Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cabut Babut

Last night I was at the Semi-Final of the National Quran Recital Competition. Yes! There is a Semi-Final for those wondering and asking. 15 Male and 11 Female competed for 8 places in the Final. It was at Pusat Dakwah. From these, 8 were chosen, 4 for each gender.

After the competition, we were sitting together for a late supper with my Minister who is the guest of honour and the deputy minister for religious affairs, both veterans of living in Kampong Ayer. The conversation around the table soon turn to words used in Kampong Ayer and in the past by Bruneians and not used very much by today's Bruneians. The three words for today's lessons are as follows:-

The first word is Babut. Babut is almost similar to Cabut. Cabut means to pull out but Babut is pulling out something but struggling hard to pull whatever it is out. For instance if you want to pull out the Tongkat Ali plant, you do not cabut. You have to turn your back to it, grab the plant and then wiggle it out while pulling strongly. Interestingly enough, in Jawa, babut means carpet.

The second word is Salualai. I am not sure how it's spelled but that's what I heard last night. The word was once used officially in a government instruction which appeared in Pelita Brunei. The usage was something like this ".. jangan salualai menfotokopi.." So salualai means something like another Brunei word selarah-larah or do as you like.

The third word is Tumarjal. Again I am not sure how it's spelled. The word appears in context in a sentence like this '... tumarjal tia sudah akhir-akhir ani ...' which means '... now there is a lot of people at this late stage ...'

I can't find the last two words in the Kamus Bahasa Melayu Nusantara but both of the Ministers remembered that these words being used. Anyway, you might find them useful to show off your new Brunei words in the right occasion.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

ASEAN+3 Youths Environment Forum 2010

More than 140 youths from all the ASEAN countries plus ASEAN's three partners, China, Korea and Japan are here in Brunei attending AYEF 2010. BRUNEI will be hosting the "Asean Plus Three Youth Environment Forum 2010 (Ayef)" later this month to promote and exchange environmental ideas among the region's youths. I had the opportunity to host dinner for them last night at Tarindak Restaurant at Jalan Residency. All the youths are staying at the plush resort Empire Hotel. The forum is sponsored by the Brunei Government together with JAIF - Japan ASEAN Integration Fund.

The Forum began on Thursday and will end on Sunday, has the theme "Creating a Climate for Change" are attended by some 140 participants aged 14 to 23, including 80 from Brunei. The forum aims to inculcate a sense of ownership of the environment among the young population of the Asean Plus Three countries, while placing emphasis that their well being and the environment lie in their hands.

In addition, the forum will enhance youths' knowledge and understanding on current and emerging regional environmental issues and cooperative programmes and promote youth participation and involvement in environmental endeavours. Activities organised to help achieve the forum's objectives include presentations on environmental issues, team-building sessions, country presentations on roles and contributions of youths in environmental protection and management, field trips and dialogue on opportunities and challenges for regional youth cooperation.

Each member country is required to produce a country paper presentation which entails the current status of environmental concerns, including environmental issues and problems and best practices adopted, as well as the initiatives carried by member country youth networks and organisations in addressing the issues.

The paper should also include the importance of the role played by youths in bridging the gap to address challenges of effective environmental management in achieving sustainable development and suggestions on possible ways and means on how the youth can cooperate together to realise their goal of sustainable development.

Invited speakers had been scheduled to set the stage for the participants of the two-day workshop on the different aspects to approach environmental issues on reducing carbon footprint, rethinking waste, sustainable food and water resources and conserving biodiversity.

On the opening day on Thursday, this is what the Minister of Development said:-


Ladies and Gentlemen….

First please allow me on behalf of all those presence here, take this opportunity to convey our deepest condolences to the Chinese delegation, in light of the recent devastating earthquake affecting Yushu County in western China. We are saddened by this inconsequential calamity and also moved by every miraculous and relentless search and rescue efforts undertaken by the Government and people of the People’s Republic of China. To the families and victims of this terrible disaster and to the rescue workers, our hearts and prayers go out to them all.

Such devastation and damages shed into light the vulnerability of our region to climate change risks and impacts. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in America last Thursday reported that last month was the warmest March on record worldwide, based on records dating back to 1880. The average temperature for the month was 56.3 degrees Fahrenheit (13.5 degrees Celsius). That was 1.39 degrees Fahrenheit (0.77 C) above the average for the month over the 20th Century. Although these numerical figures may appear and sound insignificant and inconsequential, the resultant severe drought it caused have brought uncompromising and unforgiving impacts on the global water supply and land productivity. This incident evidently further supports the many studies conclusion that “climate change is real and happening”.

The Asian Development Bank Study on the economics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia (2009) revealed that Southeast-Asia is highly vulnerable to climate change. From 1951-2000 the region temperature increased by 0.1-0.3 Celsius whilst the rainfall demonstrate a declining trend for the period 1960-2000. If no action is taken to mitigate climate change impacts, the study projected that the region will suffer economic loss that amounts to 6.7% of its GDP each year by 2100.

According to the World Resource Institute Climate Change Indicator Tools 2009, Brunei Darussalam actual cumulative carbon emission of 165 mega ton for 1850-2005, constitutes 0.0167% of global total carbon emission. Brunei Darussalam though not a source of significant emission of greenhouse gases, is committed to undertake actions to address climate change. Early this year, His Majesty The Sultan Dan Yang Di Pertuan of Negara Brunei Darussalam has consented the establishment of Brunei Darussalam National Council on Climate Change tasked with the responsibility to develop and implement policy and strategies on climate change mitigation and adaptation. We are embarking on a project to establish national baseline data and information on carbon emission level for Brunei Darussalam which will provide the basis to develop a National Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA).

Considering that our youth and young populace constitute the most active section of our society and the section that is most receptive to new ideas for positive change, we recognize the paramount importance of our youths and our young Citizens participation, contribution and stewardship role in conserving and protecting the environment sustainability. They are not only the leaders of tomorrow who will shape the future of societies and cultures, but already today can play a key role to spearhead and champion diverse initiatives for social change. We value the youth role and contribution to address climate change challenges. To this end and for this reason, we reaffirm our commitment to play host to the ASEAN+3 Youth Forum 2010 for the second time.

It is my pleasure to welcome all the ASEAN+3 youth here today in Brunei Darussalam and I congratulate each and every one of you on your achievements to date. I look forward to hearing more about the progress of your own journeys, including your experience in your own respective countries and also your feedback after attending the ASEAN+3 Youth Environment Forum linked events, which I have quite a strong interest and commitment.

This forum is held in conjunction with Earth Day 2010, celebrated by worldwide citizens on 22 April this year. In line with the aim of Earth Day to enhance the participatory and ownership role that we, individually and collectively play with respect to the environmental protection and conservation, we must put our act together to initiate steps that we can take individually and collectively to create a positive change. And this is what the semantic of this Forum theme – ‘CREATING A CLIMATE FOR CHANGE’ is all about. This theme reflects that this Youth Forum is not only about enhancing awareness on climate change, but it leads to a far reaching efforts to meet the challenges posed by climate change and reshape how our youth think about, use and manage their carbon footprint. It will provide the tools and means to enable the youth to become part of the solutions to combat climate change.

