Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Brunei Flood

I have not been able to keep up with Cuboiart, Brunei's finest cartoonist. Over the last week, I think I remembered glancing through Borneo Bulletin and finding his cartoons but I have not had time to appreciate them. The one he did for the zakat queue was hillarious but he focused more on the floods. Understandable. This cartoon was last week's and I remembered he had another one recently.

On to serious business. Last night I received a couple of sms from PWD informing me about the latest situation here in Brunei especially on the flooding. I gather that the Gadong area is again affected last night plus nearby my area in Sengkurong especially around Tanjung Bunut, Sungai Tampoi and Selayun. I know our people are out there helping to ensure that we do not have a repeat of last week. The bomba people are working flat out and I pray that everyone is safe.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

World Customs Day

Yesterday was World Customs Day. I was watching my PMO colleague launched the World Customs Day on television last night. This event surprisingly will hold a special place in my memories. Exactly a year ago, I was appointed to my current post and the first thing I had to do was inspect the Customs Officers parade and launched the 2008 Customs Day.

What is Customs Day? It is the day when Customs organisations worldwide celebrate International Customs Day each year on 26 January. This marks the day of the first official meeting of the Customs Co-operation Council, now known as the World Customs Organization, which has 169 member states. Our own Brunei Royal Customs and Excise Department became the 140th member of WCO in 1996 and has been celebrating the event since 2001.

Last year the theme for 2008 International Customs Day is the focus on illegal trafficking of illicit drugs and psychotropic substances. The theme for 2009 event is "Customs and the Environment — Protecting our Natural Heritage". According to WCO statement, by focusing on the protection of natural heritage, the World Customs Organisation (WCO) is appealing to Customs administrations around the world to be alert to illegal international trade that threatens wildlife and the environment, such as endangered species, plants and the illegal trade in waste products.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ships past Kampong Ayer

I was passing by Kampong Ayer the other day and I remembered when I was a small boy, there used to be ships passing by the Kampong Ayer houses. That was when the Bandar Wharf is being used as the main port for Brunei. But in those days what looked like big ships were actually relatively small ships. Bigger ships could not make it into the Brunei river, dropping anchor at Sapo Point and having tugboats bring their cargo in.

When HMS Britannia bringing Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, the ship dropped anchor at Dato Gandhi because that was about the deepest part of the river that the ship can go into. You can still see the place and many who do not know the history would be wondering why there is a nice roof covered wharf by the riverside at Kampong Dato Gandhi.

When the Muara Deep Sea Water Port (it was originally called Deep Sea Water Port or Pelabuhan Air Dalam Muara, today it is only known as Muara Port) opened in 1970, the Brunei Wharf Port was used for local ships only. But by now, the only big ships passing by is the large barges carrying gravel to the landing sites at Kampong Medewa. This too will be gone soon when the landing site will be moved elsewhere.

This postcard is what it must have looked like in those days when big ships passed through Kampong Ayer.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ox'picious' Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year is now popularly known as the Spring Festival because it starts from the Beginning of Spring. Its origin is too old to be traced. Several explanations are hanging around. All agree, however, that the word Nian, which in modern Chinese solely means "year", was originally the name of a monster beast that started to prey on people the night before the beginning of a new year. Last year I wrote about how the fire crackers etc drove the beast away. This year I read another version.

This version talks about the beast Nian having a very big mouth that would swallow a great many people with one bite. People were very scared. One day, an old man came to their rescue, offering to subdue Nian. To Nian he said, "I hear say that you are very capable, but can you swallow the other beasts of prey on earth instead of people who are by no means of your worthy opponents?" So, swallow it did many of the beasts of prey on earth that also harassed people and their domestic animals from time to time.

After that, the old man disappeared riding the beast Nian. He turned out to be an immortal god. Now that Nian is gone and other beasts of prey are also hiding scared in the forests, people begin to enjoy their peaceful life. Before the old man left, he had told people to put up red paper decorations on their windows and doors at each year's end to scare away Nian in case it sneaked back again, because red is the color the beast feared the most.

From then on, the tradition of observing the conquest of Nian is carried on from generation to generation. The term "Guo Nian", which may mean "Survive the Nian" becomes today "Celebrate the (New) Year" as the word "guo" in Chinese have two meanings "pass-over" and "observe". Thus begin the custom of putting up red paper and firing fire-crackers to scare away Nian should it have a chance to run loose. However, people today have long forgotten why they are doing all this, except that they feel the color and the sound add to the excitement of the celebration.

GONG XI FA CAI. Welcome the Year of the Ox.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Anglo Saxon Petroleum Company

Prior to the discovery of oil in 1929, there were quite a few oil companies working in Brunei. One of them is the Anglo Saxon Petroleum Company. This is a 1910 photograph of one of the company's operations. In those days, trains seemed to be quite well used in Brunei. It was easier to lay down rather than try to construct roads. This one shows the train tracks leading to one of the rigs owned by the company.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

British Borneo and Malaya $100

One of my hobbies is obviously, from this photograph, collection of currency notes. This particular note however does not belong to me. How I wish it was. This note is currently on auction on ebay and have about a day left by the time I am writing this. The current auction price is around US$1,058 which I dare say will exceed more than US$3,000 when it closes sometime tomorrow morning.

Not many people remember this even note though this was used widely in Brunei from 1953 to 1967. In 1967, the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien $100 purple note replaced this note issued by the joint Malaya British Borneo Board of Currencies. In those days, all the countries in the region - the Malay states, Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Brunei used the same currency and the pact remained for quite sometime even after we issued our own notes in 1967. Unlike today, in those days travelling to Miri or KK does not require us to change currencies at all. But then not many want to go to Miri or KK, they don't have the attractions they have today. Plus driving there in those days require a heavy duty jeep rather than today's saloon car.

Today, $100 notes were used widely. But in the 1950s and 1960s, not many earned that much. I was told that my late father-in-law as a part time Imam in those days received an allowance of $5 per month. My father as an Administrative Officer received barely around $100+ a month. So $100 notes were a rarity. Today, those same $100 notes remained a rarity even in the auction world. The few that came to the market command prices 30 to 50 times their original face value. But then even the 1967 Sultan Omar Ali notes regularly auctions for more than US$500 every time it comes on the market. Keep that $100 notes, they will be worth more 20 years from now.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Global Outlook

With all the flood, landslides, who is at fault? Some would say it is Nature's will or God's will. Probably but also coupled with our inability to be able to anticipate the future. The tunnel's flood was because there was no power to pump the water out but at the same time, the water entered through from the water tunnel that was supposed to take the water out. Even had the pumps had worked, it wouldn't be able to pump the water out straight away as the pipes were underwater as well as the nearby river had overflown its banks.

This is the third time that the tunnel had flooded, each time forcing a redesign of the pipes taking the water out. It seemed that the river level is going higher and higher every year. What the engineers used to call a one in fifty event is happening almost every year. We put it down to many things. This year's heavy rains is said to be due to the La Nina effect.

