Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Pre-Islamic Kings of Brunei

I was reading the latest 'Pusaka' a publication from the History Centre. A lot of my materials actually came from the History Centre publications, Pusaka is an easy read. Another is Jurnal Darussalam.

One of the articles in Pusaka is about the Kings of Brunei prior to the coming of Islam. Our history tended to begin from the conversion of Sultan Muhammad, the first Brunei Sultan into Islam around 1376. We tended to forget the earlier kings of Brunei. I remembered when I was in Nanjing, the exhibits had Brunei kings or their envoys visit China much much earlier.

This particular article writting by Dato Muhammad and Haji Zainuddin outlined several kings in the pre-Islamic era:-

The Liang Dynasty (502-566) recorded the king named as Pinka and his family was known as Kaundinya. He was a Hindu-Buddha. He was said to rule over 136 districts and his throne made out of gold and his footrest silver. His crown had diamonds and was as high as 1 feet. He sent an envoy to China in 518 among other things giving the Emperor a gold carpet. In 523, he sent another envoy to give other things.

The Sui Dynasty (581-617), the Brunei king was named Hu-lu-na-po and his family was known as Chiari-ya-ka. In 616, he also sent many tributes to the Emperor.

The Tang Dynasty (618-906) stated that the king was very rich. In 669, he sent more tributes to china.

The Sung Dynasty (960-1279) records stated that king was called Raja Hiang-ta. He owned as many as 100 ships and his soldiers wre armour made out of copper. During the reign of T'ai Tsung in 977, Raja Hiang-Ta sent an envoy to China headed by Abu Ali, syeikh Noh and Kadhi Kasim. During the reign of Yuan Fong, the king sent an envoy to China in February 1082, the King sent many tributes to China. According to legends, that king was known as Seri Maharaja. After him was said to be Raja Makatunaw and Sang Aji (grandfather to Sultan Muhammad Shah).

Friday, February 27, 2009

Views from the Rivers of Tutong

Where was this photo taken? Believe it or not, this is in Brunei and not in some other countries. Unfortunately not many can see this view as we are mostly restricted by the roads or rather we generally follow the roads and see only those views. This particular scenery is taken from Sungai Telamba and this is actually the Pasir Putih area extending all the way to the river. From afar it really reminded me of vaguely the white cliffs of Dover.

Over the last few weeks, we have been accompanying our minister visiting the waterways of Brunei. We did the rivers of Brunei and over the last week, we have been visiting the waterways of Tutong. On Thursday we were heading towards the direction of Sungai Telamba and last Wednesday we were heading towards the direction of Sungai Tutong. The latter is of utmost importance as this is the one that always cause flood havocs in that area. This river is also very important to Bruneians as this is the same waterways where the water is collected at Layong and Bukit Barun to feed our fresh water needs. Here are views taken along the journeys along those rivers and waterways.

Tutong view from the river.

Another Tutong view from the river.

As we headed out towards the open sea before going back into the Telamba River, the weather turned nasty. When the rains fell, each droplet felt like a bullet as we shot through the rain. We were just huddled together silent. Everyone of us trying to protect our faces.

The views after the rain were much better!

This is the historic Danau jetty. When the two bridges over Sungai Tutong and Sungai Telamba were not yet built, there was no way to connect Brunei/Tutong to Kuala Belait and Seria. The only way was by ferry from Danau connecting to Penabai. This jetty was used until 1958. In that year, in fact on Christmas Day on that year, the Jalan Tutong connecting the three districts of Brunei was finally opened. This jetty was abandoned overnight. Businesses depended on the jetty traffic moved out. The two famous restaurants CA Mohamed and KK Koya were the two that survived on in other parts of Brunei.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lee Kuan Yew on Sultan Omar Ali

Minister Mentor Dato Laila Utama Lee Kuan Yew gave the first Sultan Omar Ali Memorial Lecture at ICC yesterday. More than 3,000 people turned up. His topic was apt enough, it was about Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Saadul Khairi Waddien, Brunei's 28th Sultan and the Architect of Modern Brunei.

Did I learn much from Minister Mentor? Not much that I did not know already. He talked about the achievements of Sultan Omar Ali and how he brought independence and the survival of Brunei. For the younger Brunei generation, this is a revelation but for old people like me, this is something we know already. In some sense, I was hoping for a lot more from LKY but then given the sensitivity of certain information, I am sure LKY did not or cannot provide them. I was really hoping for something anectdotal as LKY and HM Sultan Omar Ali were very close and knew each other very well.

I remembered when I was still at Nurul Iman a few years ago, in preparation for the HRH The Crown Prince's wedding, we watched several videos of old Royal weddings. One of the things that struck us was that LKY was present in all of them. LKY was a very close friend to Brunei.

There were two bits of the lecture which I thought would be missed out by most of the audience.

