Showing posts from March, 2009

Are Brunei prices lower or not?

It was interesting that BT picked up the arguments about the recently released Consumer Price Index (CPI) which our Economic Planning and Development Department (JPKE) recently released. The CPI is showing signs that it is lower and everybody assumes that with lower CPI, the prices should be lower. But for some prices, it is not. This would make a great Economics A Level or first year undergraduate Economics exam question. I am not trying to answer on behalf of my ex colleagues at JPKE but just trying to bring an understanding what CPI does.

The consumer price index is probably one of the most important releases of economic data. The CPI has a direct effect on nearly every person in the country, and in most countries, it is widely used, probably as an indicator how the political leaders are managing the economy, by trade unions in negotiating their pay, by companies in estimating the business growth etc. Less so in Brunei. Most people brush off the CPI but by better understanding the w…

Enemies in the Blanket

I was quite surprised to read this today from The news is as follows:-


Cyber Spies Hack Govt PCs Around The World

A cyber spy network based mainly in China has hacked into classified documents from government offices around the world, a research group has said.

It claims 1,295 computers have been compromised in 103 countries.

The investigations began when the Tibetan community in exile called in the Information Warfare Monitor, fearing they had fallen victim to cyber espionage.

The 10-month study eventually revealed a much wider network of compromised machines but did not pinpoint the identity or reasons behind it.

However, it did ascertain that once hackers infiltrated systems they gained control of the computers using malicious software, or malware.

This allowed cyber spies to send and receive information from the ministries of foreign affairs of Iran, Bangladesh, Latvia, Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei, Barbados and Bhutan.

They also discovered hacked systems in the embassies …

The History of the Streets of Bandar Seri Begawan

[My article below was published in The Brunei Times about two months ago.]

[Photo: Jalan Sultan in 1951]

Even though Kampong Ayer has been the capital of the Brunei Sultanate for hundreds of years, Bandar Seri Begawan or the city on dry land is relatively recent.

When the first British Resident, M.S.H. McArthur arrived in Brunei to begin his official duty, he stated that he '... wanted a clean dry village, with suburbs of kampong houses ...' and he also '... wanted to discourage houses in the river ...'

The plan was to demarcate an area of some 500 acres and to alienate these allotments to the Kampong Ayer residents.

But the government faced stiff resistance. In 1908, Mr. Stoney wrote in a report that it seemed an almost impossible task to induce any of the Kampong Ayer residents to even contemplate the idea of a move.

Even though these residents especially the men-folks, admitted that they and their families would better off on land, where they could cultivate small…

Royal Brunei Airlines Previous Aeroplanes

I recently purchased two postcards showing these two RBA aeroplanes. The first is a Boeing 727 and the latter is the Fokker 100, I think.

I have not boned up on the history of RBA aeroplanes, though it would be very fascinating to go through the various aeroplanes that RBA had from day one of its operation up to now. I know the previous Boeing 757s and present Boeing 767s and the leased Airbus A319 and A320 which they now used extensively. But anything prior to that, I am a bit sketchy on its history.

I know many out there know the history of these planes, so do drop me a note.

On Friday

The Imam at the Kilanas Mosque struggled to read today's sermon. It must have been written in jawi and full on modern words. Today's sermon was about the ecology. I think many in the mosque must have raised eyebrows today when they left the mosque. It is not often to hear about the ecology being mentioned in Friday's sermon. But nevertheless, it is indeed interesting to hear about the ecology and the environment. We all have to be aware of the need to save the ecology and the environment.

That brings us to another topic. Will we or won't we? That question has been answered. Brunei too will participate in tomorrow's Earth Hour.

For those in the dark, which you will literally be tomorrow for one hour if you or your organisation participates, Earth Hour is an annual international event created by the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund). This is to be held on the last Saturday of March, which is tomorrow, that asks households and businesses to turn off t…

On Leave

Someone has to tell me why are these fish called 'Uji Rashid'? I know Bruneians are avid fishermen, surely someone out there must know. I have a slight free time at the moment and I saw the label the other day at that huge supermarket in Rimba. No one was able to answer me then.

