Tuesday, December 15, 2009

On hiatus

Apologies to regular visitors. My PC has died on me (suspected motherboard problem), so I can't update from home. And I don't have time and I should not update during office hours. Besides all my photos and notes are on that PC, so I don't have much reference material. So, I am going on forced hiatus until I can sort something out. In the meantime keep on checking, maybe by then my PC would have been cured!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Jerudong Park v.2?

I thought I was an avid newspaper reader and I was quite surprised to have missed this one. Anyway, I found this news on www.earthtimes.org about our Jerudong Park:-

Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei's famed 644-million-dollar amusement park - Jerudong Park Playground - will relaunch this weekend after being "virtually dead" for years, park officials said Friday. Opened in 1994, the Playground was once billed at the largest amusement park in South-East Asia, boasting lavish rides, entertainment venues and a free admission policy.

The government hoped the multi-million-dollar extravaganza would attract thousands of foreign tourists to the tiny oil-rich nation, but the response proved disappointing.

To cope with the smaller-than-expected foreign market, the Playground's administration started charging admission fees and started a ride ticketing system a few years ago, which turned off Brunei visitors.

"Despite the charge, almost all rides were closed back then. So we really paid for nothing," Brunei citizen Josephine Liew told the German Press Agency dpa.

Tourists who visited the playground in recent years also complained of dangerous rides and run-down facilities.

In an effort to turn the tide, the Playground's management has invested in refurbishing rides and facilities and as of Saturday again offers free entry to the public.

They did not say how much was spent on the renovations. All rides are offered at a discounted fare.

"We want to increase attendance by making an evening at the playground as affordable as we can," said Jerudong Park Country Club General Manager Russell Finney.

But some observers have expressed doubts about the refurbished park's appeal.

"Jerudong Park has a bad reputation. The place was so run-down it was an embarrassment," Brunei resident Aziz Idris said. "Will whatever they do now be enough to bring back its glory again?"

Brunei, a small, oil-rich sultanate, has a population of 398,000 people. An estimated 1 million foreign tourists visit the country each year, although the vast majority are from neighbouring Malaysia.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jame Asr Stained Glass

The Guardian UK had this story on 8th December 2009 about John Lawson. Who? I bet that you would ask. I asked that too until I saw this photograph:-

[Stained Glass at Jame Asr Mosque in Kiarong]

And it was this guy who made that:-

John Lawson, who has died of cancer aged 77, was one of the leading stained-glass artists of his generation. He designed glorious windows not only in Westminster Abbey and many other British cathedrals and churches, but also in mosques, palaces and hotels as far afield as Dubai, Oman and Brunei. For the last three decades of the 20th century he was chief artist for the internationally renowned Goddard & Gibbs Studios.

When the 20-year restoration of Westminster Abbey was nearing completion in 1992, Donald Buttress, the Surveyor of the Fabric, or cathedral architect, suggested that the work should be commemorated with a replacement stained-glass window for the plain clear-glass one on the west wall of the abbey's early-16th-century Henry VII chapel. Lawson was called in to create a window that would let in enough light and be "neither overpowering nor anaemic" and, using his knowledge of heraldry, designed the magnificent window that is there today. It was unveiled by the Queen in 1995, and depicts her coat of arms, those of the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince of Wales, and those of Henry VII and his Queen, Elizabeth of York, who are buried in the chapel. Known as the West Window, the Henry VII chapel piece was undoubtedly Lawson's proudest achievement.

However, he was equally known for his art work in the Middle and far east and was much in demand by some of the world's wealthiest rulers and princes. Anyone who has visited the Ramada hotel in Dubai since 1980 will have stood in awe beneath Lawson's stained-glass mural which, at 41 metres high and nine metres wide, was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest stained-glass structure in the world.

In the early 1990s, impressed by the Englishman's work, the sultan of Brunei invited Lawson to the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, to design the glass dome for a new mosque built to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the sultan's reign. Officially named after the sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, it is better known as the Kiarong mosque and is now a major tourist attraction. As always, Lawson made the original "cartoon", or drawing, at the Goddard & Gibbs studio on Kingsland Road, in Shoreditch, east London. He worked from his own experience and research into Islamic culture and art, but consulted local experts and calligraphers to ensure that the design, including Arabic characters and lettering, met the criteria of Islamic experts.

