25 Years Ago

I was asked by a BT reporter for a short quote on Brunei's independence which many of us have forgotten was actually on 1st of January. Since the National Day has been celebrated on 23rd February, many of us forget that on the eve of 1st January 1984, or rather at midnight of 31st December 1983, Brunei decared its full independence. And that was 25 years ago.

Do you remember where you were 25 years ago? I rememberd mine. I spent it in the cold winter on a hill somewhere in Staffordshire in England in a temporary accomodation with all my stuff in boxes. In those days, shops closed the entire winter/new year weekend before opening on 2nd January. There was no internet and no mobile phones yet. I didn't even know how the independence was celebrated until I saw photographs of the event years later.

What I remembered most was getting a letter from the Students Unit to go down to the Brunei High Commission in London to apply for Brunei's new passport. Before that, Bruneians were all carrying British Passports without the right to abode in UK. Our status was British Protected Persons - whatever that means. About a month later, we got another letter to come and collect our brand new Brunei passports. That was to me what independence was all about - we can travel the world with our own new national passport. Though I have to spare a thought to some of my own friends at the university who were not citizens but were given national identity cards instead.

When I arrived home that summer of 1984, I saw new buildings. In fact I see new buildings everytime I came back for Summer during the years I was in UK. Brunei's progress came with rapid infrastructre development. Most of the people I worked with at MOD now were the engineers of a number of these projects. Other than that, independence was more a state of mind. The government has run the internal government for so long that there was hardly any change other than seeing Cabinet Ministers now being apointed to run the various ministries.

That was 25 years ago.


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