I have been using up my leave doing a lot of personal things, other than answering the phone calls from the office. I have been going around to see book printers and finding out that it can be costly to try to print your own books. But I will persist and found one printer already. I have submitted the book (the draft of the book) to Dewan Bahasa to get its ISBN number. ISBN number is the number that will identify the book and many book stores internationally will be unable to sell books without ISBN number. Not that I have any intention of selling my books overseas. But ISBN is like an IC number. It makes your book feel special and makes it more legitimate.

At the moment, I am adding in photographs to th…

Transparent Words

The Local Government Association (LGA) in UK has published a list of 200 words that public bodies should not use if they want to communicate effectively with local people. These 200 words and phrases are to be avoided when talking to British people about the work they do and the services they provide.

The idea is that the public sector must not hide behind impenetrable jargon and phrases. Why use ‘coterminous, stakeholder engagement’ when just ‘talk to people’ can be used instead. If a council fails to explain what it does in plain English then local people will fail to understand its relevance to them or why they should bother to turn out and vote.

I noticed that some of these words are also in use in Brunei. Though not the entire list have reached our vocabulary in Brunei but it won't be long before everyone uses them. Here are the 200 words and the LGA's alternatives or suggestions in place of their usage:


Across-the-piece - everyone working t…

Brunei Budget 101

The budget for financial year 2009/2010 was finally approved yesterday. That means the Supply Act is finally law and the government can go on ahead for another year. Budgets are usualy approved in most countries in the same way, debates and then approved. But there has been a few ocassions when budgets are not approved and chaos reigned.

I remembered reading last month when California's lawmakers were still quarelling about the their state's budgets. This is what happened if the budget has not been approved on time: "Refunds to taxpayers were delayed, payments to state vendors stopped, state workers were ordered to take unpaid days off and the Schwarzenegger administration began sending layoff notices that would have affected some 10,000 state workers. Thousands of public works projects ground to a halt, putting tens of thousands of construction workers out of a job. Hours after the budget package was approved, the state Department of Finance announced that work on 276 ro…

The Legislative Council Session continues

[This photographs is the old State Council meeting in 1948 - the surrounding not as plush as today's Legislative Council.

This afternoon, it is the turn of the Minister of Communications to answer questions. On Saturday afternoon, there were a few questions that the Minister has to answer mostly on Telbru and DST services. The Minister was quite comfortable answering the questions including even telling the members to set the settings of your mobile phones on manual instead of auto so that the mobile phones don't suddenly use Celcom or STM signals emanating from just outside the border.

Though one question that members can stop asking today is the ferry service to Sabah. I heard on the radio this morning that the tender to provide the service from Muara-Menumbok-Muara is already open. So if there is any company out there willing to provide this service, then you should rush out to the Marine Department and get that tender form. I forgot when the closing date for the tender is, i…

No more flood?

I am on leave until the end of the month. I started last Wednesday but you wouldn't know it. I have been in the office as well as at the Legislative Council since then. I am really looking forward to really go on leave. I needed the break and I thought all the questions will be done by yesterday. However at 2.30 pm, my minister was still tied up at the palace. It was about 3+ when he came in. Luckily all the questions could be acommodated despite the fact that we had to go through 5 departments' budget including the biggest JKR.

The questions fielded were answerable apart from projects which are undertaken by BEDB. We realised BEDB did not have a spokesman in the council. Someone has to stand in for them one of these days.

Anyway, one question which would interest most people around the Ban areas is the one relating to projects to alleviate flooding. At the moment, huge drains or rather canals are being built but my Minister yesterday conceeded that those drains are insufficient…

The Legislative Council Session Continues

[View of Legislative Council from my old office on the 17th Floor of MOF Building]

The Legislative Council session continues this afternoon. It will still be my minister's turn to be grilled - 5 departments will be covered - Land, Survey, Town and Country Planning, Environment and Parks and Public Works Department. After all the ministries are done by Monday, we still have the National Development budget of which about $4 billion out of the $7.2 billion are carried out by our PWD and Housing Departments, probably around Tuesday or Wednesday. We roughly knew what questions to anticipate and thus are relatively quite prepared to answer most of them. Of course, the fail safe answer if one cannot answer a question is to thank the Yang Berhormat for such a penetrating question and we will look into it and we will come back to him in due course.