One was a short anecdote that LKY mentioned when he came to Brunei with his wife for the first time in the early 1960s. They stayed at the newly extended palace and LKY found it too hot. LKY mentioned that there was no airconditioning in that extension. Sultan Omar Ali went through the second world war and knew the hardship he had to endure. He also worked at one time as a Forestry Officer where he had to go out and probably stayed overnight in some camps or other. He knew life was difficult. His frugality ought to serve us as an example of what we too should be doing. We may have all the wealth but it does not mean that we should spend it in a spendthrift manner.

Another was a short mentioned about the role of the Crown Agents. The Crown Agents were the agency which we placed most if not all our country's investments prior to us handling it ourselves. LKY mentioned that the Crown Agent was very careful in looking after Brunei's investment. I leave that there.

This is not the first time LKY has spoken publicly about Brunei. I posted last year his conversation during a dialogue with Allen Lai, chief executive officer of AsiaInc Forum at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies' 40th anniversary gala dinner. The article translated into English and reproduced here first appeared on January 9, 2008 in Lianhe Ziabao, a Chinese daily in Singapore. You can read it in my last year's posting here.

I have to admit LKY looked very frail. The last time I saw him was when he was talking about water in Singapore during the Water Convention. He was soft spoken and at times we had to strain our ears. Perhaps that has something to do with the sound system as well. But he has known Brunei, he watched it grow. I am sure LKY lend a helping hand now and then. But we are now 25 year old. We have to take it where we want to go ourselves. Nobody can help us with that.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

$25 Stamp to Commemmorate 25th National Day

Yesterday, I mentioned that the Postal Service were releasing stamps to commemorate the 25th National Day. There were 8 new stamps all at 25 cents each, first day covers and miniature sheets. This is the $25 miniature sheet to commemmorate Brunei's 25th National Day. It showed both His Majesty and His Majesty's father during the Proclamation of Independence on the eve of 1st Janary 1984.

This is indeed a special stamp as the last time Brunei issued a $25 stamp, you would have to go almost 100 years ago when Brunei issued a $25 stamp in 1910. That 99 year old $25 stamp is now worth some $2,000 now if you can find one now. I managed to get one about two years ago and I was lucky I did not have to pay $2,000 to get it.

The new $25 stamp is on a miniature sheet. All the stamps are designed by Ajihis bin Haji Terawih and Abdull Rahman bin Ahmad. The stamps were printed at Thai British Security Printing Public Limited Company, Thailand.

But if you think $25 is a bit too steep to buy a piece of souvenir, then get the set of stamps at a cost of only $2.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Post National Day Day

It was enjoyable yesterday leading the Ministry of Development team during the march past for the National Day Silver Jubilee Celebrations. The team worked hard and I really appreciated all the efforts that were put in by our MOD team during the march past and the field performances. Well done everyone!

Today is the post National Day day. It is time to reflect. We have achieved so much. In fact most of our development was achieved only since the 1950s, well within the lifetime of our grandfathers and fathers. But we still have a long way to go. Our nation has achieved adulthood, have we done enough to maintain that adulthood? The words of President John F Kennedy on January 20th 1961 "... ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country ..."

On a lighter note. Many received souvenirs yesterday, even though ours came in this box, I very much prefered the plate that will be given to all the participants. If anyone is thinking of not keeping it and willing to part it with it for a certain amount of fulus, do email me please and name your price. I would really really love to have that.

There are two other souvenirs available for sale if you really want to have a momento for the national day silver jubilee celebrations. The cheaper one is to go to the Post Office and get yourself a set of Brunei stamps, first day covers, miniature sheets and a special $25 miniature sheet. These are still available, so go and get them.

If you are thinking of spending in the three figure or more region, then the next one to go to is to go to the Brunei Monetary and Currency Board. The BCMB at the Ministry of Finance is selling three commemorative coins - a gold coin, a silver coin and a cupronickel proof. The gold coin has a face value of $25 and is sold for $2,000. The silver coin has a face value of $2.50 and is sold for $300. The cupronickel proof has a face value of 25 cents and is sold for $150. If you really want to splash out, you can get the entire set for $2,500.00.


POSTSCRIPT: Someone called me yesterday about an article that appeared in Borneo Bulletin something about Block L and a company which has been given concession to drill oil in it. The article or rather advertorial was written by someone called 'Mohammad Rozan'. That was NOT me, just in case you are wondering. My byeline is Rozan Yunos.

I am really really surprised to find another Rozan writing. I know of several Rozans in Brunei and there are not that many of us. I know one is a religious teacher. I know of one who used to be our neighbours in Tutong and he asked my father whether he could name his son after me as I was very well behaved(!) There is a trend here. I also know of another who is working at HSBC.

