[Note: This short piece is extracted from my much longer article to be published in my column, The Golden Legacy in The Brunei Times this coming Monday about the history of the Brunei Legislative Council]
The magnificent blue domed building overlooking down a hill situated at Jalan Kebangsaan in Berakas is certainly a sight to behold in Brunei Darussalam. The huge Legislative Council Building edifice represents the future of Brunei Darussalam. In it, members of the Legislative Council representing both the people and communities of Brunei and the Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah debate issues of the utmost national importance.
Many have come to view the building as a symbol of Brunei Darussalam’s progress. Many look forward to the Legislative Council meetings currently being held there where the honourable members representing the people asking questions not just related to their lives, their well being but of national interest. One remembers the announcement made by the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II last year regarding the Limbang issue. Others remember the promises made by the Ministers to carry out policies and to enact laws. In fact, many policy decisions and concerns of the public are aired for debates at the council meetings.
Despite the modern trappings, the construction of the building has an interesting beginning. A beginning which perhaps is not modern but certainly an old practise, long forgotten, used for the present conditions.
Determining the site of the new Legislative Council building took quite a while. This is to ensure that the building which should be a symbol of the nation is sited at the right location. When the site was finally chosen, the building was going to be located in a thick secondary forest which has remained relatively undisturbed for quite some time. On the site was also a small lake. Taken together, the hill, the forest and the lake could mean that the place was already ‘inhabited’ but not that of the human form.
On Saturday, the 5th of March 2005, began a ceremony called ‘menetaki’ which literally means ‘to chop’ trees etc so that construction work can begin. However before the parang (machete) can be used, an agreement had to be made with the ‘original inhabitants’ so that work can begin in peace and the inhabitants moving to another place.
After negotiating with the ‘original inhabitants’, an agreement was sealed by pasting a $1 stamp onto a tree stump in the area. The tree stump with the $1 stamp was exhibited to the public during the opening ceremony of the building.
Not many remembered that little anecdote but it is clearly told in a book published by the Legislative Council to commemorate the new building. The book entitled “Susur Galur Majlis-Majlis Mesyuarat” contained not just the history but also other information related to the Council.