but it has been totally revamped now. The hall even has the various whales skeleton, which I suspect used to be the whales that died on our shores the past few years. The exhibits are certainly worthwhile to see especially to see all the various models or rather stuffings of animals that are available in our forests. So, there are a number of reasons for you to drop into the museum. Do that with your kids after the exam period.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Brunei vs Sheffield United

You would have to be fairly 'berumur' to remember this photograph and to be a football fan as well. It was His Majesty greeting players from Sheffield United for the match to commemorate the opening of the national stadium. You see, 25 years ago, on 23rd September 1983, before our independence, Brunei officially opened the National Stadium. That day was chosen to mark Al-Marhum Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien's 70th Birthday as it was him that had pushed for the Stadium to be made.

The $100 million stadium was completed just a few months before that. Ask your parents if they remembered that a fund was set up for members of the public to donate towards the building of that stadium. The amount of money collected from the public was $1.1 million which contributes to 1.1% of the total building cost. Not much but it does show the enthuasism that the public has for the stadium.

As part of the official opening, Sheffield United from England was invited to play against the Brunei National Team which the Brunei Team lost 1-0 despite the Sheffield United players suffering from jet lags. The next day, Sheffield United played against an invitation Brunei team and this time Brunei did better by drawing 1-1. I remembered for the second match, our PS from Industry, Dato Hamid Jaafar played left winger and scored that goal after a brilliant run down the left wing.

I was quite curious then as to how Sheffield United was able to come to Brunei because they were playing in the English league. I thought they would not be playing in England as September 23rd, 1983 was a Friday and the next game was on a Saturday. Apparently Sheffield United still played in the English league. So the team that came to Brunei was either the first team or a reserve team. I had never been able to find that out even until now. Sheffield was playing in the old English League Division 3. They won promotion to Division 2 at the end of the 1983/84 season finishing 3rd in their division.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Brunei's Winning Silversmiths 1908

I was going through the Brunei Annual Report 1908, exactly one hundred years ago and I saw this photograph of Brunei's silversmiths. These are our country brethren a 100 years ago. I don't know who they are but they are someone's great grandparents or great-great grandparents today.

According to the Report, there were only two industries of Brunei then which were worthy of note. One was the brass work and the other the silver smiths. Both are more or less restricted to certain families or guilds the members of which keep the secret of their trade very much to themselves. That being so, we can actually pinpoint who those people in the photograph are as it was only about 1970s or 1980s when the craft was open to the public. One kampong in Kampong Ayer was Kampong Pandai Besi which was said to be those who are good at this handicraft lived there.

The silversmith was less extensive because it requires greater skills and more difficult to learn. The Report remarked that is is remarkable that the silversmiths were able to do their jobs. Their implements were primitive, the use of shaped punches or stamps were unknown and that everything is made of old dollars melted down. Now I know what happened to the old coins of Brunei.

What was surprising is that the Brunei silver smiths work were good that it won prizes at the Agri-Horticultural Show held in August 1908 in Kuala Lumpur. They won 5 First prizes and 2 Second prizes and only one first prize was won by a non-Brunei work. In addition Brunei's craftsmen also won First or Second prizes for a dagger, a parang, a golok, a gong, silk/gold sarong and cotton sarong. It cost the government $498.65 to send representatives and the exhibits but the government made a profit from the sale of the exhibits.

It's amazing to note that our own silversmiths and craftsmen were able to compete overseas and won even as far back as 1908. We should continue that legacy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

SOAS Mosque was my school

Last month, 26th September 2008, was the 50th anniversary of Masjid Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien. The Postal Services issued a set of new stamps to commemorate the event plus two miniature sheets. The first miniature sheet is shown above which is the high value miniature sheet with a $50 stamp.

This $50 stamp is not the first $50 stamp for Brunei. The first $50 stamp was issued in 1996 for His Majesty's 50th Birthday. In fact five $50 stamps were produced especially for that and the miniature sheet sold for $250 (it is about $800 on the market now). A $60 stamp was issued for His Majesty's 60th Birthday and a $40 stamp was issued for His Majesty's 40th Coronation earlier this year. This high value stamp is certainly an interesting marketing strategy for Brunei's Postal Services as not that many people will be using this $50 stamp. I would say a used one would probably cost more than an unused one.

Back in the 1970s, most people did not know that the mosque was also a school. In those days, Madrasah, the building next to the mosque was the only school that provided sekolah ugama in the morning in the whole of Brunei, I think. Most of us who attended the Brunei Preparatory Schools would be going to school in the afternoon. So the only way to go get sekolah ugama would be going to madrasah. Madrasah classes were overflowing. I remembered there were about 50+ of us in each class. The classes were not even partitioned properly except with standing wooden partition. You can hear the classes next to you.

We were like that for a few months before they started using the balconies overlooking the main prayer hall at SOAS Mosque. Every day we would be dragging up a standing blackboard up to the balcony. The balcony is not very visible from the main prayer hall but every Thursday I would remember looking down at the workers laying the carpets for the next day Friday prayers. I think in those days, the carpets were not permanently placed on the floors. So on the balcony, there would be two or three classes, one on both ends and one in the middle. This went out for a few months before we got moved to the classes at BPS Bandar at today's SOAS College padang. That's another interesting story in itself.

I remembered SOAS Mosque. I am probably one of a few people in Brunei who can say I studied there.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's nice to be home

I arrived back on Sunday but was unable to post anything over the last two days. My apologies for those expecting to find something new.

There were a number of postal items which I waited for me when I arrived. One of them was this photograph of the Brunei Malay Regiment's aeroplane. I don't remember this particular plane as I have always thought the Brunei Armed Forces always had helicopters and one transportation plane bought in the late 1990s/early 2000s. This particular aeroplane was much older than that transportation plane. I do have one faithful ex-army reader who I do hope will drop me a note later on about this aeroplane.