But I am worried that we are underestimating the sea level rise. We have not taken into account the global rising water level. Reports say that it is rising 3 mm per year, but from what level and since when? The last ice age caused water level to rise 130 meters when all the ice caps melted. When I read reports that more ice shelves are breaking off in the antartic, it can be quite scary. Global warming is something every one in the world ought to be worried about. Remember, a rise of a few meters is enough to put Bandar Seri Begawan and its immediate outlying area permanently under water, let alone what 130 meters can do. And the global level has been rising 3 mm a year for the last decade...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Our Unseen Ones

So many things have been happening over the last few days. The queues thronging the Ministry of Religious Affairs for a slice of the Zakat funds, the heavy rains, the landslides, the flood and yesterday the unfortunate deaths of two of our countrymen due to both landslides and flood. As of last night, I saw parts of the Gadong area still in darkness and even the tunnel was still in the process of being cleaned. There have been fresh landslides even after the rains have stopped. I gather Gadong 1 at the Gadong Power Station was still down. It was submerged when Gadong River burst its banks.

Yesterday a few members of the public came to see me. One without an appointment regarding their family's land sale. What intrigued me was that during the conversation, I found out that one of them owned a number of properties which are rented out to families paid for by the Religious Council. Technically these are destitute people. He was telling me the story of one family of which he had to ask the Religious Council to move the members out of the area. Apparently, that particular family despite their so called poverty caused so much trouble in the area such as vandalism, theft, loud music etc. The other families complained. He does not know where they are now. I presumed wherever the Council moved them to, they will not stay there for long.

The other person who came to see me was a 40+ former policeman who retired in 1990. However since he retired he had not been able to hold a job for long. He had 85 applications (he had the letters) turned down. He had 4 kids with his first wife, two are married and he is now a grandfather. With his second wife, he has another two kids as well as three step children. Divorced from his first wife and his second wife is not working. He lives in Kampong Ayer and had to pay for his children's tambang to cross the river. He is on benefits again from the Council of around $400 a month. His biggest payment was to pay back his brother who pays for the house he is staying in of around $200 a month. He asked me to help him get a job with one of our departments as he is surviving on around $200 a month. His qualification - Form V.

From time to time I get to meet these people who came to see me. No doubt the people at the Community Development Department and the Religious Council now see many more on a daily basis. Some of these people seemed to be stuck forever in the poverty trap. Some like the first one, probably chose to be there because of their behaviour and attitude. Some like the latter, probably just could not get out. He does not have the qualification to get out. In our country of plenty, there are a number of these people who need our help. The Zakat funds must be used but not to pay for those who are on debt to pay because of over indulgence but to help genuine cases. The long queues to get the assistance forms and the media coverage on the possibility that many of these in the queues are in financial trouble of their own making have not helped.

It is also worrying that I have met a number of people who used to pay their zakats are now thinking of not paying zakats anymore. They said that why should their zakat money be used to pay for those on debts because they spent money on mobile phones etc. They might as well give their zakats directly to mosques and other noble causes. These are worrying trends and may have an impact in the amount of zakat collection in the future. We certainly need to think the right usage of the zakat funds.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Managing Disasters (Again)

Sometime last night, someone opened up this blogsite thus marking the 500,000th time that this site was accessed. Previously I would have marked that as a special occasion. In today's time half a million visitors do not seem like much. But I would like to thank all readers for coming back and reading my blog.

By the way my computer was knocked out last night. There was a thunderstorm immediately above our area - you can tell how far the storm is by timing the lightning and thunder. Last night both occured together. The power to the house was tripped and when I tried switching on my desktop computer, the hard disk refused to spin. I am now relying on my laptop and for once I am thankful I signed up for OMNI with TelBru (OMNI is the expanded espeed - espeed modem combined with a mobile modem).

Today I am not talking about numbers but I am very thankful that my family is safe. I do not live on a slope nor on floodprone areas even though the area I live in is prone to landslides. Exactly two years ago, give or take a few days, I wrote about managing disaster in Brunei. You can link to it here. I was in particular referring to the land slides at Tasek Meradun, Jalan Tutong. Jalan Tutong closed for a few days at that point forcing many of us who relied on it going to Bandar either via Jalan Gadong or sometimes even all the way via Jalan Jerudong to reach Bandar. Last night there were a number of messages on my phone from various officers at MOD and PWD informing me about the new slide. Today Jalan Tutong is again closed but I take comfort knowing that the people at National Disaster Management Centre and Public Works Department will be taking care of this disaster.

It is almost impossible to prevent landslides especially around the ridges given the amount of rain that we have over the last few weeks. Ridges are nice places to build houses - overlooking down on other people. But if the contractors are not aware and did not take precaution of potential disasters, anything can happen. My father and I learned it the hard way a number of years ago when we underestimated the amount of water flowing passed a house my father owned somewhere in Jalan Subok. During normal days, the water was flowing like a small brook. During rainy season, that tiny little brook became a raging torrent. It tore down the house's retaining walls. You can bet the next retaining wall we built was built like a fort. We were lucky that we managed to stem the flow to save the house.

Who can we blame? We can't blame PWD or even TCP for approving the house. Nobody could have forseen this and if anything, we the owners should be blamed. We took the risks.

Today that question is posed by many around the country facing this disaster. Who can they blame? Some can go back to the developers and contractors. Some are pure natural disasters. Some should have blamed themselves but didn't because they were the ones who weakened the slopes with their own illegal development. Some can blame other people because the others weakened the slopes with their illegal development. All eventually tried to blame the government because the government did not stop those illegal developments and the government should have taken care of those slopes regardless. There is a limit to what the government can do. Eventually we are the one who have to take care of our own properties. Nobody else will.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History of the Streets of Bandar Seri Begawan

[My article below on the history of the streets of Brunei was published in Brunei Times last Sunday. I actually wanted to write about the history of the names of the streets but I ran into trouble and could not find all the materials I wanted. In the end I wrote about how the streets physically started. I was not very happy with the final product but there was a deadline. Anyway I hope you enjoy it nevertheless. By the way the inserted photo is that of Jalan Pretty before it more or less got destroyed with the building of the Yayasan. Many people my age would remember this scene.]

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 holdings and rear live stock and poultry, they seemed to fear snapping what Mr. Stoney called as ‘the chains of custom which bound them to their semi-amphibious life’.

According to Mr. Stoney it was not the men but ‘the women proved the greatest stumbling blocks.’

However in 1906, the plain at the back of the Sultan's Palace was opened up and measured off with a view to laying out a township there. By 1908, British Resident J.F. Owen reported that the town site has been laid out, two short streets (probably today’s Jalan Sultan and Jalan Roberts) made and street lamps erected.

By 1909, a change appeared as a small settlement was started at Tumasek were several influential Pengirans took up small blocks for themselves and their dependents.

His Highness the Sultan soon followed and selected some land on a hill at the back of his palace. Practically all the available land in Sungai Tekuyang and Sumbiling was given out to applicants. Pekan Brunei on dry land was at last underway.

However the first road was not in the new dry town. In the Brunei Annual Report (BAR) of 1906, McArthur reported that the site of the old consulate (the current site of Bubungan Duabelas) was cleared of jungle and a temporary building set up to accommodate the European officers.

A road was opened from this site to the plain behind the town, a distance of about 1½ miles. The road had to be taken along the banks of the Brunei River and cut across the then important cutch factory (sited at the current site of the Handicraft Centre). Cutch was one of Brunei’s main exports then.