In Oman, Lawson's windows helped create the unique ambience in the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, which the sultan has described as "the crowning glory of Oman". The intricate stained-glass windows around the dome filter light that echoes the colours and patterns of the murals and the world's largest single-piece prayer mat. In 2000, Qaboos also commissioned Lawson to design the glass dome above a water feature in the guest complex for his new palace, Beit al-Barakah, outside Muscat. In the late 1980s, Lawson was called in to design the stained-glass dome of an elegant new museum in Bahrain, the Beit al-Qur'an, or House of the Qur'an, which contains a rare collection of ancient holy books.

Closer to home, Lawson's work can be seen in hundreds of churches around Britain, and includes a hanging glass panel depicting Christ the judge in Ripon Cathedral, North Yorkshire, and the windows of the Oratory in Elmore Abbey, the Benedictine monastery in Newbury, Berkshire. Lawson was personally involved in the church for the whole of his life. His funeral was held at Holy Trinity church, near his home in the Hertfordshire village of Leverstock Green, where he had designed the stations of the cross around the walls.

Lawson was born in St Albans, Hertfordshire. His father, William, who died when John was 13, was the managing director of Faith Craft Works in St Albans, a branch of the Church of England's Society of the Faith charity, which designed and crafted stained- glass church windows, including those for the postwar restoration of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside, in the City of London.

After attending St Albans school and gaining a diploma in design from the Chelsea School of Art in London, Lawson got his first job in his father's old workshop. In his spare time, John also designed stage sets for the Company of Ten at the Abbey Theatre, St Albans, a leading amateur drama group, where he met a young actress, Frances Baker, whom he married in 1961. In 1971, he was appointed chief artist by Goddard & Gibbs, where he remained until his retirement. He was a member of the Heraldry Society and a fellow of the British Society of Master Glass Painters.

Lawson is survived by Frances, their son, Dominic, and daughters, Rebecca and Helena.

• John Nicholas Lawson, stained-glass artist, born 25 October 1932; died 30 October 2009

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Remember, Remember, The 8th of December

Exactly 47 years ago today, some people thought they heard fireworks. They were wondering why fireworks? Thy did not know that it was not fireworks that they heard. It was the sound of small arms fire. A group of people decided that they needed to take matters into their own hands. I was a two month old fetus in those days. My mother told me that she and my father had to sleep on the floor in case any stray bullet went through their wooden government quarters in Kuala Belait. One uncle told me that he was almost shot at by another uncle when he as members of the armed guards of BSP went to the Panaga Police Station to take refuge. The police shot at them because they thought the guards wanted to attack the police station. What I know about what happened 47 years ago was what I heard and read. A number of books had been written about it. Today my entry is about those books which you can go to the bookshops and buy them for yourselves.

Remember, Remember, The 8th of December. Our own HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah wrote this book. Published by Brunei Press in 2007, this one is easily available at any bookshops in Brunei. This one is an easy read and contained lots of photographs making it probably more dramatic and makes the pain of the fight of Bruneian versus Bruneian more intense.

HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah wrote that 'if we are going to enter this new era confidently, then each of us has to remember our past, acknowledge it and respect it. That's what the founders of ASEAN did and that's what we all must continue to do so. In Brunei this means we have to come to terms with what happened forty five years ago, on a grim, dark Saturday morning, early on the 8th of December, 1962"

Rebellion in Brunei: The 1962 Revolt, Imperialism, Confrontation and Oil written by Harun Abdul Majid.

I wrote an entry about this book a few months ago which you can link here. This book is written by Datuk Harun Abdul Majid, one of our local businessmen. This book arises out of his dissertation when he was doing his Masters at King's College in London and he carried out his research at the Department of War Studies there.

What's different about Datuk Haruns's book is that his view is seen from the larger regional 1960s Malaysia-Indonesia conflicts. A number of British servicemen who served in the region noted the fighting in Malaya and Brunei was part of the Small Wars which the British soldiers, sailors, and airmen from Britain and the Commonwealth have been fighting to defend Britain's shrinking empire since the end of World War Two.