One of the things which I did when I was in Manila was to utilise my lunch break. Since I wasn't taking any lunch, I usually use the time to see something. On the second day, I wanted to see the Money Museum at the Philippines Central Bank or Bangko ng Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). I was assured that I can go in without much problem. So when my car approached the gate of BSP, I realised it was like entering Fort Knox. There were a number of questions - who I wanted to see, where I was going etc and not to mention the security checks on the car including mirrors under the car etc. I told them I just wanted to visit the Money Museum and in some sense promise not to touch anything else including the multibillions of pesos which I know is somewhere inside the place.

After about 10 minutes, we were finally allowed in. At BSP's main building, I asked the guard about the Money Museum and he pointed to a building across the street which happened to be next to the security gate. But he said, I can't go in. I asked why. He told me it was closed for renovation and had been over the last few months. It will only be opened in November. He told me to come back in November 5th.

I had to smile. The security guards at the main gate could have just told me that the Money Museum was closed. Being next to the Money Museum, I am sure they would or should have known that the Money Museum was under repair. They could have save me lots of bother and I would not have to go through the various security checks and they would not have to carry out those checks. I had to put it down to government internal miscommunications which I think we also suffer from.

Many times we forget to give information to the people who matter. Those out in the front desk where people come and ask. If the right information is not there, it forced the public to venture inside to get the right information. At the same time, our front desk staff does not venture out to get the extra information too. I remembered when I was at TAP in the early days, there was a lady who was a Pembersih (cleaner). After she completed her work, she used to hang out at the front desk and would help out there. I found out she could speak English and the public asked her lots of questions and she would be able to answer them correctly. She got the info from the other staff. I gave her a uniform and placed her at the front desk permanently.

She eventually resigned because she lived in Tutong. But when TAP was corporatised recently, the HR people searched for her, approached her if she is willing to leave her job and moved to TAP, and reappointed her properly, this time, not as the cleaner obviously and paid her almost double what she used to earn. The important role of giving and getting information is something which I am always clamouring for, and hence It's not perfect but it's there.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

There is no place like home

We were in Sariaya, Quezon Province in Philippines yesterday. Quezon Province is about three hours drive from Manila. We were visiting a few gravel mines as well as a few gravel crushing facilities. More a fact finding mission as to whether the ones that we have could have been done better plus other things. Sariaya was a beautiful place.

I was quite surprised to find that we had armed policemen with M-16s accompanying us when we arrived. I thought the few that I saw were the only ones but when we visited the quarries and the facilities, all of them further inside forests a few miles off the beaten track, there were army people everywhere. We even saw a tank. Everyone was serious. On the way there too, there were many checkpoints. I thought the checkpoints were for traffic safety but I did not realise they were also manned by the police milita until latter in the day.

We even took photographs with the armed police. At the end of the visits, we asked for the list of security personnel, thinking that we could sort of compensate them for looking after us. We got a list of almost 50 names. I thought at first that was a bit too many for looking after a Deputy Minister, a PS, the Brunei Charge'd and a few senior officials. Anyway, the DM's PA sorted things out.

In the car, on the way back, my driver was telling me about the area being a little bit unsafe. Talk about an understatement. I asked him further and he told me about how Quezon Province and even in particular Sariaya used to be a Communist New People's Army stronghold and that even up to now, there would still be clashes now and then. I checked on the internet news just now and even today apparently there was a clash with an NPA rebel being killed by government forces. In fact over the last few months, there have been a number of clashes including in August where the rebels attacked a Quezon town police station and seize all the firearms there.

Maybe 50 people to look after us suddenly sounded such a small number. We were really lucky nothing happened in our area and we were really miles inside in the forests away from the normal roads and traffic. We did ask how safe the whole place was before we left and we were assued that there is nothing to worry about. I guess we did not know the extent of the seriousness of the whole place. I really missed the peacefulness in Brunei and just how lucky we are to be living there. Lessons for the future.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Dinner at the Museum

Sometimes it is strange what you can learn from other countries. Last night was the Official Farewell Dinner for ASEAN Minerals Ministers. It was held at the, believe it or not, the Manila Metropolitan Museum. In fact, we had to ask a few times just to make sure that the venue was correct and not a typo.

At 7 pm, we all headed to the museum and it was true, the dinner was held there. The dinner was in fact held at a special exhibition hall which last night was having an exhibition of a famous Filipino artist. When we had the reception, all the guests were not just talking to each other but also look at all the paintings that were on exhibit. Even during the dinner proper, we were all surrounded by very beautiful paintings.

This is probably something we can in Brunei. Either we use the Museums or any of the exhibition halls and the guests can look at the paintings or whatever we have on exhibitions. The other one would be to have dinner at a proper dinner place but have exhibitions brought to it so that the dinner guests can also look at the exhibitions. Though the latter, we have done on small scale so maybe expanding it would be good.

During dinner, we were entertained to a group of singers. The singers in their beautiful national dress hid one thing. The singers used to be children out on the streets of Manila. The city had a program where these children became wards of the city and given a training program to help them. Really, last night you could not have imagine that these kids used to be street kids.

We don't have street kids back home. But we do have unemployeds and even though we already have training practical programs, singing and performances are something we have not taken seriously. Perhaps these could be included especially for our tourism market.

Can't wait to get home....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Freedom Fighters versus Terrorists

After two heavy posts, today's post is not heavy and not even about Brunei at all but just some general information.

One of the problems of being alone in a hotel room in a foreign country late at night is that you don't have anyone to talk to other than yourself. If you do have someone to talk to, I suggest you keep that to yourself and not tell your other half. Anyway, being a part time writer, I am always in search of information and materials. I remembered coming across one arguement about the difference between a terrorist and a freedome fighter. Of course the definition depended on which side you are on. I thought I will do a search and I came up across a whole list written on a website for Anarchy for Anybody. I infringed their copyright and copied the entire list here:-

Aid: This means "military support meant to shore up undemocratic client regimes and ensure that the pro-business, capitalist environment remains unchallenged." Also called "foreign aid" or "aid package".

