Monday, May 31, 2010

Early History of Royal Brunei Malay Regiment

[Today is the annual anniversary of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces. Nobody knew why it is always on 31st May every year. That is the date of the announcement of the formation of the Royal Brunei Malay Regiment, even though it was technically formed much later when everyone had undergone training. I wrote this article for today's Brunei Times.]

During the Second World War, when Brunei was already an important oil producer in the entire British Commonwealth, there was no local army to defend Brunei. The British left only a handful of people – not to defend the oil fields but to sabotage the oil fields in a tactic known as oil denial tactic. That trick did not work and the invading Japanese army managed to get some of the wells operational soon after the invasion. This no doubt helped to contribute to the thinking that there was a need to have a full time army to help protect the country.

The first notice came out on the 21st April 1961 edition of the Borneo Bulletin. It asked for candidates between the ages of 18 to 35, minimum height of 60 inches and a weight of 105 pounds. The pay was $160 per month increasing to $184 after training. He must be born in Brunei to one of the Brunei indigenous races. The notice was repeated on Borneo Bulletin 28th April 1961.

Slightly more than 100 prospective soldiers applied to fill in 60 available jobs. Major Muhammad of the Federation of Malaya Armed Forces arrived in Brunei to select those men. He was joined two days later by a medical officer.

At the same time, he also informed the country that while selections were being made for the soldiers, three of Brunei’s finest were already undergoing officer training at Port Dickson. The three cadet officers were Sulaiman bin Awang Damit, Awangku Ibnu bin Pengiran Apong and Mohammad bin Haji Mohd Daud. These three eventually became the following high ranking officials: Yang DiMuliakan Pehin Datu Indera Setia Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Sulaiman bin Haji Damit; Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Sanggamara Diraja Major General (Rtd) Pengiran Haji Ibnu Ba'asith bin Pengiran Datu Penghulu Pengiran Haji Apong; and Yang DiMuliakan Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Dewa Major General (Rtd) Dato Seri Pahlawan Awang Haji Mohammad bin Haji Daud.

After spending around 10 days to interview and select the first 60 men, it was announced that on 31 May, the first batch of recruits for the new Regiment were ready to depart for Port Dickson using a special air lift. At 9.30 in the morning, all the 60 recruits gathered at the Lapau to be sworn in by a Magistrate. Then they were taken to the airport.

The Brunei Malay Regiment was formed on that day by the order of His Royal Highness Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien. The date of 31 May had been used to celebrate the Royal Armed Forces Day till today.

The Brunei Airport at Berakas saw at least a thousand people packed into the small airport just to see off the first 25 recruits leaving via a Bristol freighter aircraft of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. That plane arrived at Kuala Lumpur at 4.30 pm.

The second aircraft, this time a Royal Air Force Hastings was supposed to leave with the other 35 recruits. Unfortunately that plane did not leave Singapore until the next day. So all the recruits were given a night’s stay at the Brunei Hotel.
All the recruits who arrived in Kuala Lumpur were immediately taken to Port Dickson and were formed into Platoon 5 and Platoon 6.

By July 1961, the first Commanding Officer for the Brunei Malay Regiment was seconded from Malaya. He was Lieutenant Colonel Tengku Ahmad bin Tengku Besar Barhanuddin. He had served the Army for 15 years and had been mentioned twice for gallantry in action against Communist Terrorists.

Meanwhile more recruitment took place in Brunei. In August, further notices appeared in the Borneo Bulletin. This time it was intended to recruit officers. In September, another notice took place (lowering the minimum qualification from Standard 5 to Standard 3) and this led to another 70 recruits. They left via the Bolkiah where they transferred to a bigger vessel which took them to Port Dickson. It was reported that at least 2000 family members and friends were at the Customs Wharf to bid farewell.

During his Royal Highness’ 45th Birthday Celebrations on 23 Septemember 1961, His Royal Highness Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien stated that “… the establishment of Askar Melayu does not mean we are ready to face a war crisis, but what made us establish Askar Melayu is only just one adequacy for a country wishing for a move towards development, like what have been done by every and most of the developed countries ...”