Brunei 1839-1983: The Problems of Political Survival written by DS Ranjit Singh.

This was probably one of the oldest modern book about Brunei history. Published by Oxford University Press in 1984, the book remained for quite a while one of the most comprehensive written about Brunei's modern history. Ranjit Singh was a lecturer in University of Malaya when he wrote the book at the time when Brunei was taking her tentative steps towards full independence.

It traced how Brunei's rulers struggling to maintain Brunei's autonomy and control Brunei's destinies despite the British and Western Imperialism in the 19th century. The success and the turbulent times of the 1950s and 1960s pave the way to Brunei's sovereignity and independence in 1984.

8 Disember: Dalangnya Siapa? Written by our national historian and our Principal of Brunei's History Centre, Pehin Jamil and published by Brunei History Centre in 2003 is an official account of what happened on that fateful day in 1962.

In his introduction, Pehin wrote that this book tries to depict a part of the many events related to the 8th December and at the same time trying to trace the origins and the many issues related to it. He admitted that in writing the book, there are many other evidences and events which needed to be learnt and researched. In the end, he hoped that this book will raise people's awareness of what happened and the way to move forward 'menimbulkan semangat kesedaran berbangsa dan bernegara: Brunei Darussalam.'

This book is available from Brunei History Centre and local bookshops in Brunei.

Pertumbuhan Nasionalisme di Brunei (1939 - 1962). This book written in Malay by Dr Haji Zaini Haji Ahmad was published in 2004 and contained the forewords of Pehin Jamil.

Dr Haji Zaini (full name: Dr Haji Zaini bin Pehin Orang Kaya Shahbandar ato Setia Awang Haji Ahmad) wrote it as an insider and was one of the main character of the 1962 event. This book is actually rewritten from an earlier book published by the writer below. Pehin Jamil described the book as interestingly written and recorded a part of Brunei's history which is still actively discussed. Even though the event remained a painful and bitter event for Brunei, we can only learn from it and pray that it will not be repeated in the future.

This book is available at selected bookshops around the country for the price of $12. The last time I checked, only Kedai Buku Mega has it. Try also Book Lane at Delima, that shop tended to have unusual collection.

Brunei Merdeka: Sejarah dan Budaya Politik. This book was published earlier by Dr Zaini in 2003. This is actually based on the manuscript that he wrote as his PhD thesis at Universiti Malaya in 1996. Its contents is almost similar to the latter book above. It also contained the forewords of Pehin Jamil.

The book is divided into 10 chapters. It started with the old histroy of Brunei and end with the Brunei scenario of 1962 and the events and questions surrounding it. I will not try to summarise the book but hoped that you are able to read it for yourself and find out what the end is.

The book is also available at selected bookshops throughout the country. The copy that I have, I bought it from Bismi for a rather expensive $23. Despite the price, the book is invaluable in the amount of knowledge it gave me. So I do hope you too will try to read the book.

Sejarah Brunei: Menjelang Kemerdekaan. This book published by Dewan Bahasa Malaysia is written by a Malaysian and two Bruneian. The Malaysian was Professor Sabihah Osman from UKM and the Bruneians were Dr Muhamamad Hadi, who was the Deputy Principal at Brunei History Center and now the Director of Information and Sabullah Haji Hakip, an Education Officer at MOE.

This book tried to avoid the usual historic theme of glory and fall but focused on several themes which are important to the Brunei's history. The book read more like a collection of essays written by the three historians but at the end does try to be more like a book. It has interesting photographs of Brunei's fishing industries and equipment as well as other photographs.

The copy that I have I bought from Mega for $22.

There are other history books out there which if you are really interested. One interesting book is entitled 'Partai Rakyat Brunei: Selected Docements' edited by Haji Zaini Haji Ahmad, another is 'A History of Brunei' written by Graham Saunders, Professor Hussainmiya's various books are also good and not to forget HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah's first book 'Time and the River: Brunei Darussalam 1947-2000' is also a worthwhile read.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Karnival Daerah Tutong

The people in Tutong District are really working hard to make their Tutong District Carnival a success. For those who do not know what to do today have the following options at Tutong:-

* Pesta dan Pertunjukan Kereta @ Kompleks Dewan Kemasyarakatan (from 9 am to 10 pm), today is the last day. It started on Friday.