This earth road was the first road officially built in Brunei. That temporary building soon became a permanent building for British Residents. As the road leads to the British Residency, that road was known as Jalan Residency until today.

Further progress was made in the streets of the town. Resident Harvey Chevalier in the 1911 BAR noted that a short earth road (probably Jalan McArthur) was made from the shops past the mosque to the Astana by prison labourers.

In 1915, Resident EB Maundrell reported that about a mile and a half of bridle path was constructed from Brunei town through small holdings to the Sungei Kedayan, opposite Mengalait, (probably the beginning of Jalan Kumbang Pasang) and a beginning was also made with a path down river through the kampongs below the Residency (probably Jalan Kianggeh), the land holders undertaking construction through their lots.

In 1918, connections were made to other parts just outside the capital. Resident G.E. Cator reported that most important paths completed that year were the Menglait-Demuan 7 miles, Kianggeh 3 miles and extension of Residency Road 2½ mile. In 1920, the construction of bridle-paths to open up the Tungkadeh and Berangan valleys was done (around the Mabuhai and Kumbang Pasang areas).

Jalan Residency despite the fact that it was first opened up in 1906 was only completed fully in 1925 and became an inestimable boon to all who live along the Subok Ridge.

The first major wooden bridge was the bridge over the Kianggeh River connecting that road to the town completed in 1919. However in 1926 a flood washed away the bridge and the construction of a reinforced concrete bridge to replace it started at end of 1927 and the 90 feet bridge was completed in 1928.

By 1926, the streets in Brunei Town were metalled and asphalted. By 1927, Resident EEF Pretty reported that the earth road from Brunei to Tutong was at last completed at the end of May and officially opened by His Highness the Sultan on 13th June.

An earth road to take motor traffic was constructed to the Kumbang Pasang Estate of Brunei United Plantations Limited. Today this road is known as Jalan Kumbang Pasang.

In 1928, the metalling programme for the Brunei-Tutong Road was curtailed and only the portions from Brunei Town to the new Clifford Bridge and at the two hills between the second and fourth mile stones were done.

A metalled road (today’s Jalan Sultan) was built in front of the new shop houses in Brunei Town. The Clifford Bridge (more popularly known as Jembatan Rangas) was completed in May.

Resident P.A.B. McKerron in the 1930 BAR reported that the government in cooperation with the Gadong Estate constructed a mile of road to connect this estate with the river at Kumbang Pasang. This road is the beginning of Jalan Gadong.

In 1931, the government built a road heading towards north, the Berakas area. Some 3 miles of road were constructed between Brunei and Berakas. This road was planned to reach Pantai Berakas a distance of some 10 miles from Brunei. By 1932 that road was completed except for a small portion.

Motor traffic could proceed within two miles of the coast at the end of the year and by the following year that road, now known as Jalan Berakas was completed. Resident T.F. Carey in 1933 reported that the completed road ‘is proving a most popular highway as excellent bathing is to be had at the coast’.

A few streets in Bandar Seri Begawan were named in memory after the British Residents and officers in memory of their contributions to the country.

Jalan McArthur was of course named after M.S.H. McArthur, the author of the Brunei Report of 1904 – a report which some say saved Brunei from extinction – as well as being the first British Resident in 1906.

Another was Jalan Stoney named after B.O. Stoney who was Acting Resident in 1909. Jalan Pretty is named after E.E.F. Pretty who was Resident in 1923, 1926, 1928 and finally from 1948 to 1951. Jalan Chevalier (today’s Jalan Pemancha) was named after H. Chevalier who was Resident in 1909 to 1913.

Jalan Cator was named after G.E. Cator who was Resident from 1916 to 1921. Two other European named streets in Brunei – Jalan Roberts was named after E. Roberts, the first head of Public Works in 1906 and Jalan James Pearce was named after the first Director of Education in the 1950s.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Jalan Sultan 1920s

Yesterday, when Brunei Times published my article on the early history of Bandar Seri Begawan's streets, I was a bit disappointed. One, they did not publish the photographs below. The resoultion was not too fine, I suspect or they decided to publish the more modern photos. Two, the captions were not accurate. I should have written my own captions for those photographs. Anyway, I just wanted to publish these photographs in addition to the photographs which appear on Brunei Times yesterday. These are the Kajang shophouses in Brunei Town. Some say 1930s, I would say much earlier than that. I have another 1930 photo and the shops look much better than these.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Brunei and Sarawak

Up to 1906, there were still factions within Brunei that wanted Brunei to be absorbed into Rajah Brooke's Sarawak. It was an open secret that Rajah Brooke really wanted to absorb Brunei and there have been many phrases quoted of his desire. In fact, Rajah Brooke ran more or less Muara (then called Brooketon) and ran the coal mine operation there at a loss, he also manage to acquire the entire Kota Batu area. It was in the 1920s or 1930s when he died that Kota Batu was reacquired for Brunei.

I was trawling around the internet and found this in UK's Parliamentary report - the Hansard of questions asked in the British Parliament about Brunei especially with regard to the petition to bring Brunei into Sarawak. This question was posed in December 1906:-

SIR EDWARD SASSOON I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies from what source the cost of the recently created residency at Brunei is found; if from the Federated Malay States and Brunei, in what proportions; whether the Secretary of State has had before him a copy of the petition, signed by the present Regent and his Ministers, addressed to His Highness the Rajah of Sarawak, praying for his influence to effect the absorption of Brunei into Sarawak; and whether, in view of this and of local circumstances, the Colonial Office propose to assent to such absorption.

§ MR. CHURCHILL The British President is also Colonial Secretary of Labuan and is paid from Labuan funds. In other respects the cost of the residency is borne by Brunei, aided by an imperial contribution of £600 which is made in return for the discharge by the President of the duties of Consul for Sarawak and North Borneo. A copy of the petition referred to has been communicated to the Secretary of State. It is signed by the Pengiran Bendahara, who is one of two joint Regents, and by certain other persons, most of whom cannot be identified. There is no reason to suppose that any considerable proportion of the people of Brunei desires annexation to Sarawak. The idea was strongly opposed by the late Sultan to whom a promise was given that his dynasty should be uphold. His Majesty's Government are not as at present informed, inclined to depart from the policy which has been adopted.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Football Federation of Brunei Darussalam

Congratulations to the Football Federation of Brunei Darussalam which is set up to replace BAFA. My colleague, Dato Hamid Jaafar, the PS at MIPR is the newly elected President of FFBD. Vice President is Salleh Bostaman and Secretary General is Sheikh Noordin. I know Dato Hamid was a national football player and I recognised a few other names such as Hj Murni, PS PMO and Rosanan were also ex national football players. There may be others which I don't recognise and could be football players as well. I hope that FFBD will be able to take off where BAFA has failed.

Dato Hamid was a brilliant footballer in his younger days. I remembered that in Singapore in late 1970s, the Singapore national coach wanted him to play for the Singapore schoolboys team and would have made it to the Singapore national team if he was a Singaporean. But he did play for the Brunei national team and the few times I saw him, he was a brilliant left winger.