On 4 November, the first recruits passed out and were inspected by Brigadier Tengku Osman bin Tengku Mohammed Jewa. The best recruit award was won by Abu Bakar bin Tahir and the best shot award was Mohammad Shah bin Mohammad. When these first recruits came back for their first leave in Brunei, a few thousand people waited at the airport shouting ‘Askar!’ ‘Askar!’ (Soldiers!, Soldiers!) They held a parade at the Town padang and marched past in front of His Royal Highness Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien. Drills were also held in Kuala Belait and Tutong. After their leaves, the soldiers were posted to various active units in Malaya.

The largest batch of recruits numbering 200 was in Port Dickson by December 15. By the end of 1961, more than 326 men had been recruited by the Brunei Malay Regiment with 317 men continuing and 9 dropping out. By 5 May 1962, a further 263 soldiers had passed out. After completing their leaves, the soldiers returned to Siginting Camp at Port Dickson.

Officer cadets too had been continuing their training and by August 1962, five cadets were able to return to Brunei for their leaves. On 8 December 1962, the first three cadet officers were commissioned at the Federation of Malaya Military College at Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur. It was on the same day that a rebellion broke out in Brunei. However the regiment was not recalled back to Brunei.

At the end of 1963, the Regiment strength was 410. By early 1964, the Regiment contemplated to do its own training and moving from Siginting Camp to Berakas Camp. By March, tenders to provide uncooked rations were place in newspapers.

On 27 April 1964, sixteen men arrived, some of them accompanied by Malaysian brides. But the majority of the Brunei Malay Regiment arrived via Straits Steamship Company vessel Auby and docked in Brunei on Wednesday 6 May 1964. The regiment marched out of the ship to the Secretariat Building. More than 5,000 people were estimated to be in Brunei Town welcoming the Regiment’s arrival in Brunei. They were given a month’s leave and will be settling into the new Berakas camp when it was ready.

The next year, on 31 May 1965, His Royal Highness Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalm bestowed the Regiment with the honour of the title ‘Royal’.

The Royal Brunei Malay Regiment continued to grow in strength and on independence on 1 January 1984, the Royal Brunei Malay Regiment became the Royal Brunei Armed Forces.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Brunei's new Cabinet Ministers

The Cabinet as announced on 29th May 2010:

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam

His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince

His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah

YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong

YB Pehin Orang Kaya Johan Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Adanan

YB Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Suyoi

YB Pehin Orang Kaya Hamzah Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdullah

YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya

YB Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman

YB Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Awang Lim Jock Seng

YB Pehin Dato Singa Menteri Colonel (R) Dato Seri Paduka Awang Haji Mohd Yasmin

YB Pengiran Dato Seri Setia Dr. Haji Mohamad

YB Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin

YB Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Paduka Awang Haji Hazair

The State Mufti and the Attorney General are also Members of the Cabinet.



Dato Paduka Awang Haji Abdul Wahab bin Juned

Dato Paduka Awang Haji Mustaffa bin Haji Sirat

Tuan Haji Bahrin bin Abdullah

Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yusof bin Haji Ismail

Dato Paduka Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong

Pengiran Haji Bahrom bin Pengiran Haji Bahar

Pehin Dato Laila Major General (R) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Halbi

Datin Hajah Adina binti Osman


All appointments began today, Saturday, 15 Jamadil Akhir 1431 / 29 May 2010 for a period of 5 years.


Some are asking who are the relatively unknown deputy ministers. Here are the answers:

Dato Mustafa Sirat was the Permanent Secretary at Defence and before that he was the Permanent Secretary at PM's Office. He has a long career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before that.

Haji Bahrin Abdullah was the Permanent Secretary at MOF and before that he was Deputy PS at MOF and before that he was a very senior officer at the Brunei Investment Agency.

Dato Yusof Ismail was a member of the Public Service Commission but before that he was the Permanent Secretary at the MInistry of Religious Affairs.

Dato Haji Ali Apong was the Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, before that he was PS at MOF and Managing Director of the Brunei Investment Agency.

Pengiran Haji Bahrom was formerly the Deputy Permanent Secretary at the same Ministry, he was a also a former Deputy PS at Ministry of Culture and was the Secretary of the Brunei Religious Council.