* Pesta Pengguna @ Petani Mall (from 10 am to 10 pm), it started yesterday and will go on until the 13th December.

* Pesta Produk Mukim dan Kampung @ Kompleks Pasarneka dan Tamu Tutong (from 7 am to 5 pm), this one too started yesterday and will end on the 9th December.

* Cabaran 4x4 @ Kawasan Lapang Berdekatan Mahad Islam (from 10 am to 5 pm), watch the 4x4 SUVs compete, started yesterday and will end today.

* Kebudayaan dan Kesenian @ Kompleks Pasarneka dan Tamu (from 9 am), this is a two day event with a number of shows from various groups, today is the second and last day.

* Walkaton Amal @ Padang Kompleks Dewan Kemasyarakatan (from 6.30 am), I guess by the time you read this, this would be all over. But you can still go to the Dewan Kemasyarakatan.

* Pesta Ria Kanak-Kanak @ Taman Rekreasi Sungai Basong (from 9 am to 12 noon and 1.30 pm to 5.30 pm), this one at Sungai Basong will tempt all the kids.

* Sukan Ria @ Pantai Seri Kenangan (from 7.30 am to 5.00 pm), this one is supposed to be today but luckily has been shifted to next Sunday.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Bruneian in Atomic Bomb Hiroshima

I remembered when I was in Darjah 4 way back in the very early 1970s, one of the fahaman article or comprehension I was reading had a story about a Brunei man during the aftermath of the first atomic bomb in Hiroshima. Apparently he had been a student there and the bomb fell over the city. Luckily he survived the bombing. After that I searched high and low for the book but to no avail. At that time I didn't know who the author was let alone from which book was the excerpt taken from.

About three years ago, I was in Mega Book Store. That's a free plug for the bookshop. I found this book written by Pengiran Yusof. I am 46 years old now and of course by now I know who he is and that he was the one who was in Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped by the Americans. I glanced through the book and lo and behold, that narrative was in the book. I quickly bought it, it was only $9.60.

I was rather surprised to discover that the book was only published in 2002 by Dewan Bahasa Malaysia. So I am still wondering where that book I read in the 1970s got their excerpt from.

The book covered a number of grounds, especially about the early history of the Japanese occupation in Borneo and Brunei. The personal narration of the author on how managed to be chosen to go to Japan, how the bomb hit and how he managed to get back to Brunei. It was indeed a long journety.

If Pengiran had not returned to Brunei, Brunei would have lost one of her greatest statesman. Pengiran was instrumental in the national anthem. He was also one of the member of the Legislative Council. Pengiran Yusof was also a former State Secrtary (SUK) as well as being our Chief Minister. He certainly had a colourful career.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Our Pantangs

Someone asked in the comment box whether I could write something about pantang larang of Bruneians. I could. But then why would I do that? There is a book that you can actually buy and read all about it.

This book published by our Dewan Bahasa in 2006 contained all there is to know about the do's and dont's of our society or rather the dont's of our society. All the pantangs are listed in alphabetical order and altogether there are 115 of them (I counted). They range from 'Anak perempuan dilarang bermain permainan lelaki kelak sigau' to 'Tidur atau baring di atas batang besar ditakuti ditolak hantu kagui'.

For each pantang, there is a reason given and what lesson the pantang was supposed to teach. And there are also illustrations for a number of them.

If you read through them, most of readers will recognise a few but to be honest I am sure you will not recognise or even realise that there are pantangs which nobody has told you about. Some are slightly out of date, dating from the time when Bruneians used to live on the water or in outlying villages, maybe slightly valid to those still staying there. However it is quite interesting to know all these pantangs and may come in useful to you if ever you get into an argument with someone and wanted to prove you are right.