I have attended the Leg Co session since 2006 supporting my ministers and was involved in the 2004 debates supporting my then PS at the Prime Min…

Deserving Special Awards?

Yang Berhormat Mohd Shafie, the Representative from Belait District, I think is the most eloquent and well versed of all the Yang Berhormats in the Legislative Council, always coming up with the most interesting questions and suggestions. In a way, it's a pity he is representing Belait District only.

Anyway, in one of his long list of questions and suggestions was the one concerning the firemen. He was representing the firemen in Belait but his proposals equally applied to all firemen. His proposal was that the firemen were the unsung heroes of the recent floods in helping out all the flood victims etc and they therefore should be singled out for special awards, special allowances, better equipment and also their pension status be activated.

Interestingly enough, firemen (Division 5 officers) were until 1978 considered as pensionable officers but after 1978, they were no longer pensionable (unless they hold ranks and in Division 4 and above) and with the introduction of TAP in 1993,…

Housing Dilemmas

In my line of work, I see many cases involving land and houses. Many Bruneians have neither. We are speeding up the building of subidised houses but that is nowhere near to providing a house to everyone in the near future. But then there are a handful of cases which goes the other way. These people were already given their subsidised houses and have land and their problems are interesting.

The other day one soldier came to see me. He applied for a TOL land a few years ago but that was not approved because he had already been given a house in Rimba under the National Housing Program (RPN). He came to see me to ask whether he could appeal for the land. Apparently he had divorced and that house was surrendered to his ex-wife and four children. He has since remarried to a non-Bruneian and had additional children. He is now staying in an army rented house. He is worried as he is going to retire in a few years time and because his wife is a non-Bruneian, his family would be homeless if he do…

Brunei-Limbang Boundaries 101

Did we or did we not? That was the question on quite a number of minds yesterday when seeing the headlines on both Borneo Bulletin and Brunei Times.

I am not here to debate on that. We had our Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II explained the whole thing during yesterday afternoon's session of the Legislative Council.

I go by the joint statement which stated that both Brunei and Malaysia would be able to enforce their rules and regulations and embark on new developments in their respective maritime zones. The modalities of the final demarcation of land boundaries were also included in the Letter of Exchange, for which a joint technical committee will be tasked to sort out the final formalities. It will be resolved on the basis of five existing historical agreements between the governments of Brunei and Sarawak, and where appropriate, on the watershed principle.

What are these five existing historical agreements between Brunei and Sarawak?

I have been keeping this particular map …

Pensions 101

The issue of pensions versus TAP is very much in the minds of many people. While I try not to take sides, let me try to outline the history behind both schemes and probably at the same time outline why the move from pensions towards TAP happen. (Technically pension scheme is known as defined benefits or DB and TAP scheme is known as defined contributions or DC).

Pensions were introduced to Brunei with the passing of the Pensions Act (1959) and that of the Public Service Commission Act (1962) which governs the appointment of public officers. Even then not every civil servant is pensionable - for men only those in Division IV and above and for ladies only the unmarried ones and for graduates beginning 1980. (Married non-graduate ladies were appointed on month-to-month unpensionable service).

The pensions were based on the civil servant pensions in UK which first started around 1684. Pensions were introduced - at first in the navy and the armed forces and then the civil service around 1850…

The Legislative Council 2009

On Friday, my village Ketua Kampong came to where I was sitting at the mosque and asked me about some personal matters. We also talked in general about conditions of the residents in the village. He mentioned that some of the residents were not poor but 'susah' (in difficulty) and that is why they needed help.

That's an echoing theme throughout last Saturday's first session of written questions posed by the members on one side (the non-government) of the Legislative Council to members of the other side (the government). The questions were all about finance - allowances, pensions, TAP savings etc.