Anyway, my father named me after Tan Sri Rozan who in the 1960s was the Ketua Setiausaha Negara or Chief Secretary to the Government and he was the head of all the Permanent Secretaries. My father knew Tan Sri Rozan when he was attached to the Malaysian Government in the early 1960s.

I have always thought my name was fairly unique but if you google it, you will find the origin to be more Aramaic rather than Arabic. It has as far as I know no meaning in Arabic. Among the famous Rozans, there is a crime writer by the name of SJ Rozan, a Jewish Polish town called Rozan, another Jewish organisation called Rozan, an Islamabad based organization called Rozan that works on the emotional health of women and children and focuses on the issue of Gender and Violence, an artist called Rozan Henings (I hope he is famous), a Japanese temple called Rozan-Ji which I have visited.

My apologies to readers, I just wanted to do a short info and end up doing much more than that. This will be the first and last time that you hear me mention my name.


Monday, February 23, 2009

25th National Day Titah by His Majesty

Assalamu’alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Alhamdulillahi Rabbil ‘Alameen Wabihie Nastaeenu ‘Ala Umuriddunya Waddien, Wassalatu Wassalamu ‘Ala Asyrafil Mursaleen, Sayyidina Muhammadin Wa’ala Alihie Wasahbihie Ajmaeen. Waba’du.

Beta bersyukur kehadrat Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala kerana mengizinkan kita dapat menyambut Ulang Tahun Hari Kebangsaan ke-25 dalam suasana aman dan sejahtera. Alhamdulillah kita masih saja menjalani kehidupan yang rukun damai, bersama keluarga dan sahabat handai di Negara yang tercinta ini.

Beta mengambil maklum akan tema Hari Kebangsaan pada tahun ini: Kedewasaan Bernegara.

Sudah suku abad kita merdeka, menandakan, bertapa pantasnya masa bergerak. Dalam masa sepanjang itu, pelbagai kemajuan telah dicapai untuk menambahkan lagi kualiti hidup rakyat.

Pembangunan di negara kita adalah merupakan satu proses panjang yang akan berjalan berterusan. Ia sudah lama bermula, lebih dari 25 tahun sebelum merdeka.

Ianya, telah dan sedang berlangsung di Bumi Permai Darussalam, iaitu sebuah Negara Melayu Islam Beraja, yang dengan izin Allah jua, akan selama-lamanya kekal berdaulat, merdeka lagi demokratik.

Hala tuju pembangunan negara telah dibentuk oleh wawasan, pemikiran serta usaha gigih para negarawan dan cendikiawan negara. Al-Marhum Paduka Ayahnda, Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, adalah contoh seorang negarawan ternama sehingga dikenali sebagai Arkitek Brunei Moden.

Salah satu jasa besar Al-Marhum ialah melancarkan Rancangan Kemajuan Negara 5 Tahun Yang Pertama pada tahun 1953. Pelaburan awal, sejumlah $100 juta, adalah merupakan formula yang berupaya mengangkat program pemodenan Brunei dalam skala besar dan skop yang luas.

Pada waktu itu, keseluruhan jalan raya cuma kurang 160 kilometer panjang. Bilangan rumah sangat kecil. Bilangan sekolah sedikit. Hospital ada sebuah, dan belum ramai lagi orang pandai membaca dan menulis.

Al-Marhum dengan budi bicara dan wawasan tersendiri telah menumpukan usaha bagi memenuhi bebrapa keperluan asasi, seperti kemudahan kesihatan dan pelajaran, pembinaan rumah, jalan raya, janakuasa elektrik, sistem perhubungan dan pengembangan industri minyak, pertanian dan perikanan. Rancangan Kemajuan Negara pada keseluruhannya berjaya memberikan kemakmuran dan kesejahteraan untuk rakyat serta penduduk negara ini.

Kesinambungan dari usaha-usaha pembangunan itu, sampai ke era merdeka, telah melakar kemajuan lebih meluas. Ia membawa makna ‘pencapaian lengkap’, apabila kita juga turut memasuki bidang hubungan antarabangsa.

Brunei Darussalam dengan izin Allah, telah menjalinkan hubungan dengan banyak negara di dunia dalam keadaan mesra dan berpesefahaman tinggi.

Kita juga alhamdulillah, telah mempunyai beberapa institusi pendidikan tinggi, turut menikmati telekomunikasi termoden dan lain-lain lagi kemajuan.

Namun untuk merangsang pertumbuhan selanjutnya, kita juga masih perlu untuk mempertingkat usaha bagi perubahan minda dan sikap serta memperkukuh asas-asas moral dan etika yang baik, kearah mencapai prestasi dan kecemerlangan bernegara.

Seperti kita sedia maklum, baru-baru ini negara mengalami bencana agak luar biasa, dimana sebahagian kawasan dilanda banjir, tanah susur, gangguan bekalan eletrik dan sistem perhubungan. Ini, tidak syak lagi, adalah satu cabaran untuk menjadikan sebagai peringatan dan pembelajaran, bagaimana langkah-langkah perlu diambil serta dipersiapkan, bagi sekurang-kurangnya, mengurangkan kesan-kesan kejadian tersebut.