Oh yes, the book only cost a miserly $7.60. Get it from any Dewan Bahasa bookshops or wait until there is a book expo.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Old Tutong Photo

I was looking through my father's old album searching for photographs to illustrate my third book when I came across this photograph. I thought this will go nicely with the maulud article in that book.

My father was an Assistant District Officer in Tutong in the 1960s. You can see him in the middle of the photograph in white with his interesting long shoes. That shoe we used to call as kasut pembunuhan. I don't know why. I thought it has gone out of fashion until I saw someone wearing it recently.

Anyway, the photograph is not so much about maulud but it is more about Tutong. If you look at the background, you can see old shops. That shophouse building has been torn down, someone told me burnt down, whatever it is, it has been replaced. The interesting information is that Kedai Haji Hasbullah, the famous maker of pulut panggang is still there.

What's more interesting is that the shop labels. All the Chinese labels are in Jawi. Nowadays labels are both in rumi and jawi. In jawi tended to be their translation. So you get Kedai Sumber Mulia or something like that. However in the 1960s, they just spelled the name of the shop in jawi. I don't which one I like but I know which one I remember.

Anyway, that's a glimpse of what Tutong looked like in the 1960s.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The History of the Borneo Games

I was asked to research on the history of the Borneo Games by Brunei Times. The 3rd Borneo Games is currently on at various venues throughout Brunei at the moment. I found out many things including the fact that one of my uncles was the first Brunei Borneo Games athletes. My article was published yesterday on Brunei Times:-

Remember these names? Sinin Metali, Aloysius Sibidol, Zainab Kadir, Junaidi Hamdan, George Chong, Abdullah Mustafa, Sanah Tamit, Pengiran Md Zain, Katherine Teo and Marina Metali? If these names do not jog your memory, then what about Latif Olen, Kuda Dita or Dilbaugh Sinkler?

Bruneians in the 1950s and 1960s interested in sports would remember that these were Brunei’s and some of our neighbouring states’ best athletes competing in the Borneo Games. Borneo Games was the most prestigious athletics competition that we had at that time.

Not many people remembered the first few Borneo Games nor did people remember the first Brunei athlete who took part in the first Borneo Games. Yet, our athletes competed very well. Sinin Metali when he was in the army, training in Negeri Sembilan in 1961 bested the Malaysian soldiers by winning the Malaysian Army’s mile run. Sibidol held world veteran records in his age group for discus and javelin throwing.

The very first Borneo Games was held at Seria Recreation Club (SRC) in 1954. The three British Borneo states, Brunei Darussalam, Sarawak and North Borneo took part in that first game. The Games was sponsored by Brunei Shell Petroleum Company. Practically every single one of the ‘Brunei’ athletes was BSP employees but only one was a true Bruneian.

Ahmad Kahar was the sole Bruneian in the entire ‘Brunei’ team. The other team members were expatriates. It was not surprising as it was very difficult for other athletes from around Brunei to come to Seria to practice and compete. There were no connecting bridges then and vehicles had to use the beach and a ferry just to get from Belait District over to Tutong.

According to Ahmad Kahar, Brunei did very well, topping the first three Borneo Games in 1954, 1955 (held in North Borneo) and 1956 (held in Sarawak). Ahmad Kahar won gold medals in the first few games. His specialties were in the 880 yards, 1,760 yards and 440 yards 4x4 relay. The Brunei quartet comprising of Ahmad Kahar, RJ Clark, TC Matthews and Scott was well known among the athletes.

He remembered that for the second Borneo Games in North Borneo, the team went to Kota Kinabalu on board the steamer MV Bolkiah. The athletes were put up at the Kapayan Police Barracks. By then Brunei had two local athletes but the rest were still expatriates. His Royal Highness Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien himself dropped in on the team when they were in North Borneo.

In the third Borneo Games, the Brunei team once again went on the steamer MV Bolkiah and stayed at a hotel in Kuching before winning the Games for the third time running. By then there were a few Brunei athletes in the contingent.

By 1957, the Brunei team was no longer managed by the Shell Company. It was now managed by the Brunei Amateur Athletics Association. Unfortunately without the expatriates, the local athletes could not compete against the athletes from Sabah and Sarawak and has never won the games since.