BAFA and FIFA are currently building a football academy at the sports complex and everyone is anxiously looking forward to how this can be resolved. I really hope that football in Brunei can get a move on now that FFBD is finally up and running.

BAFA did contribute to football and as a remembrance to BAFA, here is a reprint of its history which I wrote sometime early last year:

BAFA was originally known as the Brunei State Amateur Football Association. It was founded in 1952 with His Highness The Sultan as the Royal Patron. BSAFA was founded in 1952 in Seria. A few employees of Dutch and English origins working with the then BMP Co Ltd (now known as BSP Co Ltd) started the association. The Association was affliated not to any regional or national body.

It was registered on 12th March 1956. On the 15th March, BSAFA was officially gazetted by the British Resident through Notification number 67/1956. BSAFA paid $10. The interesting bit was, BSAFA was affliated to The Football Association (England). I guess technically speaking BSAFA could have played in the English FA Cup since then.

The first few Presidents were Englishmen before YAM Pg Jaya Indera Pg Hj Mohktar Puteh became the first local president in 1961 and the local presidency continued until BAFA's demise in 2008.

BSAFA became BAFA in 1969 and affliated to FIFA. In 1970 BAFA joined the Asian Football Condereation and in 1984 became founding member of the ASEAN Football Federation. In 2007, BAFA was deregisterd by the Registrar of Societies for non-compliance of the requirements of the Societies Act.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Change of Service

Up to the end of last year, the Brunei Civil Service was the odd one out. Many many years ago when the British ran the civil service, it was a male oriented service. Ladies were expected to work for a short time and expected to leave after they get married. Brunei was not the only one. Malaysia and Singapore also had such rules. But they have changed the rules a lot earlier.

So in Brunei, when any lady officer or staff gets married, they are forced to retire - they are no longer in the permanent establlishment list and they are rehired on a month to month basis, technically meaning that they can be made to retire anytime even though in practise no one was made to retire. Though month-to-month staff are required to be reappointed every 3 years and if a department fails to submit the paperwork on time, it can cause great anxiety to the person concerned.

In the days when pensions were still paid out, being on a month-to-month basis means that these ladies when they retire no longer receive their pensions. But in the days of TAP, it does not matter in terms of retirement benefits as those in the permanent service received TAP similar to those on month-to-month service. But it matters in other things.

In 1980, the rules were changed slightly. For lady officers who are degree holders, they remain on permanent establishment regardless of marital status. Being on permanent establishment means a lot though in terms of benefits. This include being able to apply education allowances for your children etc without relying on your husbands to apply for it.

A few years ago, the rules were modified slightly. Lady officers in Division 2 in month-to-month establishment are no longer required to have their appointment renewed every three years thus establishing two grades of month-to-month services. Again, other than making life easy for admin people, it does not matter much. The discriminatory factor is still there.

Finally, at the end of last year, I gather that finally the month-to-month service will be scrapped finally bringing us in line with the rest of the world. There will no longer be any month-to-month service for any lady officer and staff who are not graduates and got married. Everyone will be on permanent establishment (except of course contract officers and officers appointed after retirement.) What benefits will it bring? Well, many lady officers and staff who are not married to a government officer or staff will be able to apply for their children's education allowances and any other benefits previously reserved for permanent establishment. Kudos to those who finally brought about the changes, better late than never.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The 1905 Brunei Report

If you have been a regular reader of this blogsite, you would notice that one of the more authoritative text I used a lot is the MacArthur Report of 1904. MacArthur who became Brunei's first British Resident in 1906 was in Malaya when he was asked by the British Government to come and report on Brunei in 1904. It was his report which lays out to the British Government that despite the massive loss of Brunei's territory and the intense pressure from Brooke to be allowed to absorb Brunei into Sarawak, Brunei is still an independent nation and would like to remain independent but needed a lot of help. As a result, the 1906 Supplementary Agreement to the 1888 Protectorate Agreement was signed and a British Resident was placed in Brunei in 1906.

That 1904 report really described what Brunei was like at the turn of the 20th century. Recently I came across another report written in 1905 by another British civil servant by the name of Conway Belfeld. I don't have any information about Belfeld apart from the report that he wrote.

The report was very much shorter than MacArthur's. It appears only as a five A4 very small print report. He reported on both Labuan and Brunei and not just on Brunei alone. He very much substantiated what MacArthur had written but only added certain aspects. He also met with Sultan Hashim and it was his description of Sultan Hashim that many historians used when writing about Sultan Hashim. He said that Sultan Hashim was "... he shows no sign of intellectual weakness, and is only stupid or deaf when it suits him to misunderstand a representation made to him ... there is a greater power of comprehension behind a somewhat immobile countenance that Mr. McArthur gave him credit for ..."

Of Limbang, Belfeld stated that "... that it is improbable that His Majesty's Government were in possession of all these facts when they gave consent to the transfer ..."

There are a number of other information despite the thinness of the report that can make one understand more about Brunei in those days.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sultans of Brunei Series - The Sambas Sultanate

[Note: This was published last Sunday in Brunei Times. I wrote this as a two part, the first part published the week earlier was about Sultan Tengah. This article is about his descendants establishing the Sambas Sultanate which lasted till today. But the Japanese massacre of Malay people in Kalimantan during the Second World War decimated many family members. I have not been paying much attention to Indonesian history but when researching for this article, there is much to learn.]

When Sultan Tengah, the first Sultan of Sarawak and the younger brother of Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar of Brunei Darussalam the 10th Sultan of Brunei, was in Sukadana, he married one of the Sukadana princesses, Puteri Surya Kesuma. Puteri Surya Kesuma's brother was Sultan Muhammad Safiuddin, the Sultan of Sukadana.

After the marriage, Sultan Tengah requested from his father in law that he be allowed to leave for the Sambas River so that he can continue his mission to spread Islam in the area. Sultan Tengah arrived in Kota Lama and met Ratu Sepudak. Ratu Sepudak was from the line of the Majapahit Governors of Sambas.

In Sambas, Puteri Surya Kesuma gave birth to several sons, the first was Radin Sulaiman, the second Pengiran Badaruddin and the third Pengiran Abdul Wahab, and daughters Radin Rasmi Puteri and Radin Ratnawati.

Sultan Tengah was allowed to carry out his propagation work without any resistance from Ratu Sepudak. He stayed there for a while and married his eldest son Radin Sulaiman to Ratu Sepudak's princess Puteri Mas Ayu Bongsu. Sultan Tengah left later on for Matan and eventually died in Sarawak.

Meanwhile, his son, Radin Sulaiman carried out his father's work and converted many of Kota Lama's residents to Islam. However there were a number of people who were against Radin Sulaiman’s mission including the successor to Ratu Sepudak, Ratu Anum Mangkurat.

Radin Sulaiman decided to leave Kota Lama for Sambas and when he left, almost the entire Kota Lama left with him leaving Ratu Anum Mangkurat to reign over an empty kingdom. Ratu Anum Mangkurat later asked for forgiveness from Radin Sulaiman and left for Kota Balai Pinang to stay with his brother Radin Anum Kesmayuda.