Dasar belajar dan mengenali punca hendaklah dihidupkan terus. Jangan memadai setakat membuat kerja-kerja rutin sahaja, tetapi mesti dicari jawapan-jawapan tepat mengapa ia terjadi, dan kemudian bagaimana mengatasinya?

Satu soalan mudah, misalnya: Mengapakah dahulu tidak berlaku dan sekarang berlaku? Dahulu, dikawasan-kawasan tertentu tidak pernah banjir tetapi sekarang banjir besar? Dahulu tidak berbangkit tanah susur tetapi sekarang banyak tempat yang berlaku tanah susur?

Ini semua, memerlukan jawapan-jawapan tepat yang berfakta, bukannya setakat teori semata-mata.

Berasaskan kedewasaan yang telah kita capai, adalah penting untuk kita mempunyai azam dan persediaan bagi melakukan pembaharuan dan perubahan-perubahan jitu didalam pendekatan mahu pun tindakan.

Kita sedang ingin melihat, diantaranya, pertumbuhan industri bukan minyak meningkat, kemiskinan ditangani, pengeluaran padi dan beras bertambah dengan pertambahan yang melonjak, disamping peranan perkhidmatan awam yang terus menyerlah dan berkesan.

Setiap langkah pembaharuan dan perubahan itu diasaskan kepada Wawasan Brunei, dengan mengambil kira, bukan sahaja kedudukan di dalam negara, malahan juga tren sejagat.

Wawasan turut mengenal pasti keperluan sumber manusia yang berilmu. Ini juga penting, nisbah kita sebuah negara kecil yang mempunyai penduduk, yang juga amat kecil. Sumber manusia berkualiti adalah faktor penentu kepada keupayaan negara untuk menikmati kemajuan secara berpanjangan.

Kerana itu, kita tidak pernah mengabaikan pendidikan. Dasar kita jelas, iaitu ingin melahirkan seberapa ramai para ilmuan, yang mempunyai kemahiran dipelbagai disiplin ilmu, dimana daripada sini, kita mengharapkan juga dapat menyaksikan kemunculan golongan-golongan pemimpin, pemikir dan pengusaha yang berwibawa.

Dalam pada itu, Beta ingin mengingatkan, dasar dan sistem pendidikan kita, tidaklah boleh sama sekali membelakangi nilai-nilai kita yang murni iaitu ugama maha suci serta adat resam bangsa yang luhur.

Akhir sekali, Beta ingin mengambil kesempatan untuk merakamkan penghargaan Brunei Darussalam terhadap negara-negara sahabat, yang sentiasa memberikan kerjasama mereka, khasnya, semenjak Negara Brunei Darussalam mencapai kemerdekaan penuhnya, dan juga sama-sama berganding bahu menyumbangkan apa sahaja perkara yang berfaedah diperingkat serantau mahu pun antarabangsa.

Beta tidak lupa mengucapkan terima kasih kepada semua peserta dan petugas serta ahli-ahli Jawatankuasa-Jawatankuasa Sambutan Perayaan Ulang Tahun Ke-25 Hari kebangsaan, yang berusaha untuk menjayakan perayaan ini.

Beta juga dengan ikhlas merakamkan setinggi-tinggi penghargaan kepada semua lapisan rakyat, penduduk dan pemimpin yang terlibat, termasuk semua peringkat ahli Perkhidmatan Awam, Pasukan-Pasukan Keselamatan serta mereka yang berkhidmat di sektor swasta, kerana sumbangan mereka terhadap keamanan dan pembangunan negara. Kerjasama rakyat dan keprihatinan Kerajaan, dengan izin Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala jua, telah membawa kemakmuran dan kemerdekaan yang kita nikmati sekarang.

Sekian, Wabillahit Taufeq Walhidayah, Wassalamu ‘Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tutong From 1960s

Photos of Tutong are not easy to find. It is difficult compared to photos about Bandar Seri Begawan or Kuala Belait. The few that I have from 1960s onwards:-

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Brunei crest with the lions

Slightly more than a week ago, I wrote a short entry about our national crest. In the side box, there was this comment:

Decendent of Dato Godam: Mr. BR, I've seen the Brunei national crest being added with Lion. But now its being replaced by that Ajai(hand). Can u elaborate on that please?

I remembered too there was something which had the lion replacing the hands and it took me a while to remember where I saw it. Then it hit me today. It was on this chair and on this throne.

This is a cropped photo of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah taken in 1968 during his coronation as the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam. If you look closely, you can see the crest with the lions on both sides of the crest on top of the seat that His Majesty is sitting on.

