Brunei Administrative Service

[I published this article on Monday calling it to Serve the Government. The Brunei Times editors changed it to the History of the Administrative Service which is what it really is. Actually I started out writing about the modern post 1906 Brunei government but in the end the BAS angle was more interesting. I was a member of the Brunei Administrative Service joining it in 1987. My father was in the administrative cadet corps in 1961.]

Up to about the end of the 19th century, Brunei Darussalam was in almost total decline. Her outlying territories and districts were taken away one by one. The disintegration was almost complete by 1888 when Brunei signed the treaty between Brunei and United Kingdom.

Despite the protection, the Sarawak Government managed to usurp Limbang away in 1890. In 1906, the Sultan undertook to accept a British Officer to be styled Resident, who should be the agent and representative of the British Government under the High Commissioner to the Malay States. With the arrival of the Resident in 1906, a new modern government was at last in place in Brunei.

The years between 1906 and 1941 were years of steady progress. Roads were being built, rice and other food crops were being planted, housing conditions improved and trade flourished. The discovery of a workable oilfield at Padang Berawa (later known as Seria) increased Brunei’s wealth. Brunei had become a prosperous nation.

The British did not just draw on their own for the establishment of the administrative machinery in Brunei. The British had formed the Malay Administrative Service as early as in 1905. A few Malaysian Malays were posted to Brunei and filled the magistrates’ position in Brunei such as Encik Mohiddin bin Awang, Datuk Patinggi Abang Arip, Abang Seruji and Enchi Awang bin Hamdi. Two Bruneians were also appointed Pengiran Anak Hashim bin Pengiran Anak Bahar who was Magistrate in Belait (1907 to 1930s) and the other was Pengiran Anak Haji Mohammad bin Pengiran Anak Haji Bahar who was Magistrate in Tutong (1924 to 1936).

By then the Brunei Administrative Service (BAS) was also set up. It was not known when BAS was first implemented but in the budget of 1938, it was clearly written down that:

• Secretary to Resident, Special Grade Adm. Br. ($3120-120A-3600)
• Superintendent, Trade and Customs, Special Grade Adm. Br. ($3120-120A-3600)
• Superintendent of Education, Grade III Adm. Br. ($840-60A-1200)
• Assistant Collector of Land Revenue, Class II Adm. Br ($1,320-120A-2040)

Other officers appointed in those years included lbrahim bin Mohd Jaafar as Secretary to the Resident; Abang Seruji as Belait District Officer, Marsal Maun as Superintendent of Education; Pengiran Abu Bakar bin Pengiran Omar as the Temburong District Officer and Khatib Abd Razak as the Kadi Besar.

Some of these were originally appointed as clerks and promoted as Administrative Officers. These included Ibrahim Jaafar, Haji Mohd Taib bin Awang Besar who were promoted to administrative officers in 1930 and 1941.

The British Administration stopped for a while when the Japanese occupied Brunei. But even then during the Japanese administration, some of the Malay local officers continued to be in government which included Ibrahim bin Mohd Jaafar who served as the Chief Secretary to the Japanese government.

With the defeat of the Japanese in 1945, the new government was the British Military Administration. In their short period of governing, they also employed local officers. The British Resident returned in 1946.

Many more local officers were appointed. These included Encik Sunny bin Ahmat, Enchik Ghani bin Hassan, Encik Ali Khan bin Abd Khan, Encik Ajmain bin Abd Razak and Encik Ali bin Besar. Unlike today’s BAS officers who must be a rakyat jati, in those days, BAS officers were appointed from those who are seen as capable regardless of birthrights. Education levels too were ignored. Many in those days would be lucky to complete Standard 6 (Primary 6).

But the post war years were interesting times for Bruneians. They were more aware of the nationalist calls. The British Residency administrative machinery were about to undergo a major adjustment.

The new era of today’s development in Brunei began when His Majesty Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Saadul Khairi Waddien was installed and declared as the 28th Sultan on 6th June 1950. He succeeded his elder brother, Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Akhazul Khairi Waddin who passed away on 4th June 1950.

During Sultan Haji Omar Ali’s reign, Brunei developed at such a fast pace. Sultan Haji Omar Ali was deservedly called the Architect of Modern Brunei.

Not only was infrastructure development, Sultan Haji Omar Ali also made great strides in political development. A written Brunei Constitution was passed in September 1959. In addition, the government following meetings and discussions with the British Government about the future of Brunei also led to the signing of the Brunei Treaty 1959 signed at the same time as the signing of the Brunei Constitution.

The 1959 treaty rendered the 1905 and 1906 treaties null and void. This treaty returned the internal administration of Brunei back to the Brunei people. Only defence and foreign affairs were left to the British. The British Resident post was abolished and replaced by the British High Commissioner.

The Constitution also formed several important councils such as the Privy Council, the Council of Ministers and the Legislative Council.

Now the appointment of BAS officers became more urgent. They were needed to administer the changes that were being planned. But with the 1959 constitution, BAS officers also needed to be appointed from those of the rakyat jatis or indigenous Islamic Malay race. Better qualifications also allow those selected have Senior Cambridge qualifications.

An administrative cadet corps was formed where among the earliest was a group of 11 officers to be appointed as administrative cadet officers including Mohd Salleh Haji Hidup, Judin bin Asar, Mohammad bin Haji Serudin, Abdullah bin Jaafar, Chuchu bin Abdullah, Yaakub bin Ahmad, Yunos bin Mohd Hussein, Pengiran Jeludin bin Pengiran Limbang, Puasa bin Tudin, Sidek bin Yahya and Yahya bin Harris.

By 1966, even though more officers were admitted into the cadet officer corps such as Haji Abu Bakar bin Sapar, Haji Md Kassim bin Haji Johan, Othman bin Damt, Pengiran Ali Hassan bin Pengiran DSLJ Hj Abas, Pengiran Omar bin Pengiran Sabtu, Aliakbar bin Abu Bakar and Awang Zainal Abidin bin Penghulu Haji Ibrahim; degree holders such as Awang Haji Abd Aziz bin Haji Umar and Haji Zakaria bin Haji Sulaiman were also brought into the service. Other degree holder officers were also appointed as Administrative Officers including Kassim bin Haji Daud, Awang Ahmad bin Jumaat, Awang Abdul Rahman bin Haji Md Taib, Awang Omar bin Serudin and Awang Abdul Rahman bin Haji Karim.

Practically almost every single one of these officers was awarded a Datoship but some were also awarded a Pehinship for their services to the country.

In the meantime, Brunei and United Kingdom began a series of negotiations towards moving to full independence. The discussions led to the proclamation of Brunei’s proclamation of independence on 1st January 1984.

The independence brought a new ministerial system into place. Several Cabinet Ministers were appointed to head the ministries as well as several Permanent Secretaries to carry out the administrative duties of the various ministries.
The State Council was dissolved while all the other councils were retained with the Council of Ministers being renamed as the Council of Cabinet Ministers.

Today, the Brunei Administrative Service officers continued to play its roles in the government machinery together with the other technical services in ensuring that the nation meets the challenges of the future.

[Note: The author is also an officer in the Brunei Administrative Service following the footsteps of his father, Dato Yunos Mohd Hussein.]

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