In Sambas, Radin Sulaiman was crowned as the first Sultan of Sambas, Sultan Muhammad Safiuddin I in 1584. Before he was coronated, he sent a message to his uncle, Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar in Brunei that he wanted to use the title Sultan. His uncle granted him to use the title on the condition that every time before the coronation of his descendants, they must come to Brunei. Sultan Muhammad Safiuddin I started the Sambas Sultanate lineage.

When he died in 1669, his son, Radin Bima became Sultan Muhammad Tajuddin. Like his father, he also went to Brunei to receive his blessings from the Sultan. The Sultan reigning in Brunei was Sultan Muhyiddin. Sultan Muhammd Tajuddin died in 1708.

His son, Radin Maliau, became the third Sultan and took the name Sultan Omar Aqamaddin I. He too continued with his predecessors’ work to spread Islam. He was known as Sultan Adil (the Just Sultan). He died in 1732.

One of his sons, Radin Bongsu became the next Sultan, Sultan Abu Bakar Kamaluddin. He died in 1762. He was then succeeded by his son, Radin Jama who became Sultan Omar Aqamaddin II.

It was during the reign of Sultan Omar Aqamaddin that Sambas prospered. A goldmine was opened and brought a lot of revenues to the government. Sultan Omar Aqamaddin II stepped down from the throne voluntarily in 1786 and his eldest son, Radin Gayong became Sultan taking the name Sultan Muda Ahmad Tajuddin. He died in 1793 without an heir.

His brother, Radin Janggut became the next Sultan with the name of Sultan Abu Bakar Tajuddin I. Sultan Abu Bakar Tajuddin I named his son as the Crown Prince but he died before ascending the throne and so his brother, Radin Pasu or also known as Pengiran Anum was made Crown Prince.

Pengiran Anum under the orders of his brother, Sultan Abu Bakar Tajuddin I attacked Banjarmasin to avenge the death of an Islamic scholar. On his return, he also met a British Warship entering Sambas and he battled that ship too. In 1799, Siak-Inderapura came to attack Sambas because their application to open a gold mine was refused by Sultan Sambas. Pengiran Anum led the Sambas Army to defeat the Siak-Inderapura army.

While visiting Brunei around 1812, a British navy attacked Sambas. He returned back but the British negotiated for a truce. Until then, Sambas remained independent.

With the coming of the East India Company, the capital went through that bombardment in 1812. The Dutch remained interested in the state and often interfered with succession and was implicated in the deposition and exiling to Java of Sultan Abu Bakar Tajuddin II.

Pengiran Anum became Sultan Muhammad Ali Safiuddin I when his brother Sultan Abu Bakar Tajuddin I died in 1814. He made peace with the Dutch in 1819.

The next in line was his brother, Radin Osman who became Sultan Osman Kamaludin in 1828 but he too did not rule for long. He was succeeded by his brother when he died in 1832. His brother, Radin Samar was known as Sultan Omar Aqamaddin III.

When Sultan Omar Aqamaddin III died in 1846, Radin Ishak, the son of Sultan Muhammad Ali Safiuddin I ascended the throne and became known as Sultan Abu Bakar Tajuddin II. In 1853, he voluntarily stepped down from the throne and his replacement was Radin Toko, the son of Sultan Omar Aqamaddin II. He became Sultan Muhammad Safiuddin II in 1866.

In Sambas History, Sultan Muhammad Safiuddin II was the longest reigning Sultan. During his reign, he improved the infrastructure of the state while at the same time carrying out his mission to continue to spread Islam. He stepped down from the throne in 1922 and he was succeeded by his prince, Radin Muhammad Aria Diningrat who became known as Sultan Muhammad Ali Safiuddin II. He died in 1924 and two years later his father also died.

There was no immediate successor to the throne because Sultan Muhammad Ali Safiuddin II’s princes and other descendants were still considered minor, the country was governed by a Regent Council headed by Pengiran Radin Muhammad Busu Mohammed Taib. It was in 1931 when Radin Muhammad Ibrahim became Sultan Muhammad Ibrahim Safiuddin and he ruled until 1944.

During his rule, the Japanese invaded West Kalimantan. Sultan Muhammad Ibrahim Safiuddin was executed at Mandor in 1944. The Sultanate was thereafter suspended and replaced by a Japanese ruling council, only being restored with the return of the Dutch after the War.

After the end of World War II, Sultan Tuanku Muhammad Taufik ibni al-Marhum Sultan Muhammad Ibrahim Safiuddin became the Sultan until 1984.

In 1984, the head of the royal house was Pangeran Ratu Winata Kusuma of Sambas. He died in 2008 and currently Pangeran Ratu Muhammad Tarhan Winata Kusuma, is installed as chief of the royal family since 2008.

Today, Sambas is a regency in the Province of West Kalimantan, Republic of Indonesia.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Where does 'Pengiran' come from?

When I posted about Sultan Majid who died in China, there were three comments:-

(1) Bro, the son of Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan is actually called Hsia-wang which means "Raja Kecil". His sister, Puteri Ratna Dewi, was married to Hwang Sinpeng (Awang Sinpeng or Ong Sum Ping)who was later bestowed with the title Pengiran Maharaja Lela. Again, the word Pengiran, I heard from somewhere is a chinese word (Peng-i-ren) meaning a royal family member. Wallahu'alam.

(2) But I didn't hear any Chinese word call Peng I Ren. Are you sure the correct pronounciation?

(3)Hypothetically speaking if 'Pengiran' is derived from Chinese word, then the most probable term would be '本籍人', it's pronounce as 'Ben Ji Ren' in Mandarin and close pronunciation to 'Pengiran' in some Southern Chinese dialects.'本籍人' means people of the same district, ancestor or clan, with the word '本籍' (Ben Ji) meaning native district, own ancestral or clan and '人' (Ren) means people as in the Malay word 'Orang'.

The third comment was yesterday. An interesting hypothesis. What do you all think?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Brunei Resettlement History

[Note: My article on Perpindahan History was published in Brunei Times sometime around March 2008. I did not realise I have not posted it on this blogsite until someone asked yesterday about land size of these early resettlement areas. I hope this answer any nagging question about resettlement housing history.]

The government had been trying to move Bruneians onto dry land as early as 1906. The official record was that of the first British Resident, McArthur, who wrote in his report the following words “I want a clean, dry village with suburbs of kampong houses. I also want to encourage building on dry land.”

However it took a cholera and a small pox epidemic in 1902 and 1904 with many people dying before Bruneians then would consider moving themselves away from their traditional way of life over the water. However the move was sporadic and it was not until after the Second World War that the move was organised.

The first national housing resettlement program was in 1952. This was coordinated by the Resettlement to Dry Land Department (the department later became the Resttlement Department). A group of villagers from Kampong Pengiran Bendahara Lama in Kampong Ayer was moved to Kampong Bunut in Mukim Kilanas. The area that was allocated for the program was some 56 acres.

Twenty eight families were allocated two acres each. This enabled them to build a house and to plant fruit trees. The mostly wooden houses were built by the villagers themselves without any supervision from the authorities. The resettlement area began to be lived in by the new settlers from November 1952 onwards.

Even though the settlers had to build the houses themselves, they were given financial incentives. Each family was given $100 for demolishing their Kampong Ayer houses which they left behind, $100 to help them move to Bunut, $100 for cleaning their area and another $100 to cover the cost of the move. On top of that, while waiting for their fruit trees to grow and provide for the owners, the government gave each family $2 a day for 18 months.