If I go wider with this photograph, the crest too with the lions is at the centre on top of the throne. This throne is still used at the Istana in one of the halls. There is a model of it somewhere in the Royal Regalia Museum in the capital.

I cannot answer that second question as to why and when it changed. That would be interesting. My personal answer is that the crest was always with the hands and that was widely used after the constitution. The throne was especially designed and that crest with the lions was only meant for this throne and therefore the crest was not changed at all.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mentiri comes of age

[I wrote the following article for the Golden Legacy column which was published on Brunei Times about three weeks ago.]


IF ONE was to drive along Jalan Kota Batu, one can see that Kampung Mentiri is one of the biggest villages along that road. There are many homes in the village, especially if one was to include the housing estate developed by the Housing Development Department.

The large population is served by a secondary school, primary schools and two mosques, one in the housing estate and another older one. The number of shophouses is also increasing with more being built. The Mentiri Golf Club is also there. The area's main artery is a dual carriageway allowing the populace to travel to the capital in the shortest time possible.

But not many know that Kampung Mentiri has a long history and according to archaeological findings may stretch as far back as 700 years ago.

The findings were found at one of the more modern facilities in Kampung Mentiri: the Mengkubau Dam. The $30-million project covers 13.7 square kilometres. The catchment holds around 9.6 million cubic metres of fresh water and reaches a depth of around 28 metres.

During the construction of the dam in 1997, archaeologists were surprised to discover major finds that proved the area was inhabited as early as before the 12th century.

According to an article written in Berita Muzium published in the January-April 1998 edition, the archaeologists discovered broken vase shards from China dated from the Song Dynasty. Other shards discovered in the same area dated from around the 13th century to the 19th century. There were also remnants of shells found with the vases.

The same article also mentioned three old and no longer used graveyards in the area. These Muslim graveyards were known by the villagers and named as Kubur Sulasih and Kubur Bagunjai while a third was unnamed. In Kubur Sulasih, around 20 gravestones were found. However, in Kubur Bagunjai, there were only two gravestones — and both were for the one grave.

The existence of the graveyards showed that people were living in the area at that time. Nobody knows who the graveyards belong to.

The archaeologists paid close scrutiny to the two gravestones at Kubur Bagunjai. The two gravestones, or batu nisan, indicated the high status of the person buried.

In the older days, most graves would be marked with only one gravestone. Two gravestones indicated someone who was respected or held high status in the area when he died.

Among old graveyards discovered in Brunei, the two gravestones for Sultan Bolkiah's tomb was one of the few found so far.

The gravestones at Kubur Bagunjai were found to be the same design of another three gravestones found in other places in Brunei and dated around the 15th or 16th century.

A similar gravestone found in Jalan Residency showed that the grave belonged to a Brunei noble named Cheteria Pengiran Maharaja. So it is possible that the grave at Kubur Bagunjai would be of someone of an equivalent status.

It would be interesting if one can discover his name and how he ended up buried around Kampung Mentiri.

Most importantly, the discovery of this grave outlined how important Kampung Mentiri was in days gone by.

The history of the village's name is relatively recent. It is said that the name of Kampung Mentiri is derived from an old tall tree.

According to the older folks in the village, the trunk's girth was so big that it took six adults holding hands to reach around the tree. This tree was unique and said to have magical powers. It has to be said, however, that nobody today can identify this tree. A number of elder villagers stated that it used to be located at where the roundabout is now.

In the past, the village was known by many names. Previous monikers of Kampung Mentiri include Kampung Pancur Buluh, Kampung Batu Buluh, Kampung Kiau and Kampung Sungai Sinonok.

Almost all of the original inhabitants of the village were Kedayans. But since the village has opened up to the outside world, the village, similar to others in Brunei, now has other races staying there also.

The opening of the village to the outside world also meant the loss of the original inhabitants' main occupation, which was growing rice. By the 1970s, the production of rice in the village was virtually nil.

Many people from outside the village came and bought land, and today one can see concrete buildings rising up from where rice fields once covered the landscape.

In the mid-1940s, however, there were no concrete houses, the village elders recall. All the houses then were small and made of wood. These houses had stilts of bulian wood, split bamboo walls and nipah palm thatched roofs. Wells were dug to provide water for the villagers. Their produce of rice and other farm products were taken to Brunei Town to be sold.

The village lands were registered mostly in the 1930s, when the British Resident wanted to encourage land ownership, especially for growing rice and other farm produce.

Back then, though, other than the original inhabitants, not many other Bruneians wanted to go there.

There was no road linking the village even though the village is only about six kilometres from Muara and about 12 kilometres from Brunei Town. The only way out of the village was through the river, southwards to Brunei Town and northwards to Muara.

Even by the 1960s, when the road from Brunei Town had reached Muara, there was no road to Mentiri. Villagers going to Brunei Town hiked up to Bukit Sibanging and caught a bus along Jalan Muara.