Each of the youth here today is about to embark in his or her own great adventure and destiny in the field of Environment. Simply to get here, each of these youth has had to demonstrate their determination and commitment. I congratulate you all for being here and hope you will enjoy the journey just as much as you have been anticipating the destination.

The urgency of addressing current environmental issues is extremely high, and as I stressed earlier, the role of youth is profoundly increasing especially today, under the conditions of the world crisis and global competition. The youth is a strategic and precious resource and asset of any nation. Introduction of innovative approaches and information technologies, use of foreign experience in economy, production, and management is a prerogative of young professionals. The youth also represents continuity of history and culture, life of older and reproduction of the next generations depend on it.

I cannot stress this more that in this period of the youth lives is a time when many important decisions must be made. Many will have advice for you on what you should focus on. Some of that advice if not all, will be good and some although well meaning may simply add to the pressure of this already quite pressured time in your life. My only wish is that you approach this forum in the best of spirit and exploration, as well as unleash you curiosity such that you are able to embrace the topic of environment close to your heart.

I also hope that at this forum, the youth will take the opportunity to meet, interact and work together with your peers from across ASEAN+3. Around you today, and when you go to the forum are individuals who share common interests and have all chosen to tread the same path and I hope that amid the busy program you will find the time to get to know each other and nurture the friendship.

I am also confident that the decisions and initiatives worked out in the course of this forum will be used for intensifying the dialogue and partnership between ASEAN+3 in the field of environment. I am convinced that your knowledge, talents and energy will allow you to take a resolute step to play your part in realizing ASEAN aspiration of attaining environmental sustainability.

Distinguished Guest, Ladies and gentlemen,

The ASEAN+3 Youth Environment Forum is a wonderful initiative and has been a great success in the past. I believe that its success is good news for the future of our environment, and I thank and congratulate the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation of Brunei Darussalam, the Government of Japan through Japan ASEAN Integration Fund and the ASEAN Secretariat for their commitment and relentless efforts in making this forum possible and for providing the youth of ASEAN+3 with the opportunity to meet and interact.

To the youths attending the AYEF 2010, I congratulate you on being selected for this Forum - it's a great achievement. I wish you interesting explorations and I hope that the adventures awaiting you at the Forum will, indeed, lead you to choose to be a part of the future of implementing positive change in the world. I urged all of you to ask where will you be in 15 – 20 years time and what do you hope to achieve especially in the field of environment.

On that note, with the Kalimah Bismillahir Rahamanir Rahim, I officially declare the ASEAN+3 Youth Environment Forum 2010 open.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Windows 7 and TelBru's Zoom Modem

Regular readers would know that I lost the use of my desktop machine in December. My HP computer broke down for the second time. This time after a major thunderstorm. The motherboard fried up despite the presence of a power surge and HP agents here in Brunei asked me to cough up about $500 for a new motherboard. I did pay $30 for the diagnosis but not the $500 a suggestion which I thought I could shove up to you know where. To be fair HP did replace the first motherboard as it was under warranty but not the second. Though it is funny that HP keep having fried motherboards.

And for the last four or five months, I have been doing my work on this tiny little VAIO, a very nice light computer but try doing your article and other long pieces of work, your eyes slowly will become like that animal on Madagascar with huge eyes - trying to get every single light into your eyes. That VAIO with the Windows Vista was certainly a testing computer, crashing every day and sometimes more than a few times a day. Whoever invented VAIO and Windows Vista ought to be h***** and quartered to say the least.

I do have an official 17 inch MacBook in the office but other than answering the emails and some drafts, I hardly had time for it and I certainly don't want to abuse it by bringing it home.

Anyway, last Monday, I finally got myself a replacement. I got my $2,500 ready which is what the HP cost me three years ago and found myself with not just one computer but I managed to get TWO!

This is one of them at about $1,500.00!

This is the other at about $1,050.00!

The former has a 23 inch LCD touch screen. Everything built into the LCD, so I save on space. No CPU box to worry about. The latter not as big but with a touch screen and rotatable screen. I am now editing my THIRD book which I have no problem with the 23 inch screen.

The only problem I have is that TelBru eSpeed zoom modem refused to work with the Windows 7 on the new laptop. The modem goes flat. I asked my TelBru's brother in law to check it out and he told me today that I need a new modem and TelBru is selling one to me for $100! TelBru's modem is apparently out of date. The amount is very little but the I was like thinking should I be the paying for this? What do you think?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Animals in Brunei Place Names

[I wrote this for my column, THE GOLDEN LEGACY on Brunei Times yesterday. There were a couple of errors. My Dusun friend made a mistake by telling me that Kout Mondow stood for Tiger's Well when it should be a more scarier Lion's Well.]

Brunei Place Names and the Animal World

In a previous column, trees or the plant world dominated a number of Brunei place names. This column will look at a number of place names in Brunei which based their place name origins from the animal world – both on land and at sea, small or big and even those from the insect world.

Judging by names alone, a number of place names in Brunei can be said to originate from the animal kingdom. One of the more famous place names is Bukit Beruang which means Hill of Bears. Currently Bukit Beruang area houses the largest national housing program in the Tutong District.

One legend said that the origin of the place name was because there were bears which used to be in the area. A stream in Tutong is also called Sungai Beruang (Bears’ Stream) which presumably could be referring to the same bears.

Another famous hill in Tutong is called Bukit Ambug which many Bruneians spelled and pronounced as Bukit Ambuk. Ambuk means monkeys in Brunei Malays and which is not surprising. There are a number of monkeys in Brunei ranging from all sorts of colours and shapes. However Bukit Ambug is not Hill of Monkeys. Ambug is the Tutong word for ‘mata kucing’, a fruit which belongs to the longan fruit family although much smaller in shape. The hill was full of the mata kucing trees and hence Bukit Ambug.

For the real monkeys, one has to go to Pulau Ambuk (Monkey Island). Another place which has monkeys would be the lovely Pantai Meragang or Meragang Beach. What is not much known is that Meragang in Dusun language means red monkey.

There are a few other famous place names which are thought to be of animal origin but are not. One is Pancur Murai (Murai is a type of magpie robin bird). But according to legends, the name Pancur Murai came about from the story of a Princess known as Puteri Bongsu Kembang Kiapu who had a guard named Samurai. The Princess was staying in a luagan - a small swampy lake - and she wanted to take a bath from a ‘pancur’.

A ‘pancur’ is like a natural shower - water sprouting or squirting out from a natural source. So she asked Samurai to make it. So Samurai scouted around and found the place and built it as requested by the Princess. When it was completed, the Princess took her bath there. That place became so famous that it was named as Pancur Samurai which later became Pancur Murai.