The second national housing resettlement program was in 1952. The area chosen is the resettlement area around Berakas. There are many smaller areas in the area. This included Kampong Burong Pingai Berakas, Kampong Pancha Delima, Kampong Pengiran SiRaja Muda, Kampong Anggerek Desa and Kampong Orang Kaya Besar Imas.

Similarly to the settlers in Bunut, the settlers in these new villages were also allocated land but of different sizes depending on where one lived. Similarly to Bunut, all the program participants had to build their own houses and all of them were wooden houses too.

Kampong Burong Pingai Berakas was settled by inhabitants from Kampong Burong Pingai Ayer. In 1952 more than 48 families joined this program. Each family would get only half an acre compared to the participants in Bunut.

Kampong Pancha Delima, Kampong Pengiran Siraja Muda, Kampong Anggerek Desa and Kampong Orang Kaya Besar Imas accommodated more than 197 families who joined that program that year. Each family received a piece of land with the size of about 2 acres each. Though in 1994, each 2 acre lot was further subdivided into 5 parcels with the original family receiving 0.5 acre and the rest of lot was further subdivided into 0.25 acres each and these were allocated to the children of the original settlers.

In this area, several public facilities were built to complement the resettlers. This included a building for shopping and a light industrial area.

The third national housing resettlement program was in 1954. These are the villagers currently staying in the area known as Perpindahan Berakas. The two villages are called Kampong Jaya Setia and Kampong Jaya Bakti.

Kampong Jaya Setia had 54 families moving in from Kampong Ayer where each family was given 2 lots of land. The first plot of half acre is for their house and the second plot of four and a half acres for them to plant rubber trees. Unlike the earlier programs, these houses were built with government’s financial assistance.

Kampong Jaya Bakti was marked for civil servants applicants only and around 37 families joined in the program. Each family was awarded a plot of land of 0.75 acres each for them to build a house and the rest of the land for planting fruit trees. Even though the houses were built by the participants themselves, most used the government’s housing financial assistance provided to civil servants.

In 1976, the government did a survey of housing needs in the country. The main aim was to evaluate what kind of housing would be best suited to balance the need of the public and their tradition. It also aimed to identify how many applicants would there be for any particular area.

The National Housing Program (Rancangan Perumahan Negara) was established as a result of the survey. The Program was designed to help those who do not own any piece of land to have a house with subsidized prices and a loan period of between 20 to 30 years repay it back.

The Resettlement Department was renamed as the Housing Development Department on 4th August 1984. The new department was responsible for the planning, designing and to carry out whatever is necessary to make the program a success.

Among the earlier prerequisites required for applicants to be eligible for housing under the RPN included being a rakyat, 18 years of age, must not have (even the spouses) any landed title or if they owned a piece of land, it cannot be developed.

Applicant must be a civil servant and entitled to government housing loan. For those who are not civil servants, they must earn not less than $445 and not more than $1,030.

The first applications were received in 1980. More than 8,532 civil servants applied for the new houses of which more than 6,500 were from the Brunei Muara District and only 228 from Temburong.

In 1985, the applications were open to all including those in Division II in the government (earlier one was for Divisions III, IV and V only) and the general public. Another 6,730 appliations were received. In 1988, the third round of applications was opened to the general public only and only 505 applications were received.

The first group of the 84 new housing owners received their keys from His Majesty in April 1986.

The areas allocated for the National Housing Program is Lambak Kanan (1,780 acres), Rimba (1,100 acres), Mentiri (162 acres), Meragang (1,113 acres), Bukit Beruang (1,170 acres), Kampong Pandan (730 acres), Sungai Liang/Lumut (700 acres), Lorong Tengah Seria (760 acres) and Kampong Rataie (390 acres).

In 2000, another new scheme called the Skim Kurnia Tanah Rakyat Jati (STKRJ) which is the program of allocating houses especially for landless indigenous citizens was introduced. Applicants who are entitled to both programs will have to choose either one of the programs and not both.

At first there were 5 types of houses being built with prices ranging from $90,000 all the way to down to $40,000. Everybody was allowed to choose their on houses regardless of their income. As a result some families could not afford the houses that they chose. The cost of the houses did not include the cost of the infrastructure. Had these costs been included into the price and the subsidy removed, the prices would have gone up by at least another $50,000 per house. Despite the generosity, there are still a number of defaulters till today.

The housing programs had enabled Bruneians to own a roof over their heads. However with the increasing number of applicants and the constraints in building houses in such numbers as required, had led to a shortfall of houses available to the applicants. The amount of land space that the houses required also meant that a new compact design need to be thought of. Despite all that, the programs had enabled Bruneians to own houses something which many other citizens of other countries can only dream of.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Social Engineering

One of the more interesting aspects of my current job is that every single land transaction in this country cross my table and boy do I have interesting tales to tell but I won't - OSA. What I found interesting is that over the last 12 months I noticed that is that there is a tendency for certain groups to own land and not others. For instance, people from Tutong tended to own land and interestingly enough tended to give them or pass them down rather than sell those lands. There is not much loyalty for those in the Brunei Muara District. In Temburong, land holdings tended to be huge tracts - more than a few acres and sold or transferred in huge tracts as well.

It struck me as I come from those whose families do not own land. My ancestors did not pass anything down and yet when I go through some of the land titles, some of the lands were passed down generations. I have always wondered why is that for instance the Tutong people and the Kedayan people own lands and yet those Kampong Ayer descendants don't. After all there were similar conditions and prior to 1950s, acquiring land was cheap enough. A simple deposit of around $5 then is sufficient.

Curiously enough, the answer lies during the British Residency. In the earlier years, the government imposed a poll tax rather like the poll tax on residents in UK at the moment. Poll tax is cukai kepala as some people would say. It is not based on income or any property but a cukai for your existence and living in the country. The poll tax however was not applicable to the Kampong Ayer residents. So people living in Kampong Ayer did not have to pay any cukai. However it applies to everyone else. But, the government told those people, if you own land or acquire land and pay land tax, you don't have to pay the poll tax. And the government helped those people to acquire land by giving them away. In the early days of the Residency, those living on dry land are the Kedayans etc and they were given some 15 acres each. So this led to groups of people owning land and groups who don't.

Why did the British do this? First of all, the British wanted agriculture to take root in Brunei. Remember, these were the days prior to the discovery of oil. So the land was given away so that agriculture can take root and forced the condition that these land must be planted, if not, the land can be taken away (and some were taken away by the British). Secondly, the British was in some sense practising social engineering. In those days, the Kampong Ayer residents were either fishermen or craftsmen and some were traders. The British wanted farmers and the Kampong Ayer people in those days refused to move on to dry land to become farmers. My sense was the British government tried to make sure that everyone earned a living, hence fishermen, craftsmen, traders and farmers.

But obviously a hundred years down the road, it led to groups of people with real estate in their hands and those who do not have real estates but had to buy them in order to acquire one.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Kawang, Inang and Kedayang

I was searching through my book collections for a special book which belongs to a good friend of mine. The book was about the titles used in Brunei. I did a short series of this a few months ago but my sources were from a book written in jawi. I made a couple of reading errors and my friend lend me the book written in romanised Malay to correct those errors. Anyway, I could not find that book among my many books but I am pretty sure it is among them somewhere.