Anarchist: This means "terrorist and/or political nutcase, regardless of ideology." This is a hot-button word, meant to scare you into not thinking. Many people who are not anarchists are called that in the media, so this term is used indiscriminately right now, often couched with "self-proclaimed".

Anti-government: This means "anybody who is bad or nasty." Anybody who doesn't like the government must be bad or nasty, because the American government is always on the side of truth and justice.

Big Government: All non-military government spending. Military spending is never considered "big government".

Biotechnology: This means "prostituting science to make Big Business even richer by way of genetic engineering". Biotechnology is very, very good, and anybody who opposes it is either being an extremist, unrealistic, or unreasonable (see below for definitions).

Change: This means either: 1) returning to class-based private ownership by suppressing resistance; 2) shifting the existing balance even more in the favor of the powerful and privileged; 3) more of the same; maintaining the status quo.

Consumer: This has replaced "citizen." It is the basic human unit of capitalist society, an entity whose sole means of political expression lies in what they do and do not buy. A healthy consumer is generally a person who is in debt; if you're debt-free, you're not being a good consumer.

Counterinsurgency: This is terrorism when practiced by the United States. It can encompass anything from election fraud, to propaganda blitzes, to torture, to genocide...anything used to destabilize and otherwise demolish a regime. When practiced by anyone BUT the US (or a power sanctioned by the US, most notably Israel), this is considered "terrorism".

Democracy: The biggest buzzword of them all; it has come to mean "acquiescence to the will of the United States and/or the industrialized North." The US only supports democracies, regardless of their human rights records, and regardless of the lack of democracy in the regimes. (SEE ALSO Freedom)

Deregulation: This is corporatese for "eliminating health and environmental safeguards as impediments to corporate profit" and "removing capitalist firms from accountability to the law" This is portrayed as a good thing because the mainstream media are all owned the the same capitalistic elite, and for this elite, deregulation means more money for them, and thus, more power--which is good for them. Typically, what is good for this tiny group of tycoons is very bad for the rest of society, and humanity, for that matter. The incident at Bhopal, India in the 80s shows what full-blown deregulation can do for a community.

Development: This means "exploitation of existing resources by wealthy opportunists, particularly in the area of export of raw materials from Third World nations."

Dictator(ship): This means "any Communist regime". No American-funded dictator is ever called this in American media. When the US funds a dictator, he's called either a "strongman" or a "statesman" or a "moderate".

Disinformation: This is one of those sanitized governmentspeak words; it means "spreading lies with intent to bring shame, embarrassment, or ridicule to political rivals." When the US engages in propaganda campaigns, these are called "disinformation," the information itself, "facts;" when political rivals to the US engage in disinformation, it is called "propaganda," the information itself, "lies." NOTE: When disinformation is dispensed to everyday people, it's referred to as either "news" or "the media".

Downplay: This means "ignore" or "disregard". Politicians don't like to seem like they ignore or disregard their constituents, so they downplay a lot of things instead.

Downsizing: This is corporatese for "mass firing of workers." Companies no longer fire lots of people; rather, they engage in "downsizing" This verbal massaging rubs out the negative aspect of capitalist decision-making, making deliberate mass firing for profit enhancement seem instead to be a natural and objective market phenomenon--not unlike a hurricane or a tornado. Nobody "fires" anybody; rather, companies simply are "downsizing." Responsibility for the firings is neatly tucked away. (SEE ALSO "rightsizing")

Economically disadvantaged: This means "poor,"but the extra syllables soften it and thereby cloud the meaning. Can apply to nations or people. It doesn't place blame; rather, people just become "economically disadvantaged."

Education: This is used by PR specialists synonymously with "indoctrination". So, if you're opposed to their client's agenda, they'll try to "educate" you on the issue.

Extremist: This has come to mean "anyone who deviates from the edicts of Washington." Can be applied to foreign or domestic opponents. They are always "extremists." Also known as MILITANTS.

Family values: This means "reinforcing patriarchal family relations, where the male member of the household works, and the female member of the household stays home and raises the children." Feminists are notorious opponents of "family values", in the buzzword world of the media, because they see a broader role for women than merely as vassals for their husbands.

Flexibility: This term means "powerlessness in the capitalist workplace producing extraordinarily compliant (e.g., desperate) workers" and is becoming strongly evident as trade unionism continues to founder against corporate and managerial power--a "flexible" worker is one who is "permitted" to work up to 80 hour weeks and beyond in order to keep their employment. The huge temporary (e.g., contingent) workforce is hailed for being extremely "flexible". Workers who are not sufficiently "flexible" are typically fired (aka, "let go"), which does wonders for increasing the remaining workforce's flexibility. The imagery of bending over backwards to keep your job (e.g., pleasing your bosses) is an apt demonstration of the "flexibility" desired on the part of the capitalist owners and their managerial toadies. The "Right to Work" laws in effect in the US are examples of legislating this "flexibility."

Food insecurity: Starvation, inability to acquire food regularly.

Freedom: This now means "capitalism." Anyone who opposes this "freedom" becomes an extremist. The USA always fights for this kind of "freedom."

Free Elections: This means "elections that represent the interests of the United States government." Any election that does this is considered a "free" election, regardless of the observations of human rights advocates. Egypt's ruling party, after ransacking its opposition with police raids and other niceties, recently held "free elections."

Genocide: This means "any mass murder not committed by either: 1) The United States; 2) One of America's client regimes." The US never commits genocide, even when it does.

Human rights: This means "anything that fits in with America's foreign policy agenda of the time." The US shows a lot of concern for human rights in China and Cuba, but in places like El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Haiti, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Peru, Liberia, etc., etc. the human rights issues are examples of "extremism". The US considers itself a champion of human rights, despite the reality of American foreign policy.