However one place name which does not sound as if it is based on an animal or a bird is Batang Tuau in Temburong. According to Awang Sigar, Tuau is the Murut name for Merak which is a type of peafowl. He said that in the old days, many peafowls were found in the area. One huge tree was favoured by the peafowls where they used to perch from the branches (batang) and thus the place was actually called that.

Another famous bird would be Burong Pingai. It is said that Kampung Burong Pingai was originally named Kampung Ulu-Ulu. It became Kampung Burong Pingai when according to history, one villager (said to be a Pebalat - one who catches fish using a basket made from bamboo or makes fish traps made from bamboo) from Kampung Saba who made a living at Kampung Ulu-Ulu found a white bird making the sound ‘pingai, pingai, pingai.’ The man knew that the Queen of Sultan Muhammad had lost her bird named Si Pingai. He caught the bird and presented it to the Sultan. Ever since then the kampung became known as Kampung Burong Pingai. Sultan Muhammad's Queen was said to be a Johor Princess and this event was taking place around 1368.

Another place in Kampong Ayer which used to be named after an animal was Sungai Kuyuk (River of Dogs). Kuyuk means dogs in Brunei language. It is not known how the name originated. Some pople theorised that there were dogs near the area scavenging at nearby the rubbish dumping sites. However that name is no longer found on any map in Brunei. It is now known as Sungai Pandan. Probably there was an objection to the name and it was changed.

The dogs’ worst enemy, the cats, have a place to themselves in Brunei. One hill famous for trekkers located along Jalan Subok is called Bukit Markuching (kucing means cats in Malay). What happened is that the early settlers there whenever they wanted to go to the Berakas or Bandar area, the easiest route for them is actually to go over the Bukit Markuching. Since the trek up and down the hill will take quite a while, the villagers would go up and bring along food with them. So during the rests, they would normally tuck in to the foods which they have brought with them. Leftovers which are normally thrown away attracted a number of wild cats that lived in the hill. Hence the word ‘kuching’ became Bukit Markuching.

One hill in Tutong is well known but not many knew its animal origin unless he or she is a Dusun speaker. Lamunin is derived from two words — Lat and Munin. Lat means hill and Munin means “musang” in Brunei Malay or “fox” in English. Lat Munin, the original name, thus means Fox Hill as there used to be foxes around the area. Over time, the two names merged and became Lamunin, thus concealing the animal connection of its origin.

Another place name not as well known and tucked away in the interior of Tutong is known as ‘Kaut Mondow’. If one does not speak Dusun, one does not realise that this place is called ‘Perigi Singa’ or the ‘Lion’s Well’. Another dangerous sounding place name in Temburong is ‘Ayur Buayeh’ which in Murut means ‘Crocodile River’.

For the animals in water, the fishes, their names tended to be used for the islands surrounding Brunei Bay. Among them are Pulau Bedukang, Pulau Kitang and Pulau Ayam-Ayam. Pulau Labi is not on Brunei Bay but is on the Meriumbun Lake. Though a number of land place names have fishes or the animal world connection, it is not known how their names were derived. These included Kampong Kupang and Kampong Belais.

Despite their numerous presence in Brunei, the insect world has not featured much in Brunei’s place names. One will become well known once its dam has been completed. Way deep in Ulu Tutong, the place must be abuzz with mosquitoes. The name accompanying it is equally telling, Nyamok Nying. Nyamok means mosquitoes in Brunei Malay and Nying refers to its buzzing sound.

There are others such as Meraburong (burong means bird in Malay), Burong Lepas (escaping birds), Kerakas Payau (payau means deer in Malay), Bang Kesapi (sapi means cow in Malay), Belais (a type of fish), Sungai Katam (crab river) and Sungai Biawak (biawak is monitor lizard) that one can only imagine how these names came about. Perhaps that is a subject for another topic in the future.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Houses Galore!

Last Thursday, I was accompanying my Minister for the doa selamat ceremony for the start of 490 detached houses at the Kampong Lumut/Sungai Liang National Housing Program. Syarikat Kejuruteraan Sistematik Sdn Bhd was awarded the contract worth around $60 million to complete the infrastructure and housing project. The expected completion will be around 22nd January 2012.

There are two more areas where another 824 units and 180 units are expected to be built. I was told today that the company to build 824 units had been approved by the Tender Board and the other 180 units are expected to be tendered out in June this year.

Altogether close to 1,500 houses will be built in this area. Another 300 houses for the Skim Tanah Kurnia Rakyat Jati will also be built in Lorong Tengah in Seria itself.

Combined this 1,800 houses with the 2,000 built by BEDB in Pandan, there will be around 3,800 houses in the Belait District. The approved waiting list is only around 2,900, so there will be an excess of houses that will be completed in the Belait District by 2012.

I was asked by one journalist whether the contractor (SKS) can complete the 490 houses in the 24 months. SKS will switch over to using metal formwork which will make the houses completed within a short time period. Metal formwork has the advantage of being able to be used time and time again (almost limitless) as opposed to wood formwork (about 5 times).

The houses to be completed are the basic type which in terms of floor size is equal to about 120 square meters. This is equivalent roughly to the old Class C. The government will be selling this at about $75,000 each. There are two models, shown both here.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Origin of Kampong Dato Gandi

The other day someone asked in the comment box how the name of Kampong Dato Gandi came about?

This is what I got. Kampong Dato Gandi is named after a person called Dato Gandi who died many years ago. Apparently Dato Gandi was a Muslim preacher and he came to the village and the surrounding areas to preach. He died in the village and his grave, still tended to these days, is still there. Some said that the grave is visible and near the Queen's Jetty but I cannot verify that just yet.

The village is a normal Brunei village but it has one important feature. It has the Queens Jetty and Queen Elizabeth II in 1970 landed here. At that time, she was using the ship Queen Elizabeth II (if I am not mistaken) and that ship could not go into Brunei Wharf as it was not deep enough. Why not Muara Port you asked? Muara Port was just being completed and so she could not berth there. (Correction: Faiq Rani pointed out it should be the Brittania which is correct and Haji Awang pointed out that the ship did not berth at the Jetty but waited near Muara. The Queen was taken by a smaller launch. I should have remembered the name, Brittania. In 2002 I saw it for a whole week when I was staying in Edinburgh during my convocation. I was staying at the Marriott at the nearby historic Port of Leith where the Brittania is now berthed permanently.]

Anyway, during her stay, she actually officially opened the Muara Port.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Yachts in Brunei Bay

I came across this photograph in a book which was published around mid 1980s. This was a scene of yachts in Brunei Bay. I don't remember this event and I am hoping that there are people who remembered when this was taken and what the occasion was?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Roads and Traffic

I was in Mungkom yesterday. Where? I hear many people asking. Mungkom is somewhere in Ulu Tutong. You drive all the way to Lamunin and turn towards Kiudang and then a small side road which takes you to Mungkom. That road ended somewhere near a wasai, again another hidden treasure of Brunei. Anyway, I was there to give away a house built by us and paid for by the Majlis Ugama Islam for the fakir miskin. The family of 13 (or 17, I am not sure) were living in a dilapidated house before this. At least now they have a house to stay. This is part of the 60 odd houses that we are building for the poor. The first phase was easy. The second phase looked much harder as we are looking at about 600 applicants now.