The Jalan Kota Batu road linking Mentiri to Brunei Town was not completed until 1972. There were a number of developments that required the road to be completed. One was the Brunei Museum and the other was the need to connect to Dato Gandhi for the arrival of HM Queen Elizabeth's visit to Brunei that same year.

HMS Britannia docked at the jetty at Dato Gandhi as the Brunei Wharf was too shallow for the ship and the Muara Deep Water Port was not yet in use.

Despite the lack of roads, the government built a primary school in the village in 1962. Now, there is a secondary school and religious schools in the village.

A surau was built in the 1950s, but it was not until 1984 that a concrete mosque was built on a wakaf land. In the housing estate, there is now a bigger mosque.

In the 1970s, the village had only about four small grocery stores. By the mid-1980s, the number started increasing and today shophouses are still being built in the village. A department store now serves local shoppers, as does an international fast food outlet.

As each new modern facilities arrives, the village is slowly transforming itself into a new town. The villagers who used to own small wooden boats with seagull engines to go to Brunei Town now drive modern four-wheel-drive SUVs on a dual carriageway.

A far cry from barely 30 years ago, when the village was virtually inaccessible by road.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Brunei Economic Bulletin Q2 2008

The Brunei Economic Planning and Development Department or to use its Malay acronym JPKE (Jabatan Perancangan dan Kemajuan Ekonomi)recently released our country's economic performance for the second quarter of 2008. Quarter 1 report was printed in September 2008.

What's the highlight for Quarter 2?

Well, our economic growth fell by 2.8% year on year following a 4.9% contraction in Q1. Net export contracted sharply despite increases in investment. In economics, the term recession generally describes the reduction of a country's gross domestic product (GDP) for at least two quarters. Q3 report would be something to wait for whether this contraction has been reversed.

Our monetary aggregates expanded in a slower pace in Q2 2008 compared to Q1. Fixed deposits increased. Loan growth slowed down to 7.3% compared to 29.5% in Q1.

Our fiscal balance showed a healthy revenue of B$2.7 billion all mostly due to record high oil and gas prices in Q2. Though capital expenditure contracted by around 26%. Q2 was the beginning of the 2008/2009 financial year.

Consumer price index showed an inflation rate of 2.3% year on year. The main drivers of inflation were food and non-alcoholic beverages, miscellaneous goods and services, and transport.

External trade is healthy which is mostly oil and gas. It shows a trade surplus of B$2.9 billion. Brunei's top export destinations were Japan, Indonesia and South Korea, all three representing 75% of total exports.

Oil and gas production declined. Oil production is 159,811 barrels per day in Q2. The average production of LNG also declined by 6%.

You can read all this yourself by getting a copy from JPKE at Jalan Ong Sum Ping. This morning I checked at JPKE's website, the Q1 report is available as a digital copy but Q2's report is still not yet online. I know one very senior JPKE official would be reading my entry this morning and my request - *please sir, make Q2 report available online*.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sailing in Brunei

The other day when I attended the briefing given by the Tourism Department of the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, I remembered vividly the presentation made by the Sailing in Brunei people. If you want to read more about sailing in Brunei, you can browse through Reeda's excellent blog or David Cheok's also excellent blog on the Petima, a Danish saling boat on Brunei Bay.

What I wanted to point out though was that around 50 years ago, sailing was quite common to the Kampong Ayer people. Engines were only available around 1950s and before that, we have sailing boats used by fishermen. The first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century and the other two are relatively new.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Old Scenes at the Bandar Brunei Wharf

When ideas run out, it is time for old photographs. This is a set of photographs all taken at the wharf in Bandar Seri Begawan in the mid 1950s, about 50 years ago. That was the time when the wharf was beginning to be used especially with Brunei's first national development plan. So enjoy.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Are you stressed?

I got this email yesterday and I thought I will share this with you all this Sunday. Afterall you do need to relax. It's a quiz.

There is this very, very tall coconut tree and there are 4 animals. King Kong, an Ape, an Orangutan and a Monkey pass by. They decide to compete to see who is the fastest to get a banana off the tree.

Who do you think will win?

Your answer will reflect your personality.

Think carefully . . . Try and answer within 30 seconds

Got your answer?

Now scroll down to see the analysis.

If your answer is:

Orangutan = you're very stressed

Ape = you're still very stressed

Monkey = worse, you're very very stressed

King Kong = you're hopeless and very very stressed


Why?! ????


Still not obvious ah? A Coconut tree doesn't have bananas lah!

Obviously you're stressed and overworked.

Take some time off and relax.

It's Sunday.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

St Valentine's Day?

[Photo from Google Earth - Lovers' Island - formerly known by the less romantic name of Galesnjak, off the coast of Croatia - It is just 130,000 square yards and is uninhabited, making it an intriguing location for a romantic Valentine's Day getaway.]