What I did find was amazing. I did not know I had some of these books which I have been acquiring over the years. One particular book was written by Yura Halim entitled Adat Mengulum Bahasa and when I glance throught it in it I remembered someone asking about Kawang and Kedayang previously. This is what the book says:

'Kawang' adalah gelaran yang digunakan kepada seorang wanita (orang kebanyakan) yang menjadi pengasuh anak lelaki kepada Raja atau Pengiran. Jika pengasuh itu tidak bersuami, tetapi jika bersuami disebut '

'Kawang' juga digunakan bagi orang kebanyakan yang telah menjadi isteri seorang Pengiran yang telah melahirkan anak sulung lelaki, tetapi jika anak sulungnya itu perempuan, ia akan dipanggil 'Kedayang'.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sultans of Brunei Series - Sultan Tengah of Sarawak

[I wrote the following article for Brunei Times. It was published two Sundays ago, 28th December 2008. The photograph is the Makam of Sultan Tengah in Sarawak. It was visited by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah in August last year when he officially visited Sarawak.]

ABOUT 200 years before the Brookes became the White Rajah of Sarawak, Sarawak was under the control of the Brunei Sultanate. Not much has been known how Sarawak was governed by the Brunei Sultanate but presumably there was an equivalent of a governor then.

Not many know that around 1598, Sarawak had its first and only Sultan. How did this come about?

When Sultan Muhammad Hassan, Brunei's ninth Sultan who reigned from 1582 to 1598 died, the throne was ascended by his eldest son, Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar.

Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar had a younger sibling named Pengiran Muda Tengah Ibrahim Ali Omar Shah or was better known as Raja Tengah.

According to oral tradition, Pengiran Muda Tengah wanted to become the Sultan of Brunei as well. He argued that his elder brother was born when his father was not yet the Crown Prince whereas he was born when Sultan Muhammad Hassan was anointed as the Crown Prince. This, argued Pengiran Muda Tengah, made him more suited to be the Sultan than his elder brother.

Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar was a wise man. He understood his younger sibling's intention and he tried to accommodate his brother's wishes. One way out for Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar was to appoint Pengiran Muda Tengah as a Sultan somewhere else. And so Pengiran Muda Tengah was appointed as the Sultan of Sarawak, since Sarawak was then owned and governed by Brunei.

According to the Salsilah Raja-Raja Brunei, Pengiran Muda Tengah accepted the appointment and he made preparation to go to Sarawak. When he went to Sarawak, more than 1,000 warriors of Sakai, Kedayan and Pulau Bunut origins accompanied him. A few nobilities went along with him to help him administer the new country. Many of these are the forefathers of some of today's Malay community in Sarawak.

In Sarawak, the new Sultan and his men built a palace and a fort to surround the palace. Sultan Tengah began to appoint his senior officials. Among them was Datu Petinggi Seri Setia, Datu Shahbandar Indera Wangsa, Datu Amar Setia Diraja and Datu Temenggong Laila Wangsa. After everything was done, Sultan Tengah coronated himself as Sultan Ibrahim Ali Omar Shah, the first Sultan of Sarawak. According to Sambas History, Sultan Tengah was also known as Sultan Abdul Jalil.

Around 1599, Sultan Tengah visited Pahang which was then part of the Johor Empire to visit Raja Bonda who was Sultan Tengah's aunty who had married Sultan Abdul Ghafur Muhyiddin Shah ibnu Sultan Abdul Kadir Alauddin Shah.

During his stay, Sultan Tengah was asked to a dance but during that dance, the handkerchief of his dance partner nearly hit Sultan Tengah's face. He became so angry that he slapped his partner. That caused Sultan Johor to be so upset that Sultan Tengah was advised to leave Johor as soon as possible.

According to the Sambas History version, Sultan Tengah was forced to leave Johor because he refused Raja Bonda's offer for him to marry Sultan Johor's princess known as Encik Zohra.

On his return to Sarawak, Sultan Tengah's ship ran into a hurricane which caused the ship to lose its main sail. The ship ran aground in Sukadana in today's Kalimantan, Indonesia. Then Sukadana was governed by Penambahan Giri Mustika, Sultan Muhammad Saifuddin who had just converted to Islam helped by Sheikh Shamsuddin from Makkah. Sultan Tengah also studied under Sheikh Shamsuddin during his stay there.

In Sukadana, Sultan Tengah married one of the princesses, Puteri Surya Kesuma, the younger sister to Sultan Muhammad Saifuddin. Sultan Tengah stayed on in Sukadana and asked to be allowed to help spread Islam around the area. It was decided that he should do it around the Sambas River. And so around 1600, Sultan Tengah left Sukadana via the Sambas River with about 40 boats all equipped with weapons.

At the Sambas River, they landed at Kuala Bangun and by then Puteri Surya Kesuma gave birth to a prince named Radin Sulaiman. Two other princes were also born later. The second prince was known as Pengiran Badaruddin who later became Pengiran Bendahara Seri Maharaja and a third prince, Pengiran Abdul Wahab who later became Pengiran Temenggong Jaya Kesuma.

Sultan Tengah eventually arrived at Kota Lama. There, he was welcomed by Ratu Kota Lama, Ratu Sepudak who greeted him with all the royal protocol. Sultan Tengah found that Ratu Sepudak allowed him to spread Islam around the area even though he was not a Muslim. Later on during his stay, Sultan Tengah's eldest son, Radin Sulaiman was married to the daughter of Ratu Sepudak, Puteri Mas Ayu Bongsu. The couple had a son named Radin Bima who later became Sultan Muhammad Tajuddin.

When Ratu Sepudak died, he was replaced by Pengiran Prabu Kenchana who appointed Radin Sulaiman as one of his viziers. It was also said that Ratu Sepudak wanted the throne to be given to Sultan Tengah as he had the experience of running a country but that was opposed by the royal family.

Around 1630, Sultan Tengah went to Matan. In Matan, he married one of the Matan Princesses who later gave birth to Pengiran Mangku Negara. Pengiran Mangku Negara eventually became the Sultan of Matan.

After a few years' stay in Matan, Sultan Tengah went back to Sarawak. On his return to Sarawak, he stopped at a place called Batu Buaya in Santubong. It was there he was killed by one of his followers.

When news of his death reached Sarawak, Datu Petinggi, Datu Shahbandar, Datu Amar and Datu Temenggong came to Santubong to complete the funeral rites according to royal Brunei tradition. It was said that he died in 1641 around 10 years after Radin Sulaiman became Sultan Muhammad Saifuddin I in Sambas. Sultan Muhammad Saifuddin I was replaced by Sultan Muhammad Tajuddin I, then followed by a long lineage of the Sambas Sultanate until the modern times.

Meanwhile, Sultan Tengah was buried in Santubong in today's Kampong Batu Buaya. The grave stone marking the grave was fit for a Sultan. With Sultan Tengah's death, came the end of the Sarawak Sultanate made up of the one and only Sultan. But the titles given to the nobilities of Sarawak carried on until today.