Managed care: This means "continuing to increase the profits of insurance and pharmaceutical companies by keeping health care costs exhorbitant, while placating people's genuine anger over this issue." Maintaining the misperception that in a modern society, health care is a privilege, and not a right, is an essential part of "managed care."

Mandate: This means "representative of the interests of a minority of the population, so long as this interest supports capitalism."

Militant: Meaning "anyone who takes active resistance against the interference of the hegemonic powers." Only extremists become militants. Moderates are not militants, even when they are violent and murderous. No military personnel are considered militants. Only civilians can be militants.

Moderate: This is "anyone who supports the United States (or the industrialized North), regardless of human rights record." They must be supportive of capitalism, however, and violently hostile to leftists. The USA only supports "moderates".

National Security: This means "anything the State decides to do to preserve the interests of the ruling elite."

Nutraceutical: This means "genetically-engineered organism people don't want to eat but which biotech companies think will make them a lot of money so they put it under a different name".

Outsourcing: This is corporatese for "using an external workforce on a consultation basis as a cost-cutting measure." Companies no longer hire scabs to replace strikers; rather, they rely on "outsourcing" labor to get the job done at lower cost, at the expense of their normal workforce. This reflects the post-industrial phenomenon of financially mobile capital versus immobile labor pools. Capitalists can then pick and choose their workforce, with the "best" option being the workers who will work for the least amount of money. This is "outsourcing" in action.

Paramilitary: This means "death squad" -- government- or capitalist-supported irregular units whose purpose is to rape, torture, and murder civilians who are considered unacceptable to the ruling regime. Less well-funded paramilitaries are also known as "goons" or "thugs". Nearly all American-sponsored "democracies" use paramilitaries.

Peacekeepers: These are military forces meant to enforce the status quo. They are forces for stability and freedom, in the newspeak sense of these words. The militants of the hegemonic powers are always peacekeepers, never extremists, regardless of their behavior.

Peace Process: This means "working to keep a client nation in a overwhelmingly dominant position relative to our rivals, by cementing existing relations in their favor with lavish military aid." Example: in order to ensure the "peace process" continues, the US is providing Israel $100 million in military aid and training to combat terrorism. Peace through superior firepower, perhaps?

Pluralism: This means "representing the dominant power's viewpoint". This one is often used by corporations and their lobbying groups when they want their view to dominate. If, say, an environmental group pushes their agenda, and the polluting lobbies want them to compromise their stance, they cynically accuse the group of not embracing "pluralism", knowing that if an environmental group embraced their view, it would destroy the group's very purpose.

Politically motivated: This means "representing opinions not accepted by the US government, which must therefore be wrong". This one came up during the flap over the World Court's efforts to punish war criminals. The US opposed this court on the grounds that US soldiers could be brought to trial on "politically motivated" charges. Any such charges, regardless of factual merit, are dismissed out of hand by US authorities without consideration.

Progress: This means "anything that puts more money and/or power into fewer hands". It is also taken as something of an inevitability. Sort of like the tides, or something. Anybody who stands in the way of progress must be a fool.

Reform: This means "to bring closer to the expectations of the hegemonic powers." Only extremists oppose this kind of reform. The recent capitalist transition (and corresponding organized crime wave and emergence of a wealthy elite) of the former Soviet Union is an example of "reform." Used domestically, it means "any kind of change, good or bad, although never referred to as being bad".

Restructuring: This means "keeping or enhancing existing power relations within a corporation, the purpose being to further increase owner profits at the expense of the workers." Typically, such restructuring involves massive employee layoffs and is generally couched in terms like making the company "lean and mean", or "trimming the fat" from the corporation (meaning, of course, that the vastly-overpaid CEOs on top are "vital" to the company, and the employees who actually DO the work are considered "the fat").

Retribution: This means "Using overwhelming military force to attack anyone who dares retaliate against the initial aggression of a subhegemonic power." That is, if a country from the Industrialized North (or one of their vassal states) launches an offensive against a group, and this group attacks back, the aggressor is entitled to seek "retribution," broadening and intensifying the following attacks.

Socialism: This means "anything bad or nasty, also tinged with unrealistic ideas". Anything the US opposes must be bad or nasty, because the US is always on the side of truth and justice. So, while in spirit, the American family is socialist -- that is, children don't pay their parents for their room and board or work for wages, no American family would ever be called that, unless they were really bad or nasty.

Stability: This means "suppressing democracy (true meaning of term) and keeping the 'right' people in power, regardless of the wishes of the people they rule/terrorize."

Standoff: This really means "siege." Typically, it is meant to convey the impression that a handful of civilians surrounded by government agents is on equal footing against the helpless government, a threat to law and order. It is meant to make the besieged appear aggressive and dangerous, and the government agents as protective and benevolent.

Terrorism: This stands for anything the State does not approve of, regardless of whether terror or killing is inflicted. So, when a hacker closes down an e-commerce web site, (s)he's engaging in "cyberterrorism". Note: Nothing the State does is ever considered terrorism by the media, even when terror, killing, rape, or torture occur.

Terrorist: Anybody practicing terrorism (see above), so long as not on the payroll of the US government or one of their allies. The State cannot commit terrorism, because it writes the laws and gives itself the latitude to do whatever the hell the leaders want. Only everyday people can commit terrorism.

Transitional assistance: Formerly known as welfare, now related to workfare.

Ultranationalist: This means "fascist", because that word isn't allowed to be used anymore in the American media, it would seem, because of the bad associations with that word (you know, World War II, Nazis, etc.)

Ultra-right: This also means "fascist", and is used for the same reason as "ultranationalist".