What I wanted to focus on was the time. Despite being in really deep inside Tutong, it took us about 45 minutes to get there. Technically speaking 45 minutes is not far. I remembered in Rio when we wanted to go visit another part of Rio in Barra (pronunced Baha), our guide said it will take one hour, and that part was still in Rio. Mungkom is for us in another district and another vicinity altogether. Despite the small road etc and lots of speed bumps, we made it in 45 minutes.

Now ask me how long it takes me to get to my office in Old Airport from my house in Kilanas which is roughly 20 kilometers away starting at 7 in the morning?

The answer is not 45 minutes. It can take as much as an hour and a half on a bad day. On a good day probably 45 minutes but that would be quite rare. By the time I leave the house to get to the Bengkurong Junction, there would be so many cars from Bengkurong. The part of Jalan Tutong in front of Tasek Meradun and Bunut area would be flasing red if I had been playing Simcity. The traffic was that bad. I was asking my junior colleagues yesterday if I used the Gadong Road, would I be in a better position instead of using Jalan Tutong? They were telling me how slow it is in Jalan Gadong on account of the four or five schools along the way.

I have always advocated for more roads, and the people living in Lumapas etc advocated for more bridges especially the one crossing Kampong Ayer. Our road engineers have always argued that more roads are not necessarily good. We can keep continuing to build more roads to accomodate the more cars that we have but that would be like pouring water into a bathtub with the plug taken out. We can never keep up. The other solution was to advocate public transportation.

I always find it interesting that most Bruneians when abroad have no problem taking buses or subways. I have met many Bruneians on London buses. We never think twice about them. Yet these same people including me, would never be seen on a public bus here in Brunei. I am not even sure which number goes where. Many complained that the public bus service here does not work. But I remembered one clerk when I was in MOF who took buses and she has been recommending to anyone who wanted to listen to her that the bus service works. But since not many people wanted to use it, the bus operators maintained small buses only refusing to upgrade to bigger buses. It's a catch-22 situation.

In London, we do not have cars, that's why we use buses. So take our cars away, make it prohibitive to run a car, then we probably would use buses. But is that a solution? This is a social dilemma. Judgements regarding the decision to commute by car versus public transportation in terms of a conflict between immediate self-interest and long-term collective interest (i.e. social dilemma). Everyone can always take side when it comes to cars versus public transportation. You would be entitled to your own views.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

35th Anniversary RBA's First Flight

[Tomorrow is RBA's 35th Anniversary of its first official flight. I wrote this article and it was published yesterday in my column, The Golden Legacy, in Brunei Times]

Royal Brunei Airlines in Brunei Aviation History

In two days time, Brunei’s own national airlines, the Royal Brunei Airlines will be celebrating its 35th Anniversary of its first historic flight. Royal Brunei Airlines was officially established on 18 November 1974. However its first maiden flight was on 14 April 1975 flying from the new Brunei International Airport in Berakas to Singapore.

On that same day, there were also flights to Hong Kong, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. The following year, RBA expanded its flight to Manila, Philippines and the year after to Bangkok, Thailand. RBA had only two Boeing 737s then. With a third Boeing 737 bought in 1980, RBA flew to Kuala Lumpur in 1981 and in 1983, to Darwin, Australia.

The 1975 RBA’s first official flight marked a chapter in the history of Brunei’s flight. It was about 50 years earlier, that according to the Brunei Annual Report of 1922, the first airplane to fly over Brunei was a seaplane spotted over Tutong in 1922. Nobody knew whose plane that was.

Despite the current modern international airport in Berakas, not many people knew that sixty years ago, there was no airfield whatsoever at all in Brunei. The first runaway was constructed by the Japanese in the Second World War at the current Old Airport Government Buildings Complex. After the end of the war, that runaway was repaired and improved by the Allied Forces and a proper airport was planned and built.

The first commercial air transport in Brunei Darussalam only began in 1953 with the establishment of internal air service links connecting Pekan Brunei with Anduki in the Belait District. In those days, driving to Kuala Belait from Pekan Brunei was a whole day affair as cars had to travel via the coast and travelling had to take into account the tides and the conditions of the beaches and the waves.

The first initial overseas flights were to the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah which were to accommodate travellers from Labuan in Sabah and Lutong in Sarawak. Most Bruneians who had to travel overseas for their studies had to fly via Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) to catch a connecting flight to Singapore.

At first it was the Malayan Airways using De Havilland Rapides aircraft that operated between Brunei Town, Anduki, Miri and Labuan with over 4,300 passengers using the Brunei Airport in 1955. The Brunei Airport was only able to serve small twin-engined turbo props airplanes like the De Haviland, the Douglas DC3s and later the Fokker Friendships.

The Anduki Airport in Seria played a very significant role in the aviation history of Brunei. Completed sometime in 1951, it served the Shell company operating in Seria.

In the 1970s there was a very significant growth in popularity of air travel. The old Brunei Airport was swamped with activity, operating beyond its capacity. This prompted the authorities to build a modern airport and the new Brunei International Airport began construction in 1970, was completed in 1974. Many international airlines used the airport but it was RBA that made the airport its own home.

After the independence of Brunei on 1 January 1984, RBA commenced services to Jakarta, Indonesia, on 3 January. In the mid 1980s, three Boeing 757s were purchased. RBA expanded to Taipei in 1986, and to Dubai in 1988. In 1990 RBA began its flight to Europe. Its first European city was Frankfurt am Main, Germany, via Bangkok and Dubai and to London Gatwick Airport later changed to London Heathrow Airport in 1991. Also in 1991 RBA opened Perth and to Jeddah.

RBA’s first wide bodied aircraft were the Boeing 767. In delivering the first Boeing 767 to RBA, a world record was broken. That first RBA Boeing 767 flew 18 hours non-stop from Seattle to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya on its way to Brunei. Eight Boeing 767s were bought and RBA expanded to Abu Dhabi, Bali, Zurich, Bahrain, Beijing and Cairo in 1993; Brisbane and Osaka in 1994 and to Kolkata, India in 1995.

Two Fokker 50 aircraft were used to start services to Miri and Labuan and Balikpapan in 1994. Two Dornier 228s were purchased in the same year and leased to the Malaysian regional carrier, Hornbill Airways, to connect Brunei by air to Mulu Airport. One of the Dornier crashed near Miri Airport in 1997 killing all its 19 passengers.

The F-50s were replaced by the larger and more comfortable F-100 jets in 1996 which added flights to Bintulu. Surabaya was the fourth Indonesian destination to be added to the network later that year. Kuwait was added in 2000 and Shanghai in 2001.