Sinin Metali (real name Sinin Tuba) recalled that the 1957 Borneo Games was not held at SRC but at the Arena, a field near Seria Town. He also recalled that the subsequent Games in Sabah was held at Tanjung Aru and in Sarawak at Tanjung Lintang. The ship taking the Brunei team was MV Rajawali instead of MV Bolkiah. He remembered the grass covered tracks compared to the nicely rubber covered tracks of today. The spikes in their shoes were long compared to today’s short spikes.

Brunei Darussalam was a British protectorate at that time. North Borneo was a British protectorate before the Second World War but was a crown colony of the United Kingdom from 1946 to 1963 and was subsequently renamed Sabah when it joined Malaysia in 1963. Sarawak too after the Second World War was a crown colony until 1963. It too joined Malaysia.

By the 1960s, the annual event of the 1950s became a biennial event but still held over the weekend.

[Brunei Contingent to the 1965 Borneo Games in Kuching]

Many sports were competed by the three Borneo states including Football, Badminton, Hockey and, Basketball. There were several sports meets that involved Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei such as the Borneo Cup, which is for football and another is for hockey, but the Borneo Games was purely on athletics.

The Games, however, finally lost momentum in the mid 1970s due to lack of participation from Brunei often resulting in Sabah and Sarawak battling it out for the champions’ trophy. According to the Daily Express of Sabah, the last Borneo Games overall champions were Sabah when the meet was hosted by Sarawak in 1984 and the Borneo Games went into abeyance after that.

However, according to Haji Abdul Razak Bongsu who was then the Secretary of the Brunei Amateur Athletics Association, the Borneo Games was resurrected as the short lived Merdeka Games. Brunei Darussalam soon after its independence invited all six ASEAN countries to send representatives to the games. The first games comprising of 10 sporting events took place in March 1985. The second and final games took place in March 1990.

Despite the demise of the Borneo Games series, some games continued to be organised by the sports associations of particular games.

The current series of the Borneo Games was revived in 2005 with Sabah being the first host.

The states that took part in the inaugural Borneo Games in 2005 were Brunei, Sabah, Sarawak, Labuan (ceded by Sabah to be a federal state in 1984) and Kedah, host of the Malaysian Games, SUKMA XI the following year. The games were held from 17th to 21st December 2005.

A new logo was agreed made up of four multicoloured interconnecting circles and a torch at the top. The four colours, yellow, red, blue and green represented the colours of the four states.

The 2005 Borneo Games included badminton, men’s football (under 23), women’s football, top spinning, hockey, athletics, rugby, sepak takraw, tennis, tenpin bowling and boxing. Brunei won 7 golds, 11 silvers and 17 bronzes and finished third in the five state games.

In 2007, the Second Borneo Games with the theme of ‘The Spirit of Borneo’ from 27th November to 1st December took place in Sarawak. Sabah, Labuan, Sarawak and Brunei with the addition of the Borneo Provinces of Indonesia - East Kalimantan and West Kalimantan and Terengganu, the 2008 host of SUKMA XII took part. Brunei won 9 golds, 8 silvers and 16 bronzes.

The Third Borneo Games will be hosted by Brunei from 29 November to 6 December 2009.

The Games will consist of 12 sports of which four are compulsory; athletics, hockey, football and sepak takraw. Seven are optional, namely badminton, billiards, fencing, futsal, lawn bowling, pencak silat and tennis. In addition, gasing (top spinning) will also be contested under the ‘traditional sports’ category.

The 2009 Borneo Games will be contested by Brunei, East Kalimantan, Labuan, Melaka (the host of 2010 SUKMA XIII), North Kalimantan, Sabah, Sarawak, South Kalimantan and West Kalimantan.

Now, truly the Borneo Games will be contested by all the Borneo states. It has come a long way since 1954.


PS. I wrote this article about 3 weeks before the Borneo Games started. I thought it will be published much earlier, but Brunei Times decided to hold it and publish it when Borneo Games had started. By then, it was confirmed that 3 events had been dropped and that 2 states did not take part, so my last 3 paragraphs were no longer accurate including the last paragraph. We have to wait for another Borneo Games to get everyone in Borneo to participate.

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