Everyone wants the status quo - the return of the pension scheme, allowances to be continued even after one has retired and even for those with pension to receive the full pension earlier than the current system which is after 15 years of pension. The position of the government is that it is unsustainable in the long run. If I am not mistaken the government is already paying ar…

My Sunday

I am not writing anything about Brunei today. I just want to spend this Sunday with my son and my better half celebrating his 9th Birthday Party and trying to figure out how to download mp3s into his birthday present iPod Nano.

Thanks to Siti Shahril of Cits Cakes for making the MU birthday cake complete with no.7 jersey and the Transformers cupcakes. She didn't have time to take the photos to upload to her blog, so you won't be seeing it on her blog.

I am not an MU supporter, so I am not going round with a long face this morning after being thoroughly thrashed last night by Liverpool. Neither am I a Liverpool supporter, so you won't be seeing me grinning like a Cheshire cat for the entire week. My son is a supporter but not a die hard fan, so we will still enjoy cutting the MU cake later on regardless of that 4-1 thrashing. But I can't help smiling nevertheless.....

Brunei-Malaysia Border Resolution

Today, all the newspapers would be reporting about the press release issued by Malaysia's Foreign Affairs about the resolution of the martime border dispute between Brunei and Malaysia. I got this Reuters report released yesterday:-


KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 (Reuters) - Malaysia and Brunei will sign an agreement this weekend to resolve a maritime border dispute that has halted oil exploration off Borneo island for six years, Malaysia's Foreign Minister said in a statement.

Both countries have agreed to collaborate in the exploration and exploitation of contested oil blocks, as well as on maritime and land boundary demarcation.

The agreement is contained in a "package solution" that will be signed by the leaders of both countries during Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's visit to Brunei from March 15-16.

"The solution of the issues ensures certainty with regard to sovereign rights and jurisdiction on the continental shelf and the Exclusive Economi…

The Golden Legacy Book

My talented artistic sister wrote about my books which I asked her to produce for me.

I finally got round to compiling everything I published in my 'The Golden Legacy' column every Sunday on Brunei Times for the year of 2007 - around 40 articles (I started in March 2007). I did miss a couple of weeks as well I think. One time I remembered the editors did not receive my email and another time was when I was too busy to produce an article. It is sometimes not easy juggling time as I only do my writing and my research after office hours. I sometime spent my lunch time at Dewan Bahasa in Bandar as well as they have a nice Bruneiana section.

Anyway, I wanted the first edition to be really exclusive - so I only made 3 copies. One each to my parents and I kept one. We gave the books to them during the birthday party last month. Both my parents were born in February, my father on Valentine's Day and my mom a few days before. My sister used my younger brother's left over wedding…

The History of the Brunei Legislative Council

Today is the opening of the 2009 Legislative Council. The number of members have decreased with the death of three members over the last few years. Some of my officers are looking forward to see new members being sworn in. Anyway, I wrote about the history of the Legislative Council published more than a year ago on 8th March 2008 on my usual column in BT. It may serve as a background read to today's Legislative Council:-


IN THE 18th and 19th centuries, Brunei's political and administrative system underwent a number of changes. The changes had been slow at first with the coming of Rajah Brooke in Sarawak but significantly moved faster and became much more visible at the beginning of the 20th century.

In 1847, Brunei signed the Treaty of Friendship and Commerce with the United Kingdom. Even though Brunei's own internal government was not affected, its ability to conduct foreign relations was somewhat regulated by Britain as the agreement controlled Brunei's abilit…

The Churchill Memorial Museum (again and again and...)

The Churchill Memorial Museum was a favourite visit to many Bruneians in the 1970s and 1980s until it was demolished to make way for the Royal Regalia Building in 1991. I have done a number of entries about the museum but I still get requests about it from time to time. Today, I am not going to write anything about it other than to show the photographs of the museum, plus one of the exhibits which happened to be a favourite exhibit of mine as well as even a Lat cartoon on it when he visited Brunei in the 1970s.