In most parts of the world, today is Valentine's Day. It has been estimated that throughout the world, approximately one billion valentine cards are sent during Valentine's Day, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas; and that 85 percent of all cards are purchased by women!

Did you know that Valentine's Day began as a pagan festival? The Romans then engaged in an annual fertility rite in honour of one of their many gods named Lupercus where the names of young women were placed in a box and drawn by adolescent men. The resulting random matches became 'companions' for the following year. The Catholic Church tried to end this pagan rite and selected a martyred Saint Valentine to replace Lupercus. (An Italian priest named Valentine was said to be imprisoned by the Roman Emperor Claudius II for secretly joining young lovers in matrimony). Over time, the Lupercian lottery was replaced with the custom of Roman men offering women their admired hand-written greetings of affection on February 14.

Several other versions depending on sources said that Valentine's Day was established to abolish another European heathen village custom of boys drawing the names of girls on the 15th of the month in honor of the goddess Februata Juno; and another claimed that sending greetings to loved ones on Feb. 14 dates to the middle ages when it was believed that this day marked the beginning of the mating season for birds. So if you are celebrating Valentine's Day, it can be said that you are either commemorating some ancient gods or emulating the birds!

With the commercialisation of the celebration, Valentine’s Day has become an institutionalised guilt trip for both men and women. But why would you need a special day to recognise your loved ones?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bruneians on the River 1920s

I first saw this postcard on a postal history book about Brunei stamps. I used it for one of my article sometime last year when I was writing about 'berjanawari'. I was really surprised and excited when it came out on ebay the other day. So I put a bid which I thought would deter people off and for a while it did. I did not see any bid coming close to it BUT I lost it this morning. The winning bid for this 80+ year old postcard of Brunei was US$105.00. Aaargh....

Anyway, I borrowed this image since I could not get hold of the original anymore. This is a scene of Kampong Ayer which is pretty obvious. I have no idea what was happening but I guessed it was berjanawari. Berjanawari was a time when there were lots of boat races and festival on water. The word comes from January and most likely it was a new year celebration of sorts. I wanted to put a link to the entry about it and when I could not find it, that's when I realised that this is one of the few articles which I did not put up on this blogsite.

If you look at the crowd on the river, there were certainly lots of people. This was more than 80 years ago.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Brunei Crest

Most people know that our national flag is a recent creation. I have written about our flag's history a few times in the past as well as published articles in the papers. The last time I wrote about the flag was last year which you can read here on this link.

So our 103 year old flag was given the crest soon after the written constitution and hence the red crest appearing on our flag. I was reading more about the history of the crest and interestingly enough the red crest that is on the Brunei flag is much older than the flag itself.

According to a 1972 Brunei Museum publication about the history of the crest, the crest has its origin as far back as Sultan Sharif Ali, the third Sultan around the early 15th century. It was not known whether he brought it from his country or whether it was created here in Brunei. Some sources also indicated that the crest had Chinese influence.

However it was Sultan Hassan, the 9th Sultan who made the mast for the crest. Again not much is known about the crest. But the first known appearance was in the 18th century when British writers first wrote about flags flying in front of the Sultan's palaces.

One of the first known appearance of the crest is on the coin duing the reign of Sultan Abdul Momin. The coin known as the pitis had the crest and surprisingly that drawing on the coin was drawn by a Chinese named Chua Chong Hee.

It was the latter day Sultans which made the crest more like what it is today. The original crest had the mast, the wings, the umbrella and the small flag. Later the crescent was added on. You can see this in many old wooden government buildings and even in the 1959 $1 note I wrote about two days ago. But soon after the scroll and the hands were added on and by 1961 in the $10 note, the whole modern crest appeared.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Money (Not that Old) Part II

Yesterday, I was talking about the $1 Malaya Borneo note. Today is the other note - the $10. This one is relatively newer as it was issued in 1961 by the Malaya and British Borneo Board of Commissioners of Currency. So it was only 6 years old when the three countries issued their own currency notes in 1967.

Most people called this 'duit kerabau' and even the ma cik selling the note in the tamu refused to budge from $230 price when I first bought the note from her two years ago. There are two versions of this note, the difference being the alphabet accompanying the serial number on the note. The note with the larger A cost more than the little A and the difference can be twice as much sometime.

Interestingly enough on this note too, you can see that the Brunei crest has become the modern Brunei crest you see today complete with the two hands. The crest that appeared on the $1 note yesterday did not thave the two hands. Prices for this note range from about $150 upwards and can be as expensive as $500 or more for an uncirculated one. If your dad or grandad has one, keep it. It will become more valuable in the future.