However after years of operation, RBA began a major restructuring in 2003. The plan included increasing RBA’s fleet from 9 aircrafts to 24 in 2013. The Boeing 767s were to be replaced with 15 new narrow body and 8 wide bodied aircraft with half to be purchased and the rest leased. New services were to be added, unprofitable routes dropped and unneeded aeroplanes sold off.

In 2003, the deliveries of two new Airbus A319 and two new A320 marked the start of the re-equipping exercise and fly mainly on regional routes.

In May 2003, Royal Skies, the airlines’ frequent flyer programme, was launched. On 31 October 2003, Auckland was added to the network and Ho Chi Minh in 2006.

Blue Sky Fares, a low cost Internet booking facility, introduced in 2003, offered cheaper economy class fares to selected destinations, to compete with low cost carriers in the region.

In 2004, several of the Boeing 767s were modified with SkyDreamer seats for Business Class and 8.4 inch television for Economy Class.

Like many airlines around the world, RBA also introduced its own frequent flyer program called Royal Skies in 2003. Members earn actual miles on every eligible RBA flight. These miles can be redeemed for free flights or seat upgrades.

In order to provide better services to business class and premium passengers, in 2004, RBA introduced its own special lounge at the Brunei International Airport known as Sky Lounge with 140 seats.

Other innovation offered by RBA included E-Ticketing (launched in 2003), in-flight meals designed by Chef Michel Roux Jr. of the La Gavroche restaurant in London, the on-board entertainment system Skyshow and the award winning in-flight magazine Muhibah.

For the future, RBA needed new long range aircraft such as the Boeing 777s or Boeing 787s. With these aircraft, RBA can provide new long-haul and non-stop services to Europe and beyond.

The history of Brunei aviation has seen many changes and Royal Brunei Airlines played an important role in that history.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Echoes from the Minaret

Sometime in October 1968, if you have been a regular reader of Borneo Bullein, you would have come aross this page 19. An interesting page as it listed all the movies playing in the cinemas in Brunei Town then:-

Interesting movies. There are even auctions and lucky draw numbers etc. But look closely to the movie on the top right hand of the page... It's an advertisement for the first and one and only movie ever produced by our own local production.

The movie is called Gema Dari Menara and the making of it is sponsored by the Religious Affairs Department (now the Ministry of Religious Affairs). From the various sms text notes I received yesterday regarding this movie and from whatever I could get from the Internet, this is what I was able to piece out, and one caveat, I am unable to substantiate the correctness of all the information and so subject to corrections:-

The movie was filmed on location at the house of YAM Pengiran Indera Mahkota, now the Speaker of the Legislative Council. Outside scenes include filming at Jembatan Rangas, Jerudong and Batu Satu. The actor was Pengiran Abbas. The actress was a Malaysian by the name of Zeera Agus (apparently on that Borneo Bulletin page, her name appeared in one of the other movies shown at Capitol). Another actor was Pengiran Rosman. A local band by the name of Dendang Teruna appeared in the movie. Dendang Teruna was a regular on Radio Brunei but apparently never recorded an album. (updated 13 April 2010 - YAM Pengiran Indera Mahkota also directed the movie. The movie was funded by the Government by several hundred thousand dollars. The actress was a local by the name of Aisah Haji Md Noor.)

Dendang Teruna in one of the scenes.

The script was written by Haji Md Zain (now Pehin Minister of Religious Affairs). The storyline was that of a young man who did all the bad things like partying, drinking etc and he repented after a car crash.

The acting capability of some of the actors and actresses was not that professional yet. Some of the actors were clearly reading their lines from where the script was written down - on their hands and on their palms. There were Bruneians who refused to attend the movie. There were Bruneians who enjoyed the 'sinful' scenes.

The movie was shown at Boon Pang Cinema and after it ended there, the movie was shown from time to time at one of Information Department's nightly showings in their visits to villages. Not many people remember what happened to this movie. (updated 13 April 2010 - the movie was said to be controversial as too many people either enjoyed or disliked the 'sinful' sins especially scenes which only had the actor and actress; and because of that it was withdrawn. Despite the fact that the acting was not as good, tickets were said to be sold out and some of the collection was donated to the Orphans Fund.)

Note 1: Despite a few sms text notes which mentioned one of Brunei's businessman - let me clarify that to the contrary, Mr. Bawai did not appear in this movie. He was in another movie where he was seen walking down the stairs of a plane wearing a white coat. That was his one and only scene in that movie by the way. Though the media coverage was unusually widespread making everyone think that he was a major player in the movie.

Note 2: One Philippine blogger by the name of Mervin Espina has been very active and has taken an interest in the movie. All the internet notes are taken from his site. Another one is Radiofussion International which has written much about Brunei records in the 1960s.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Malacca's Serkam Pantai Mosque

[I read this on a forum I subscribed to called the Sunna-Principles and thought this was worthwhile sharing.]

When Melaka fell into the hand of the Portuguese in 1511, it became the first city in South East Asia to have a cross, erected on top of the Melaka Hill. Christianization of the city took place afterwards, with European forts and churches being built as old Malay graveyards, palaces and forts were ransacked and destroyed. The destruction was extensive and systematic. For example, none of the graves of the Sultans of such a great Sultanate survived. Missionaries such as St Xavier and Father Pidanto came to Melaka. The extent of the Christianization of Melaka during Portuguese time could be gleaned from what the latter wrote: "Melaka is a Christian city, with each street and hill lined with churches."

The presence of Christianity in Melaka remains strong today, although it is limited to ethnic Chinese and Indian and a small Serani (Portuguese- descendants) community. We do not know exactly how the Malay Muslims who had remained within the limit of the city of Melaka lived under the Portuguese through out the turbulent times. If what Father Pidanto wrote was true, and given the role of St Xavier in the instigation of the Inquisition in Goa, we should expect that at least some of the Malays converted to Christianity but remained Muslims in private life and then reconverted to Islam openly when the opportunity arises.

The authority of the Portuguese was limited to the city. The surrounding villages were loosely controlled through harassment, and punitive raids and forced to pay taxes, but otherwise they freely retained their Islamic creed. A few areas such as Serkam, Pulau Besar and Paya Rumput in Merlimau, as evidenced from the numbers of scholars who hailed from these places, even became known centres of Islamic studies.

Today, if one drives along the Melaka-Muar old road through the district of Merlimau, one can find a handful of buildings with names like Madrasah Abdul Latif and Madrasah Abdul Ghani, indicating the place past history as Islamic learning centers. More numerous however, is the number of gorgeous looking, Melaka-style traditional mosques, some painted beautifully in striking colours. None of the mosque dated from the Portuguese time, being mostly about 100-200 years of age, but they retain the multi-tiered Meru-roof which is supposedly taking the precedence from the now-gone Big Mosque of the Melaka Sultanate. Almost all mosques along the drive was built in stone and come with a tall minaret. The minaret is believed to be a later additional feature of Malay traditional mosque, introduced in the 19th century. In Merlimau for example, history recorded that many of the mosques were built by Chinese stonemasons, including one Chinese Muslim Master.