Unhealthful: This means "bad for you". I saw this on a local news broadcast where they were doing the "air index" rating (pollution index). The two rankings on the display that caught my eye were "unhealthful" and "near unhealthful". I suspect that this new word was invented to lessen the connotations regarding breathing toxic air...thus, the air pollution isn't "unhealthy" "noxious" or "bad", it's merely "unhealthful".

Unrealistic: This means "anything that is not currently acceptable to the ruling elite." It is taken as a matter of unspoken trust that ruling elites are always realistic, while any who oppose them are not. Related to unreasonable.

Unreasonable: This means "anything not currently acceptable to the ruling elite." Nothing made by the ruling elite is every considered unreasonable, even when it is.

Unrest: This means "unsanctioned citizen activity within a given region." It is used to deflect attention from any potential reasons behind citizen actions. It implies that the normal state of police control is characteristic of a nation 'at rest.'

Contentment and the World Economy

During Hari Raya, my better half and I visited one of my colleague's house. Compared to ours, it was very beautiful and large and had all the things I wanted. I told her that this is the kind of house that I wanted and I could only dream of having one.

She said that we should be contented with what we have. We have more than enough. When we got home, while at the computer, I had the radio on as always. Lo and behold! I heard one penceramah talk about kanaah or contentment. It was indeed a divine reminder to me.

Today, as we looked at the world economy moving up and down like a yoyo, I cannot help but think had everyone in the world been contented, we might not have such extremes. The world has been driven by expenditures.

One kingkong commented on my entry yesterday "The issue of 'memiskinkan diri' is not only a local issue. Americans have similar problem as well. They have been living on borrowed money using credit cards and bank loans that's why they were having credit crunch at the moment.Just imagine every americans borrowing 5000 us dollars and with a population of about 200 million that will be 1 trillion dollars." It is not just Americans, it is us. We can't be contented with a 42 inch tv. It has to be an LCD 42 inch flat screen tv. With 60 months credit term offered by electrical stores, everything looks affordable.

In Singapore, when people staying in subsidised public housing started buying flat screen tv, the rest of the public was outraged. In Brunei, I visit 'poverty' houses and see satellite dishes. I pass by most of the 1,600 houses in perpindahan who are so far behind their payments, chances are there would be astros and a number of cars there. I bet if I go in those houses, I will find flat screen tvs. Chances are too that they are all trying to keep up with the next door neighbours.

Sometimes we forget the simple things in life. Be thankful with what we have and I bet we won't run into financial problems. And the world will not be having this wild ride into the unknown future.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

World Recession and Poverty

Greetings from Manila! I have two days of meeting representing Brunei for the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Minerals. The Ministerial Meeting will be on Thursday. This meeting is one of the relatively least known meeting, in fact, I only knew about it a couple of months ago when I have to prepare for it. It aims to drawing up regional policies that will promote regional cooperation among ASEAN member nations and develop the ASEAN mineral sector as an engine for economic growth and social progress. Though not much for Brunei, other than sand and gravel and of course oil which is not included in this meeting, we do not mine anything else, yet.

Anyway, for the next few days, my entries will be based from whatever that comes to mind. Yesterday, I overheard something interesting during the Yayasan's Hari Raya celebrations. Someone, a senior person, was asking why bother about the crisis that is engulfing America and the rest of the world. I am not sure whether the question was to open up discussion or whether he genuinely believe that the world is not interconnected. At the same time I think that many Bruneians do not realise the effect of the drop in Dow Jones or the London Stock Exchange and the others, on the Brunei's economy.

Someone explained to him that Brunei is not detached from the world and the simple answer is that if the world is not capable of buying anything due to the recession, then no one will want to buy our oil. Oil price will come down and our revenues will be down. And if our revenues are down, then the government will have great difficulty in meeting spendings for social obligations etc etc. Of course it's more complicated than that. But that's the general picture.

Though as I watched the news this morning, the stock prices seemed to be rising again after promises from a number of governments to guarantee banks deposits. But at the same time, many of these banks are now partly owned by the government because of the government assistance. There seemed to be a return to partial nationalisation of banks in the world. I sincerely pray that the world will not go into recession, seriously.

Regardless of what happened to the world, HM's titah yeterday was about using agriculture to help reduce poverty. Poverty is something unique in Brunei. Our table was discussing about actual poverty and 'forced poverty' or what we called 'memiskinkan diri'. It's quite hard to distinguish the two. Actual poverty to me is those who are unable to move out of the poverty trap. 'Memiskinkan diri' are people who should have known better but either did not want to do the right thing (saving instead of spending) or just deliberately could not care less attitude because the government through its welfare system will come and help them anyway. I end with that open thought.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Please Drive Carefully

My wife and I were at the Baiduri Bank Hari Raya bash the night before. Rano had already reported that we had Agnes Monica and another which he did not mention was Saiful Apek. I have never seen Agnes perform before whether live or on tv but Agnes, I have to admit is one energetic lady. I am not her fan though, so I only know one of her songs unlike some members of the audience who remembers every single lyric. Anyway today's post is not about Baiduri or Agnes.

On our way back from Jerudong, we got caught up in this long traffic jam at Tanjong Bunut. When we got nearer, we saw the firemen busy trying to hose down the car which apparently caught fire and trapping the driver inside the inferno. Yesterday morning I heard the tragic news that the driver died in the car. There were two cars involved in the accident that night. Both cars did not survive the accident by the look of it.

Yesterday afternoon on our way back from Lumut was another long jam. This time an SUV turned turtle. Exactly a week ago, someone died on the same road stretched. According to the police log, minus the entries above, 4 deaths and 53 accidents happened in the first week of Hari Raya.

When I started my career at the Communications Ministry more than 20 years ago, one of my portfolio was the Road Safety Council. In Brunei and in many other countries as well, road safety is a multi agency issue. Land transport looks after the driver licensing, registration and safety of vehicles, the police looks after the enforcement, the public works built and maintain the roads and the traffic lights and not to mention there are other people doing road signs, simpang signs etc. Coordinating across multiple agencies is not easy. But then can we blame bureaucracy fully?