I actually forgot to mention yesterday that you can visit the Brunei Currency Board Gallery at the Ministry of Finance. Here you can see every single note that Brunei had used since time immemorial. This also include all the old coins. You can also see how the notes are being made. So go visit. The Board has not put up a gallery website and a friend and I created one for them. Click here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Money (Not That Old)

I was asked in my other blog about money and stamps whether I have the old Malaya Borneo $1 and $10 notes. Yes I do. These two were issued in 1959 and 1961 respectively. I am only showing the $1 note.

The Board of Commissioners of Currency for Malaya and British Borneo issued currency notes and coins for Malaya, Singapore, Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak. In fact, if you look closely at the back of the note you can see one of the crests is the Brunei crest.

This note was used from 1959 to 1967. It was printed by two different companies Thomas De La Rue and Waterlow and Sons. The note printed by Waterlow and Sons is harder to find. When this note was issued in 1959, it became the first note to replace the Queen $1 note which was issued in 1953. It marked the first attempt by the 'new countries' to separate themselves from the British and come up with their own design. That's why the design was of a boat which at that point in time was widely used by all the fishermen on both sides of the South China Sea.

In 1967, the three countries agreed to issue their own currencies. And this $1 note was abandoned. It circulated for a while even after every country issued their own notes but when the British devalued the pounds in November 1967, the value of this note also fell as it was tied to the British pounds. It can still be used at the lower value but by January 1969, it ceased to be legal tender. From 1967 to 1969, many people exchanged this note for the new notes issued by the governments.

The few that are available now are those which were not returned. However it is not that expensive. You can still buy this from the market for around $10 to $15.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Kuala Belait from the Sky

Those who have not been to Kuala Belait for a long time would be surprised to see the development. From the sky Kuala Belait looks even better. So, the next time you go to Miri, do drop by KB. This is Kuala Belait from the sky (note: all photographs taken by our Deputy Minister with his Leica C-Lux2 *thank you sir* and ask his permission if you want a copy with a high resoultion - the photos' resolutions on this blog have all been lowered):-

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Mysterious Kubur Bagunjai at Mentiri

For tomorrow's Golden Legacy article to be published in Brunei Times, I will be writing about Kampung Mentiri. I found an old research done by Museum Department during the construction of the Mengkubau Dam at Mentiri when they found several graveyards. One of them is the Bagunjai Graveyard. This is an excerpt from tomorrow's article:-


The archaeologists paid close scrutiny to the two gravestones at Kubur Bagunjai. The two gravestones or batu nisan indicated the high status of the person buried. In the older days, most graves would only be placed with one gravestone. Two gravestones indicated someone respected or hold high status in the area when he died. Among old graveyards discovered in Brunei, the two gravestones for Sultan Bolkiah’s tomb was one of the few found so far.

The gravestones at Kubur Bagunjai were found to be the same design of another three gravestones found in other places in Brunei and dated around the 15th or 16th century. A similar gravestone found in Jalan Residency showed that the grave belong to a Brunei noble named Cheteria Pengiran Maharaja. So it is possible that the grave at Kubur Bagunjai would be of someone of an equivalent status.

It would be interesting if one can discover his name and how he ended up buried around Kampung Mentiri. Most importantly the discovery of this grave outlined how important Kampung Mentiri was in the older days.


Read tomorrow's Brunei Times.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Brunei Flood

MOD officials went up the helicopter to take a look at all the areas that are affected. Aerial views give a better perspective of the area and the solutions required. This one is an older photo of the flood of 21st January recently. This one photo is of the Ban areas.

Historically Ban areas are meant to be the food basket of Brunei to be used as a padi plantation area. In fact the word 'ban' comes from the English 'bunds' which are pathways built along the edges of the padi fields. These bunds over the years become roads and padi fields become housing estates. Housings developed rapidly but unfortunately infrastructures does not get built as fast and hence at the moment only canals are in the process of being built.

In most cases, the canals are supposedly according to design sufficient to handle normal heavy rainwaters. But extra heavy La Nina rainwaters like what's happening at the moment completely inundate the drainage systems. Add the extra high tide, hence the floods we saw last time. The PWD or JKR has to expedite the next step which is to build retention ponds similar to the ones in the perpindahan at Berakas Burong Pingai. During heavy rains all the water will be channeled to the ponds and released to the river. But in the Ban areas, one pond will not be sufficient. A series of them have to be built and thus finding suitable areas in a built up area like the Ban areas make it harder. Some private lands will have to be acquired. Estimates ranged around $55 million for this project.

The other flood prone areas are what is known as the Tutong Plains. Flooding was essential to the farmers in the older days as the padi fields and other agricultural products need water. Flooding provided the water needed without much efforts. But today most farming has more or less stop, farmlands turned to housing estates, flooding becomes a nuisance and an annoyance. I was at Tanjong Maya this morning and the river has completely gone over its banks. Tutong Plains is a bit harder to resolve compared to the Ban areas but the PWD is working on it.

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