Why was the museum popular? It was one of the few things we had in those days but it was fun. I remembered watching the exhibits of the various toy and model soldiers, the war sounds when you press the button etc, as well as Churchill's booming voice. But the museum also housed the small aquarium (small fee to get in), a reptile exhibition as well as a small exhibition on the history of Brunei (still maintained within the Royal Regalia museum now). It was just fun to visit t…

The Origin of Brunei's Clock Tower

A couple of yesterday's photographs on Maulidur Rasul in the past were taken from my uncle's album. I borrowed his album sometime last year and it contained a treasure trove of photographs. Not only he has photographs of events which had him in it but also photographs of national events. I guess in those days, people like to keep those kind of photographs as well as I have seen this national event photographs in other people's albums. You buy them from the photo studios.

Anyway, one photograph which interested me very much was this particular photograph of our 'Achitect of Modern Brunei' Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien. This photograph showed him and Tuanku Abdul Rahman, the first Agung of Malaysia or rather Malaya in those days, sitting together. The site of this photograph will interest you. Look at the background, you can just make out the Secretariat Building on the right of the photograph and on the left you can just make out the old Police barracks that used …

Maulidur Rasul in Brunei

Today is Maulidur Rasul - the Birth of the Messenger. The origins of the observance can be traced back to the Fatimid dynasty in eleventh century Egypt, four centuries after the death of Muhammad as a Shia ruling class festival.

Maulidur Rasul processions to celebrate Prophet Muhammad's birthday has always been with us more or less. These photographs are of those celebrations in the 1950s to 1970s. They are more disciplined, better dressed as compared to us now in the 21st century. When I was a child, I remembered chanting the zikirs or salawat all the way. Perhaps we can learn something there.

I wrote an article about the changes in the Maulidur Rasul celebrations in Brunei Times which I will upload sometime this week to this blogsite. In the meantime, Borneo Bulletin also did a much shorter article as follows.

In the 60s, the Maulud Nabi (pbuh) celebration was held in the afternoon. People would stand around the 'Padang Besar' (the big field) now known as Taman Haji Sir…

International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day (IWD). Just in case, you don't know it, IWD is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.

IWD is anchored to the women's rights to vote or women's suffrage. It was in 1869 when British MP John Stuart Mill was the first person in Parliament to call for women's right to vote. On 19 September 1893 New Zealand became the first country in the world to give women the right to vote. Women in other countries did not enjoy this equality and campaigned for justice for many years.

In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named Clara Zetkin (Leader of the 'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women's Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day - a Women's Day - to press for their demands. The conferenc…

Pangsura - An Academic Journal of SEA Literature

Not many of this blogsite readers would have read this particular journal published bi-annually by our Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka.

This Malay journal contains many articles about the literature of Brunei and those of Southeast Asia. I have read it on and off but the other day during the Book Fair, I decided to buy many of the previous back dated editions - one is that Brunei books and journals printed by DBP are very very cheap and when you consider the amount of knowledge in those books and journals, the prices are ultra cheap; two is that I have not known about many of the things written in the articles. Some I do know but the depth and breadth that some of these articles go to amazed me.

For instance this 2007 journal contained a book review about Menyuruki Syair Rakis (two of them), a symiotic (not even sure how to spell that, let alone know what it is) about the use of Pak Hassan icon in a book entitled Hari-Hari Terakhir Seorang Seniman, about Syeikh Yusuf, about buri pu'o (adat…

Hard Boiled Eggs Made Easy

If you are looking after something more serious this morning, I have to apologise. For a change, let me talk about something more down to earth. I want to talk about hard boiled eggs. My favourite is a hard boiled egg for breakfast. Unfortunately, I have been medically forbidden from eating too many eggs. So whenever I get the ocassional egg from bunga telur from berzikir ceremony I would get some 'kicap' and eat it. Ahhh....

My better half shared with me this email which she received yesterday about an interesting tip about how to get consistent results when it comes to hard boiled eggs. We tried it this morning and would you believe - it does work!

Let me share the tip with you:-


Cooking hard boiled eggs can be a hassle because you have to 'watch the fire' and 'watch the air'. My dear friend was kind enough to share this method of cooking the eggs whereby you don't have to worry whether they are over-cooked or under-cooked.

Here's how:-

1) Place two p…