A mosque of note in the area is the Serkam Pantai Mosque. The Serkam village is actually divided into two – Serkam Pantai (on the seaward side) and Serkam Darat (on the landward side). Just before the time of building, many religious teachers were residing in Serkam Pantai, managing a few madaris. Hence, when the village decided to build a new mosque, they chose a site in Serkam Pantai, which was donated by a local headman. The grave of the man, Dato Lahad, now lies inside the small cemetery attached to the mosque.

The mosque was built using woods from nearby forest dragged by buffaloes. The walls, the roof’s crown and the ‘sulur bayur’ were made using coral stone, a mtechnique/material which maybe peculiar to this area. Coral stone was also used to build the 70 metres tall muazzin tower. When it was completed, the tower immediately attracted huge number of visitors. It once collapsed under their weight and had to be rebuild again.

What sets Serkam Pantai Mosque special in comparison to other mosques in the area is the existence of two sets of sun clocks in its compound. Although it is not very clear on who first made these clocks, evidences are pointing to a local figure known as Haji Omar bin Osman, who once organised the takwim for Melaka in 1980s, and was a student of Haji Abdul Latif Thambi al-Malakawi, a falak master. Haji Omar also received instructions on how to create takwim and sun clock from Syeikh Tahir Jalaluddin, another falak master from Perak, as could be read in several letters in the Collection of Syeikh Tahir’s Letter.

The existence of these sun clocks, numerous mosques and religious schools in Merlimau points to a yet another hidden local history of Melaka. We are always offered a very Westernised history of Melaka – one that from 1511 onwards, portrays a Melaka that is devoid and cut off from the surrounding Malay-Muslim culture. There is a greater (or over) emphasis on the Portuguese, Dutch and Chinese elements and history in Melaka than the Malay-Muslims’, especially now that Melaka has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Of the city proper’s many attractions, only a few are of the Malay-Muslim heritage (e.g. Masjid Kg. Hulu). Less information is given about Malay-Muslims historic sites around and out of the city, and lesser still of the city’s Muslim inhabitants contribution to its development, education and culture.

The sun clocks remind us that the activity, concern, integrity and level of knowledge of the scholars from Melaka remains high, dynamic and did not cease with the fall of the sultanate.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fantastic Services

I have been going back to RIPAS Hospital lately. I was supposed to undergo this minor operation ... let me digress ... I am always worried when doctors say minor and it involves cutting me up, since when is that minor ... anyway, I am supposed to go for this minor procedure and the doctor said I cannot have it done until I sort out my coughs.

In February, I had this really crazy non stop coughs. You know the kind that make you feel as if you want to rip your throat out. Anyway couple with my asthma, that cough was really bad. The worse was during the key presentation ceremony at Lumut. I could suppress my coughs during the key presentation ceremony while handing the keys over to the Minister and then to His Majesty. Unfortunately during the luncheon, I had a coughing fit and it was really difficult to suppress and I was just two seats away from His Majesty. That was the worse.

Anyway, I was referred to this specialist clinic called DORM. No, it's not short for dormitory but actually stood for Division of Respiratory Medicine. I have no idea why it is not called a clinic just like the other phy clinics. Is there a doctor in the house?

I was referred to this clinic and I was given a young local lady doctor Dr Izah. I was at first apprehensive but was later impressed with her professionalism. I have been going to JPMC a lot, maybe I should start visiting RIPAS more. She ordered a battery of tests including going for an ECHO test.

So I went to the Cardiology Department (by the way, why is this not called a Cardiology Clinic?) to have my ECHO done. ECHO is actually echocardiogram and it examines the heart using some sort of ultrasound. I went there and was asked to take my shirt off and lie on this bed. Then came three lady medical technicicans, one of whom knows me very well as I used to be a patient there before going off to JPMC.

There I was, with my top half gone, with three ladies. Anyway, she told me to move a bit, so I did, and then she sat down next to me. I thought that was interesting. Arent't these people suppose to have their own chairs or something? Then one of the other two young ladies also decided to sit down next to her on the bed. I would have seen the funny side of it but then I was a bit nervous what the echo test will show. She then held out this echo thingy with gel and started to place that on my chest and I can see my heart beating on the screen. Wow!

The end result was that I was told there is nothing wrong with my heart, it is pumping well. Thank the Al-Mighty for that. But. This is the part that scares me. The blood vessels are enlarged, this is due to my hypertension. So I have to watch out for that.

When I was leaving, one of the other technicians called out to me saying that I needed to have an ECG done as well. So I came back in, took off my shirt again and have all the electrodes fitted and a piece of paper came out. I was shaking my head. I have these two tests done and I did not pay a single cent for it. Amazing. If my doctor at JPMC orders a battery of tests, I start to look through my wallet and see which credit card is best suited to pay for it. But here at RIPAS, nothing.

What's my point? We have wonderful local doctors and free fantastic medical services. Appreciate them...

Friday, April 09, 2010

Once Upon A Time

You learn new things all the time. Yesterday, I was at UBD listening to my minister deliver a paper entitled MIB in Development. He delivered a paper almost similar last year MIB in Environment. It was a difficult topic but as usual my minister with his many anecdotes along the way was able to deliver it in his easy manner.

I knew most of the the things he wanted to say. Though during the Q&A, interestingly enough, one lady student brought up the issue of the possibility that water level usage is high in Brunei is due to the amount we use for 'berkaut' or for 'mandi wajib' and other religious factors.

Certainly our water usage is around 450 litres a day. Most other countries use around the 300+ mark. To me personally, there are ways we can bring the usage down by just doing little things like turning off the tap when washing your teeth etc.

However I learnt or rather relearnt three new words last Tuesday. Two during the talk and one when I was chairing the Mini Tender Board at my ministry in the afternoon.

The first word is 'Kandila'. This is talking about the future.

The opposite of 'kandila' is 'Penderatu'. This is talking about the past.

The other word is 'menyahlodah' which means desludging.

Yesterday, during our last Strategic Planning session, we were preparing the final chapter which is foresighting the future. In doing so, we have to do foresighting (which goes well with kandila) and backsighting (which goes well with penderatu).

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Converse, the Nike brand

A few years ago, I was attending a seminar in Jakarta, something on the legal aspects of accountancy or something similar. Anyway, I was there with one of our young lawyers. In the evening, while going out for dinner with him, we stopped at a shoe shop and he was eyeing this shoes made out of canvas and rubber. At that time, I was ignorant to know that what he was buying was probably one of the better known products known to young people but not to old fogeys like me.