How about the drivers and the vehicles concerned? The one thing that people talked about is the possibility of accidents being caused by not so alert drivers texting sms. I have seen that often enough. The other day I even saw one lady driver reading a newspaper. She must have thought being on Jalan Tutong in the morning with the traffic moving at a snail's pace, she can read newspapers.

For road safety, I guess we are all responsible like it or not. So, please, please, please drive carefully.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bandar Seri Begawan 38th Anniversary

Not many realised that last week was Bandar Seri Begawan's 38th Anniversary. It was on 4th October 1970 when His Majesty consented to declare what was then Bandar Brunei or Brunei Town or even some called Pekan Brunei as the new Bandar Seri Begawan.

Even today not many knew where Bandar Seri Begawan came from. For the younger readers, Seri Begawan Sultan was the title used by His Majesty's father, Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien when he abdicated in 1967. Begawan is an honorific title used in Brunei to denote that person has retired. It is in honour of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien was the reason why the name of Brunei's capital city was changed.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien was known as the Architect of Brunei. I have always taken that for granted. But over the last few years after reading books and articles did I realise personally just how much he has contributed. You would have to start at the beginning just after the second world war.

Despite the first British Resident McArthur’s efforts to move the ‘Bruneis’ to dry land in 1906, not much progress was made. In December 1941, 35 years after McArthur’s efforts, the dry land in Brunei Town was merely a small town with one major road going through it with all the houses made out of wood with nipah roof and one cinema built in 1923 made out of wood for night entertainment. There was a wooden mosque named Masjid Marbut Pak Tunggal, sited not far from today’s Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque. Other than that, there was not much. Even that small development was wiped out by the end of Second World War.

It was Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien who worked hard to bring development to the capital city from a ruined city after the end of the Second World War. At the end of the war, after heavy aerial bombardment by the Allied Forces, Brunei Town lay in ruins. Even that wooden mosque was destroyed.

According to TS Monks, one of the first British administrators who came immediately after the war, described Brunei Town as ‘… hardly a building left standing … the main street was a mess of bomb craters and fallen telegraph poles … there was not a soul in sight anywhere … it was a shattered ghost town … so severe had been the bombing damage that it was difficult to imagine what the town had been like …”

It was Sultan Omar Ali who introduced the modern government and including all the various national development plans. It was then that Brunei's capital city took the shape it is in today. By 1970, Bandar Seri Begawan was deservedly named.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thank you Your Majesty

My Hari Raya cards have just started to arrive again including from His Majesty, Her Majesty and Her Highness. So, thank you for the cards and I am putting up the cards here for everyone to enjoy:

Friday, October 10, 2008

University of Chicago in Brunei

I was surprised to find an email from Chicago University in my email box this morning. Chicago is one of the bigger university from USA. I thought I will share this with everyone as it is not often you find an American university coming to Brunei. By the way I am not connected whatsoever to Chicago, just in case you are wondering. I am just doing a public service. Anyway the email read as follows:-


Dear Mr *****,

Founded in 1898, the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business – renowned for its Nobel Laureate legacy – launched the world’s first EMBA program in 1943. The Chicago EMBA program which connects dynamic executives from three continents (Asia, America and Europe) is now coming to Brunei!

At our information session, find out how the Chicago EMBA program can empower you with an unparalleled business education and networking opportunities like no other program can.

If you are interested in finding out how you can join one of the top US business schools in the world and discover how you can be a part of more than 40,000 alumni globally (including 5,500 CEOs), please click here.


The information session will be at Sheraton Hotel on 22nd October 2008 and will start at 7.00 pm. Why not?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Think BIG

Have you ever thought of winning $20,000 simply by writing? And I am not joking.

I was alerted by iCentre that it is currently running a THINK BIG Business Plan competition. I am not sure what it is but it said that this THINK BIG Business Plan competition is the first ICT focused business plan competition in Brunei Darussalam and to date, it also has the biggest prize money award in the country. The competition is co-organised by BEDB and Asia Inc Forum.

The competition was launched on 27th August 2008 but it is not too late. You have until 20th October 2008 to submit your 3 page executive summary. If you plan to participate, a contestant kit is provided in the iCentre's website at

The top plans will be shortlisted and put through the next round. It is only then that the shortlisted participants will go through two intense workshops conducted by highly qualified practitioners from overseas and a technology forum session to help the participants in formulating the best business plan for the final judgment.

There are two categories - ICT Business Plan and ICT Business Plan for Islamic Application.

Ground rules - you must be 18 at least, it must be your original work, it's opened to almost everyone in Brunei (yellow and purple ICs only), you can take part in both categories and the plans must be submitted by 20th October 2008.

So, go, go get the forms. I can't imagine an easier competition with $20,000 given away. By the way, if you can't get the $20,000, runners ups get $10,000 and $5,000 and the special Islamic Application gets $10,000. My eyes are blinking at all these money prizes.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Line Up

This photograph was part of a whole set of black and white photographs which a colleague brought over during Hari Raya. I asked my colleagues who were from this generation whether any of these young Brunei ladies and gents were identifiable. Their answers were in the negative and that picqued our curiosity as to who these were. So if you do know any of the people in this photograph and the ones below, do let us know.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Tailor Home Delivery

This cartoon was posted yesterday in the Borneo Bulletin. It was tucked away somewhere in the inside pages and I was not sure whether everyone saw it. I thought this cartoon was the most hillarious that I have seen very recently.

My sister in law runs or used to run a kedai tukang jahit. Like many tailoring shops, it broke even or make losses in 11 out of 12 months. But in the fasting month, its income made up for the other 11 months. The profit could be higher if it was not for the non collection of baju. Every year, there would be at least a dozen or more baju, generally baju fesyen for the ladies would be left uncollected. These are not the simple baju kurung. These are the ones with the 'katoks' and the 'maniks' and generally cost a bomb to make because of the time it takes to make them.