During his visit to Sarawak, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam visited the mausoleum of Sultan Tengah in Santubong in August earlier this year.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Rentak 914 Volume 3

We have so much talent here in our small country. Cuboiart is a case in point. However we have not achieved much in the area of music. Our P2F was a success and I do hope we can build on that. However seeing the limited success of AF graduates, I still fear for our P2F graduates.

Anyway, Pelangi FM has always been at the forefront of trying to showcase local talent. This latest CD Rentak 914 is a third compilation of songs from our local singers. This was launched sometime last month and it was only recently that I managed to get it from RTB.

In this latest CD, there are 18 songs from Avantgarde, Faiz, Putri Norizah, Fakhrul Rais, Microbandits, Maria, Hatta, A Band Once, Bombay, Azeem, The Seeds, Fairuzneezan, Adi Rani, Hikari B, Juju, Shukriez, Putri Norizah with Anwar and De Epitome. These are Brunei's latest talents and their songs which were hits on Radio Brunei. If you ever ever want to know what Brunei youths sound like today, this is the easiest way of getting that.

Go to RTB and get this CD. Buy yang ori. It only cost $15 and if you are lucky, you will get the insert with the singers' autographs.

Monday, January 05, 2009

First Day of School

Cuboiart capture this scene succintly. This is a scene from today and for the next few days in schools. Today is the first day of school and you know what that means. Everyone arriving at the office at 8+ because of massive traffic jams and sending their children to school. Those for the first time, the parents have to wait until the children settled down. I remembered at my son's school when he was still in nursery, there was this father who stayed in class for two whole weeks from 8 until the school ends at 12!

I remembered my school days too. It took a while before I let go off my mother. At that time Darjah 1 was at Sekolah Melayu Bukit Bendera in Tutong (the school does not exist anymore). The sekolah was literally on a hill and my mother would run down the hill the moment that she saw me being comfortable. She was very fit in those days and I was still a cry baby. Do you remember what your first school day was like?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Irresistibly Us

About 30 years ago, I was a student staying in a Brunei Government hostel in Singapore. One day we read that the famous Lat was going to come to Singapore to launch his new book at the Kinokuniya Bookshop, then at Plaza Singapura. Lat was famous for his books and his cartoons depicting happenings in Malaysia was hillarious. He even did a special series about his visit to Brunei which I posted in March 2007.

When we went to the bookshop, it was crowded. There were a lot of Lat fans. We bought our books and we asked him to sign them. It was a thrill meeting him in real life.

Yesterday, I was at Countrypatch Cafe in Kiulap. There were a lot of people there. But this time it was not for Lat - it is for Cuboiart! Cuboiart, our very own Brunei locally born and bred cartoonist, and equally talented. Cuboiart gave me the honour of writing the foreword for his book and I was very glad to do it for him. I don't think there is any other cartoonist that come close to what Cuboiart has done here in Brunei.

Cuboiart yesterday finally launched his 4th book titled "Irresistibly Us". The title was apt - the collection of cartoons showed what you can termed as 'keolahan kitani di Brunei'. His satirical comments on Bruneians through his cartoons is out of this world. This latest collection of cartoons published in the Borneo Bulletin is much better than the ones he did previously. His social comments are getting sharper.

Anyway, I don't want to spoil your reading pleasure. Go out to the bookshops and get his book for one piece of that red paper that you have in your wallet. Oh yes, if you buy the book early, you get a free wall planner complete with Cuboiart's original design!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

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.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Which New Year did you mean?

[I wrote this article for Brunei Times for 1st January 2008 but it is equally applicable for today's 1st January 2009.]

TODAY is the first day of 2008 AD or, to be all-inclusive 2007 CE ("Common Era") since AD stands for the Latin expression Anno Domini — "in the year of our Lord", in reference to Jesus Christ. As the Oxford Dictionary pointed out, "AD" refers strictly to "the Christian Era".

So — if you're not a Christian, why were you singing the old Scottish song "Auld Lang Syne" (written by poet Robert Burns and published in 1796) to celebrate the "New Year" last night?

In the Middle Ages, even the Church was against celebrating new years, calling it paganism. It was not until only about 400 years ago that the beginning of the AD new years were celebrated.

Even then, just as now, not everyone celebrated the same New Year. Celebrating the New Year has always depended on which religion or culture one belongs to.

The Muslims will not be celebrating the New Year until the 8th January, which marks the first day of the sacred month of Muharram and the beginning of the Hijri year 1429. The Jews will celebrate their Rosh Hashanah to mark the new year of 5769 in September. The Chinese for the Chinese New Year 4706, the Korean for their Seollal and the Vietnamese for the Tet will not be celebrating until February 4.

The Sri Lankans will celebrate their Aluth Avurudhu and Puththandu in April and a host of other cultures will celebrate their new years at different times of the year — Iran, March 20 for Norouz; Tamil, April 13 for Vishu; Telugu, March for Ugadi; Thai (for Songkaran) and Cambodia (for Songkan) on April 13; Bengali, April 14 for Pohela Baisakh; and Gujarat in October, a day after the Diwali festival, unlike all other Hindus who will celebrate the New Year on the Diwali itself.

If you study the history of the calendar, even celebrating the New Year on the 1st of January is a bit off. The Gregorian calendar we are using today was based on the old Roman calendar and originally it only had 10 months: December stands for the decimal 10 and the original months derived from Latin, hence September (the seventh month), October (the eighth month) and November (the 9th month). So New Year was on March 1st!

However, as the years went out of sync with the season, the months of January and February were added. Even this did not keep up, and additional leap months were added from time to time to keep the calendar in sync with the four seasons.

In the olden days, celebrating the New Year was not always done on January 1. Some did it on December 25 (Christmas); some, on March 25 (Feast of Annunciation); some on the first Friday of April (Easter); some maintained it on March 1 as well as a number of other dates. As in today's multicultural and multireligion world, the first of January did not always mark the beginning of the New Year.

The "New Year" brings out the animal called "New Year Resolutions". I will be off to the gym sometime later today or maybe tomorrow, where I will see one of the manifestations of these "resolutions".

I have been going for the last three years — not that it has done much to reduce my waistline, but at least it improves my blood circulation. As usual, this January I shall be seeing many new members — all with new-year determination of keeping fit — and with the crowd I will, for sure, lose my favourite parking spot.

By February, some will continue to come but by March, I will get my parking spot back. The thrill of making New Year's resolutions of keeping fit will be gone for most of the new gym members.

New Year's resolutions sound so good when you make them. But keeping them is the hardest. Why? It's always the reality of reaching those goals. It's harder than you imagine. One reason is that we make them when we are down at the end of the year and we need something to look forward to, to make up for what we thought was abysmal laxity. But why is it so hard to maintain the resolutions?

A lot of the failures are because of the target settings that we chose. We give up because some of the New Year's resolution did not produce an overnight change — lack of results. This is because there was a lack of planning. Making lasting or permanent changes in life requires planning.

We set unrealistic goals when they should be specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable and trackable. Reality is very mundane.

So that's the New Year. I might not say "Happy New Year" just yet. Maybe I will say it on January 8 or February 4 or any other days — depending very much on who you are.

Inspirational Quotes