The shoes looked like this. To most people my age and older, this kind of shoes, you buy at any kadai Cina for about $5 a pair or maybe $10 if it looks lasting enough. People who played sepak takraw (what do you mean you don't know sepak takraw), loved to use this shoes because it protects their ankles. Some calls it stupor Labuan.

I remember the shorter version because every weekend I was forced to brush and wash the canvas and apply a white chalk to make the shoes looked white. In short, everyone wears this not because it is a fashion statment but because it was the cheapest shoes ever made. We don't wear fancy shoes to school in our days.

However that young lawyer bought a pair for about $100 a pair. I was shocked when I heard the price. I guess the brand name must have added at least 3/4 of the price. Fast forward to this year. My son is now 10 years old. He wanted the same shoes. He now knows fashion and I guess peer pressure. So when I was in Bangkok I bought him an all black pair size 3 or equivalent to size 35 for around 800 Baht ($35 our money). A couple of weeks later, I bought another pair for him in UK and this time, it cost around GBP36.99 which is around $80 our money. You see, that same canvas rubber shoes are now sold under the brand name of Converse and at different prices throughout the world. And Converse apparently make shoes for the American basketball players.

Last Sunday, what got me was this. My family and I went to watch a movie at QLap Mall and on the way back we saw this shop selling Converse shoes. And you know how much they are selling it for? You will be surprised. Our Brunei stores sell a pair for $49.99! That sounds cheap compared to the price in Bangkok and London. The shop must have got the shoes meant for the Japanese market as the price tag on the boxes are marked 2850 Yen which converts to $42 our money. (But to get it even cheaper I just need to go to one Bandar shop which I know still sells unbranded pair, for probably, I don't know, $10 a pair?)

What's my point?

Marketing! Market your products right, you can price them right.

Incidentally do you know that Converse shoes are owned by Nike?

Monday, April 05, 2010

Trees the Origin of Brunei's Place Names

[I wrote the following article for publication in my Golden Legacy column on The Brunei Times, 5th April 2010. I did not write any article during my trip to England and Brazil over the last two weeks before this.]


In Brunei, any toponym hobbyists would have plenty to do. Toponymists are people who study place names. According to Wikipedia, toponymy is the scientific study of place names (toponyms), their origins, meanings, use and typology. The word ‘toponymy’ is derived from the Greek words tópos (τόπος) (which means ‘place’) and ónoma (ὄνομα) (which means ‘name’). Toponymy is itself a branch of onomastics, the study of names of all kinds.

In Brunei, the origins of the place name are often shrouded in the mists of times. Even the name of the country has many origins. The one famous legend passed down the generations through Syair Awang Semaun (Awang Semaun Epic Poem) about how the exclamation ‘Baru Nah’ upon discovering the Brunei River to be used as a new settlement for their families which later became ‘Brunei’ is not the only tale about the origin of Brunei.

Like it or not, place names provide the most useful geographical reference system that can be used anywhere in the world. A toponymist should not only rely on maps and local histories, but should also interview local residents to determine names with established local usage. This is where the historians of the Brunei History Centre have done their best in publishing their findings in Pusaka, a publication of the Brunei History Centre about the origins of place names in Brunei.

The historians have applied the exact application of a toponym, its specific language, its pronunciation, and its origins and meaning. Many of us readers have found that those toponyms provide valuable insight into the historical geography of a Brunei village or ward.

For instance, for many villages in the Kampong Ayer, the names of those villages were named after events, important persons or occupations of the villagers. But for those villages not in the Kampong Ayer, other factors become more important in the origin of their names.

From the many origins of place names on the dry land of Brunei, surprisingly, trees play especially important roles when it comes to being chosen as place names in Brunei Darussalam. Some are not so obvious whereas some would be as obvious as the sun during noon.

Among the tree names are Mentiri, Tanjung Nangka, Pulaie, Tanah Jambu, Kapok and Madang. Nangka and Jambu are fruit trees whereas the others are named after obscure and unusual trees.

These trees are often big or huge or some gigantic proportions such as a huge tall tree. That tall tree can be seen for miles and is often a single lone tree that also became a geographic marker for the residents to use in identifying and locating the places that they were staying in. Remember too, in those days, there was no central street with proper house numbers or simpang numbers as used in Brunei currently.

If the tree was not tall or with massive proportions such as girth size, then that particular tree would have to be full of juicy fruits that it would be as equally well known to those in the area. This is how Tanjung Nangka (nangka is the Malay word for the fruit called jackfruit) and Tanah Jambu (jambu is the Malay word for the fruit called guava).

Tanjung Nangka is most unusual in Brunei village names. As usual, the villages in Brunei either have a few names for it in the past or the village itself has many place names and one got chosen to be the name of the village. According to sources, Kampong Tanjung Nangka has three previous names, none of which survived. Most importantly all three names were tree related.

The first of the three old names of Kampong Tanjung Nangka is Kampong Temiang. Temiang is the Brunei word for one of the bamboo species of which a lot of that bamboo grew in the village previously.

Another name was Kampong Kayu Tinggi which is derived from an extraordinary tall tree around the area (kayu tinggi means high wood). The bark of the tree is said to be coloured red, green and black and of course, no one knows the identity of the tree.

The last name is Kampong Binjai Kumit. Binjai is the name of a local fruit, the same family as the mango. In this case, the Binjai tree belonged to a man named Kumit. Again the tree was said to be extraordinary - its fruits nicer, its size bigger and the tree taller than the usual binjai trees.

The final name Kampung Tanjung Nangka was derived from a Nangka (jackfruit) tree found in the area. Again the tree was said to be much bigger than the usual Nangka Tree (it was said that the girth was twice a man’s hug), the fruits much bigger and described to be as big as the Chinese salted eggs vase and can weigh as much as 50 katis (30 kg).

The tree became so famous that many people around the outlying area came to see it. It was said that a few people got attracted to it and decided to stay there in the hope that the area might be lucky for them.

For a Brunei place name, the tree could also be magical. It is said that the name of Kampong Mentiri is derived from an old tall tree. According to the older folks in the village, the trunk’s girth was so massive 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.

One or two of the place names in Brunei would be ‘tree related’. This includes the Menunggol, a village in the Kota Batu Ward (Mukim). Menunggol, it is said come from the word stumps of trees called ‘tunggul’ in Brunei. Kampong Menunggol was named after tree stumps though no one would really know where.

Nong Mayan is another tree related place name in Brunei. According to some of the villagers, Kampong Nong Mayan is named after a tree called ‘kayu kemayan’ whereas ‘Nong’ is a Dusun word which means ‘hujung bukit’ or the peak of the hill. So the place name Nong Mayan refered to a Kemayan Tree which was located at the peak of the hill.

Kampong Kulapis is another tree related village name. Kampong Kulapis was originally a small village but it was later merged with another village Kampong Damuan which was a village named after the Damuan River. Kulapis was the new name of the merged village and ‘kulapis’ was named after a type of wood called ‘kulapis’.