The material quality is so-so but the requirement that the customer asked for does not justify it. That is of course up to the customer. But when the completed dress cost $200+, it's a lot easier to abandon especially in the run up to Hari Raya. Baju Melayus too are abandoned despite them being much cheaper. Even after repeated phone calls, the customers still don't come. After a few months, normally the uncollected bajus are put up for sale. Even then no one really buys them. Most of these are custom made for their owners and most times do not fit anyone.

So when I saw this cartoon, it connected. The tailors are just trying to make sure that their sleepless nights during Ramadhan are justified. So if you have not collected your baju, go and collect them please. Kesian the tailors (and the shop owners!).

Monday, October 06, 2008

Pelaminan with a marine theme

Yesterday, a colleague of mine brought a whole bunch of old photographs as he knew I was interested in them. This one in particular really caught my attention. Don't look at the couple sitting at the wedding pelaminan (dais). But look at the pelaminan itself.

Notice anything unusual?

Yes you do. What in the world is a couple of mermaids doing decorating the pelaminan. A few people commented last night and said that this is typical of the pelaminan then. Another favourite was Ikan Lumba-Lumba (Dolphins). Anyway, for those whose parents are about the right age can probably ask them and get back to us here via the comment box.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Brunei in World War II

[Note: I was searching for images of Brunei and came across this page talking about an aspect of the Australian involvment in Brunei during World War II.]

The war heads north

ARRIVAL . . . Australian troops in landing craft.
Source: Australian War Memorial.



JUNE 10, 1945 was the day the 9th Division, minus the 26th Brigade, which had been fighting at Tarakan, landed at Brunei Bay.
Preparation for this operation had been hampered by the shortage of shipping and the late arrival of units and equipment.

The 9th Division was commanded by one of the great characters of the Second Australian Imperial Force, Major-General George Wootten.

A former regular officer, Wootten had left the army after World War I and qualified as a solicitor. At the outbreak of World War II, he took over command of the 2/2nd Battalion as a lieutenant-colonel, and then commanded the 18th Brigade between 1941 and 1943 and the 9th Division from 1943. He was regarded as a superb trainer of troops.

The 9th Division's preparation for the Brunei Bay landings was detailed, with rehearsals at Morotai, about 1,700km to the east. From there they travelled to Brunei Bay in uncomfortable landing craft.

The commanding officer of one of Wootten's battalions, Lieut-Col Colin Boyd of the 2/28th, wrote: "In almost six years of war, this writer has never seen troops subjected to more deplorable conditions, and on June 10, after a fortnight of inactivity subjected to the full extent of existing climatic conditions, overcrowded and with far less than minimum adequate sanitary and washing arrangements, they were expected to carry out an assault."

It was just as well that the troops met no opposition, either at Brunei Bay or Labuan, to the north. The Queenslanders of the 2/15th, including Doug Maclean, found Muara Island unoccupied.

The main fighting at Labuan occurred nearly a week after the landings. The Japanese had withdrawn to a stronghold about 2,000 metres wide and 1,000 metres long. This feature, a tangle of ridges covered by trees and thick rainforest and fringed by swamps, was nicknamed The Pocket.

It was attacked only after the gunners of the 2/12th Field Regiment had fired 140 tonnes of shells. The Japanese resisted strongly, knocking out two tanks, so it was decided to increase the artillery bombardment with the cruiser HMAS Shropshire using its guns while bombers pounded the position.

ATTACK . . . Matilda tanks during the storming of Brunei.
Source: Australian War Memorial.

The final attack was carried out by infantry and tanks, some of which were fitted with flamethrowers, on the morning of June 21. The Japanese had had enough and were quickly overrun.

Elsewhere in north Borneo the fighting was on a much reduced scale. Battalions moved inland without meeting much opposition as the Japanese had little artillery and no air support. They simply withdrew to the hills.

The ceasefire seemed to come early for these Australian troops. Most were then employed on non-military tasks, and the long-service men started to leave the units for demobilisation.

Those left behind moved on to the task of reconstruction of civilian facilities. As Gavin Long writes: "In no other campaign had an Australian force faced such a heavy task of this kind. On Labuan, for example, the bombardment had destroyed practically every building and soon some 3,000 civilians had to be fed and otherwise cared for."

And then, after the end of the war, there was the problem of guarding the Japanese. Journalist Buzz Kennedy, then a young infantry captain, was commandant of a camp in north Borneo which included about 1,100 women.

He found it a troublesome task, for the women had no training in discipline and no obvious leader. His sergeant-major, Clem Taylor, suggested the task be given to a Mrs Orita, who had run a brothel in a nearby town.

Kennedy wrote that within a week she had the camp organised, troublemakers quelled and disciplined restored.

On Christmas Eve, 1945, Orita approached Kennedy and said she wanted to give him a gift because the Australians had treated them kindly and well.

The gift? Three girls, aged about 16. "For you, Captain, three virgins."

Kennedy writes: "I was speechless. Sar-Major Clem Taylor was so purple in the face he looked as though he might burst."

Kennedy explained that he really couldn't accept the gift and went outside to find Taylor, holding weakly to a post, laughing.

"A bloody great help you were!" Kennedy said.

"Skipper," Taylor replied, "it was worth five years of war just to see the look on your face."

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Railway Line in Brunei

Yesterday I mentioned the 1952 Brunei Darussalam Annual Report. Last night I had a closer look meaning that I actually read the book.