Toponyms, the study of place names especially in Brunei can be an interesting hobby after all.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Brunei Darussalam: Industrial Stimulus

The Oxford Business Group on 2nd April 2010 reported the following:


Brunei Darussalam: Industrial Stimulus

2 April 2010

One of Brunei Darussalam's largest industrial projects to date is set to commence operations in April, with officials hoping the investment of $450m in the showcase methanol production facility will act as a springboard to new industries.

In late February, the Brunei Methanol Company (BMC) issued a statement saying its production centre at the Sungai Liang Industrial Park (SPARK), a 271-ha hub that focuses on the petrochemicals sector being developed by the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB), was scheduled to go on-line within two months, ramping up towards its full capacity of 850,000 tonnes of methanol annually.

BMC, a joint venture between Brunei National Petroleum Company, Japan's Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company and the Itochu Corporation, was established in late-2005 to capitalise on the Sultanate's significant stocks of natural gas.

While all of the plant's output is at present intended for export, with Japan being one of the main markets, BMC's product is also seen as crucial to Brunei Darussalam's wider plans for industrialisation.

Methanol, a chemical compound manufactured from methane, which is the main component of natural gas, has numerous industrial applications, including in the production of plastics; various chemicals such as formaldehyde and solvents; paints; as well as being used in the processing of wood to make plywood. All of these have been identified as products of industries that could be promoted in the Sultanate.

The company itself acknowledges the pathfinding role it has in Brunei Darussalam's industrial evolution. "After achieving full commercial operation in less than two months' time, BMC will be the flagship for further economic diversification and industrialisation of Brunei Darussalam and the beacon for attracting further foreign direct investment (FDI) to the country," the company said in a statement issued on February 21.

Another cornerstone of Brunei Darussalam's industrialisation policy is Pulau Muara Besar (PMB), an integrated development comprising a container port and manufacturing centre. Located in Brunei Bay, and close to the country's principal port, the BEDB is aiming to attract large-scale local and overseas investments to PMB, with the plans including the construction of an aluminium smelter and an industrial zone to house processing facilities for halal foods destined for the export market.

More than 800 ha of land have been set aside at the PMB site for the export processing zone. The area will be dedicated to manufacturing as part of a campaign to build industrial capacity and increase the flow of FDI into the country. In particular, the government and its agencies are trying to channel potential capital inflow away from the traditional area of the hydrocarbons sector and towards other industrial projects.

Though it would take time, by providing investment opportunities to the petrochemical industry at SPARK and to the manufacturing sector at PMB, Dato Paduka Timothy Ong, the BEDB's acting chairman, said he is confident Brunei Darussalam will be more successful in attracting investments outside of the upstream oil industry in the coming years.

While assuming that interest in the country's industrial potential would increase in the future, Dato Ong told local media in an interview in late November that Brunei Darussalam had to ensure that it was in a position to absorb FDI. If the required infrastructure was not in place or there were delays, investors could look elsewhere, he said.

"If there are investors wanting to come in but we are slow in terms of coming up with the suitable sites and power connections, that would be an example of a present interest but lack of capacity," said Dato Ong.

In order to help turn the wheels of industry and avoid one of the problems referred to by Dato Ong, Brunei Darussalam announced in mid-February it will begin buying electricity from Sarawak by 2012, with one of the proposed routes for the 40-km line running directly from Miri in northern Sarawak to SPARK.

By sourcing electricity from Sarawak, Brunei Darussalam will also free up some of its own natural gas for sale overseas or for its own industrial projects. With Sarawak's hydroelectric power coming at a much cheaper cost than the price Brunei Darussalam can earn selling its gas overseas, both the manufacturing and hydrocarbon sectors look set to profit from the deal.

Though Brunei Darussalam has stiff competition in the region in the race to attract overseas investments, with many of its neighbours having long since developed a solid manufacturing base, the Sultanate does enjoy some distinct advantages, mainly a plentiful supply of gas to provide feedstock for petrochemical industries and the infrastructure to support such projects. Now it has to translate these advantages into FDI.


Friday, April 02, 2010

Riding the Tide

When I got back to the office on Tuesday morning, jet lag and all, there were a number of things in my in-tray. One of them I saw was a letter from the Director of Information Department with the above book attached to it. I kept the book aside and didn't look at it until much later.

When I finally opened the book by the end of the day, I saw the full title of the book which is "Riding the Tide: Commemorates 100 years (1906-2006) of Brunei of Brunei Darussalam's Capital City Development on the Land 1906-20006". I thought it was just a collection of photographs by Information Department photographs through the years. However it was much more than that.

It was a history book too. We had old photographs like this. This one shows His Royal Highness Sultan Omar Ali with the Duchess of Kent when she visited Brunei in 1952. Look at the half completed shopouses in Brunei Town then.

And old photographs of life in Kampong Ayer.

There are also many modern photographs like this. But what the book had which is most unusual is that it contained on the last chapter profiles of business people in Brunei. People who matter in the commercial world. The profiles were quite extensive. All the races who have contributed to Brunei were included.

Among them was Mr. Ramesh of YMRM.

The Hoon family...

And the couples who made Nusa Laila Puteri, a household name, for private schooling in Brunei.

I am not sure how to get book publicly. You might want to contact Information Department for further details. It is a worthwhile read.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Meracana Stadium, Brazil

One of the sights of Rio that nobody wants to miss is the home shrine of the famous Brazil National Football team which is the Meracana Stadium. The stadium has a much longer name. It is actually called the Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho but shortened to Estádio do Maracanã ("Maracanã Stadium").

The stadium is owned by the Rio de Janeiro State Government and it is named after the Maracanã neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro. It was opened in 1950 to host the FIFA World Cup.

Since then, it has mainly been used for football matches between the major football clubs in Rio de Janeiro, including Botafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense and Vasco da Gama. Although the paid attendance at the final game of the 1950 FIFA World Cup was 199,854, the stadium currently seats only 82,238 spectators. Despite that it is the largest stadium in South America.

It is due to host the World Cup Final in the 2014 World Cup, becoming the second stadium to host football's most important match twice after the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

The Stadium also housed a museum and a gallery of sorts. The first thing when you arrived at the stadium is this:

Feet and hands casted from the famous Brazil football players.

From Pele...


... to Kaka.

You can also visit the field of the stadium.

And take photo of yourself standing on the coveted ground of the Meracana Stadium just like our Commissioner of Town and Country Planning.

You can also go up to the stadium. The stadium does not look as large in real life. I guess in the 1950s, people were standing up and that's why almost 200,000 were in here. Now with an all seating capacity, it is only about 80,000 which is still larger than our own stadium.

The souvenir shop sell many things all relatled to Brazil and the other four football teams using the Meracana Stadium. Though the original Brazil football jersey (R$195) and short (R$95) do set you a fair bit if you want one. But the most interesting was that in Brazil, almost everyone wears the famous green and yellow including the ice cream vendor:

Inspirational Quotes