What intrigued me was the map of Brunei at the end of the book. Two things stand out. One, the road linked from Kuala Belait ended up somewhere in Anduki. And the other end of the road was at Sungai Abang or if I had scanned a bigger section, the other end would be at Kampung Kuala Tutong. In 1953, there was no road linking Brunei Town to Kuala Belait. One has to drive all the way to Kampung Kuala Tutong and then take a ferry across to Danau. From Danau, one has to drive carefully along the beach until about Anduki before finding a road to Kuala Belait. According to my father, the driver has to drive on the wetter part of the beach as that is more firm than on the drier part which as loose sands. But driving on the wet part is also fraught with danger and then a wave might be able to shut down the vehicle's engine.

The other thing that stands out is the light railway joining Seria to Badas. Shell in those days run a small railway. I have shown photos of that railway before in this blogspot. You can no longer find this on any Brunei map anymore.

The only other railway line was connecting Brooketon coalmine in what is around the Kampung Kapok/Mengsalut area to the present Muara. That was at the turn of the 20th century.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The SOAS Mosque Site 1952

When I got to one of my brother in law's house yesterday for Hari Raya, he started talking about the SOAS Mosque and taking out pieces of paper to draw maps and diagrams. Apparently he was a little bit upset about the special documentary on SOAS Mosque by RTB. He said that they did not interview the right people and that the information given was inaccurate. He gave me information not only about the mosque area but about the entire neighbourhood as well.

I did not watch the entire special documentary as it was a little bit boring and it did not tell me anything new. I have read and knew more than what was in the docmentary. I knew the bit that my brother in law wanted to correct. On the site of the SOAS Mosque was actually a sawmill run by someone called Si Pinggang. The entire area was full of businesses cutting and sawing wood. In the documentary, it was said that the site was full of abuk kayu or wood chips but without mentioning any sawmill. It was full of wood chips as by the time the mosque was going to be built, the sawmill had to be moved.

The sawmill provided planks for the entire Kampong Ayer. The wood or tree trunks were brought in through the river from Limbang. So wood trunks would be floating on the water and brought onshore to the sawmill. It was a big business and everyone who lived in the area at that time knows the sawmill.

Across the sawmill was of course a Police Station which I have shown photos of it in the past. This Police Station was demolished to clear the entire Padang for the Independence declaration in 1983. What I did not know was that this Police Station was new by the 1950s. Before that there was an older Police Station made out of wood.

There was also a wet market made out of kajang nearby before the market was moved to the centre of town before that was demolished and moved to Gadong. My brother in law said that the original Borneo Cinema was not where it is now. It is near the market and made out of wood before the Borneo Cinema was built permanently around the late 1950s.

When I got home last night, I went through my books collection. I knew I have a photo of the Kampong Ayer area when SOAS Mosque was not yet built. I found it in a 1953 Annual Report of Brunei. This is the SOAS Mosque area taken around 1952:-

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Selamat Hari Raya!

Selamat Hari Raya to all bruneiresources readers! I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone Selamat Hari Raya and to seek everyone's forgiveness for whatever I wrote that may have offended readers. Minal Aidin Walfaizin.

Luckily we had the one extra day yesterday. It allowed the Minister and us to go round several other departments. Though it was very tiring for me trudging up and down the 5 storey building of Land, Survery and Town Country Planning. When you are the size of the Hulk and has not been to the gym for the last 5 weeks, 5 storeys is Eiffel Tower as far as I am concerned.

Anyway to cut a long story short, I saw this calendar in one of those departments. This is one of this typical tear one page a day type of calendar which everyone in the past used to love. This is a typical Chinese calendar - the calendar which everyone seemed to quote when the 'new moon' is supposed to have been seen if it was not for this telescopes. But the surprising thing was that yesterday 1st October was marked as 30th Ramadhan. Coincidence?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The New Moon and Kueh Mur

Last night I received a few cynical sms implying something along the lines why we cannot see the new moon last night was because our equipment was faulty. That is indeed far from the truth. The equipment we had last night provided by the Survey Department was state of the art. The equipment even had automatic tracking, it knew where the new moon should be. But the clouds were in the way.

In fact when we left the house to go to Bukit Shahbandar, my driver was commenting on the cloudy condition. I was hoping that by the time we got to Bukit Shahbandar, the clouds would have dispersed. But I was wrong. It was still cloudy when we got there and even when the sun had gone down, it was a futile exercise. The new moon was up for more than 40 minutes but even with the aid of the latest instruments, we could not sight it.

There was hope when we received calls that someone in Tutong thought he had sighted it. But even if he did, the ground rules were, two people must sight it. So that one does not count. But it did add to the drama while waiting for the official confirmation. In the end, it was declared that the new moon was unsighted and as a result, today you are still in the office reading this entry. But it does give everyone an opportunity to do an extra day of shopping. It gave me and my wife extra Terawih prayers last night. It gave us more time to prepare for the Hari Raya on Thursday. And for the real procastinators, an extra day to pay your zakat.

Yesterday, I was accompanying my minister making his rounds to wish all the officers and staff Selamat Hari Raya. My minister is a great story teller and I am always amazed of the amount of information that I got of him from his stories. In fact some of my articles are based on this gold mine of information. Anyway he was telling us a story about when 'kueh mur' started in Brunei. Do you know when?

He said that he was a boy at that time and he remembered that year he listened to a song from a movie. He heard that song recently and the announcer said that the song came from a 1954 Malay movie. So that was the year kueh mur was introduced to Brunei. Intuitively that sounded like the right year. Brunei as well as all countries around the region had just survived the second world war. In the late 40s, just after World War II, everything was in short supply including supplies of flour and sugar the two most important ingredients of kueh mur. It was the 1950s when everything become available again and there was time to experiment with new food.

I tried to find out the origin of keuh mur. No luck so far. There was a blog which said that most likely this kueh mur was originally Portuguese. It could be. Whatever it is, kueh mur is certainly delicious for the coming Hari Raya on Thursday. Happy Fasting and Selamat Hari Raya.

Inspirational Quotes