Pehin Halbi was formerly the Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and was an Ambassador.

Datin Hajah Adina was formerly the Director of Community Development Department under the same Ministry. She was responsible for a lot of matters including welfare, women affairs etc.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Capitol Cinema, Kuala Belait?

Today I need the help of people who lived in Kuala Belait in the 1950s and I really do need your help as this postcard if it is not showing The Capitol cinema of the 1950s in Kuala Belait means that this postcard is worth nothing to me.

According to most people I talked to, the cinema in Kuala Belait was called the Capital. But when I checked Shaw's Website, this is what it says

"In Sabah and Sarawak, the Shaws ran the Capitol (previously Renee's Hall) and Grand cinemas in Miri; Kings, Liberty, Capitol and Tai Koon theatre in Sandakan, New Gaiety in Papar, Beaufort Hall in Beaufort and Labuan Hall in Labuan. In Brunei, the Shaws operated the Capitol in Kuala Belait."

So can I please ask all the blog readers whose parents were originally from Kuala Belait to ask them, is this the photograph of the Capitol in Kuala Belait all those years ago?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Muara Wharf 1920

This is another of the 'Brooketon' postcard. This one shows the old wharf at Muara Beach. Most people have forgotten that before the current port at Muara, the road in front of the shops are actually goes to the water edge. But because of the Muara Port, the road stops near the walled portion of the Muara Port.

In those days, Muara exported coals. So the coals will be brought down to the wharf using a train! The coals will be uploaded to the ships waiting at the wharf.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Muara 1920

This is the other postcards I mentioned the other day. This is a postcard of Muara in the 1920s. Muara as you know was known as Brooketon until the 1920s. Up to the 1920s, the British treated Muara as if it is a different administration. Rajah Brooke managed to buy the concession to mine the coal at Muara in the late 19th century. Rajah Brooke even though was only a concession holder administered Muara as part of his Sarawak administration. So Muara had its own police, its own post office etc and Brooke even renamed it Brooketon.

When the British came to Brunei in 1906, Rajah Brooke was still treated with reverence even by the British. It was only in 1920s that when the lease ran out that the government decided to take back Muara from Rajah Brooke

When this photograph was taken for this postcard, the name Brooketon obviously still in use. I was lucky too because not many people linked Brooketon to Muara and even though there were still bids, I was able to get it a relatively low US$34.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Diangdangan Bujang Sigandam

[I wrote this about two weeks ago and submitted it to be published last Monday on Brunei Times. Something happened, they did not receive the story and my article was not published last week. I resubmitted and got it published yesterday. Many people my age would recollect the radio drama we had in those days when we had no television sets whatsoever.]

There are times when events while being organised and in the chaos and madness of the moment, someone would come along and say, ‘Macam Bujang Sigandam’ (just like Bujang Sigandam). He or she is not giving a compliment. All he or she is saying is that with better planning and management, the event could have been better organised. In Brunei, ‘macam Bujang Sigandam’ came to be referred to as can do, no planning, all ad hoc, and always last minute.

That begs a few questions. Who is or was Bujang Sigandam? Did he actually do things that way? Does he deserve to be derided?

The name ‘Bujang Sigandam’ came into the Brunei's public attention during the mid 1960s. In 1966, one of Brunei Radio producers, Wahab Mohammad, introduced a new program called ‘Diangdangan Bujang Sigandam’ and later the next year, a radio drama serial based on the tales of Bujang Sigandam.

What is Diangdangan?

Diangdangan (epic narrative) is actually another form of story-telling or oral tradition of Brunei. Brunei Darussalam possessed a rich corpus of oral texts inherited through generations of descendants of the seven indigenous Brunei ethnic groups. Other oral texts that belong to the Brunei Malays include hikayat (epic tales of Hindu and Islamic origins), tuturan (folktales and fairytales), cerita asal usul (myth, legend), pantun (rhymed quatrains), perambahan (proverbs), mukun (sung rhymes), teka-teki (riddles), jampi (magic mantra), sihir (black magic) and rajang (almanac). The Kedayans possess labai (epic tales) and hikayat; the Tutongs, hikayat (epics tales of mystical beings), pantun (rhymed quatrains), pribasa (proverbs), parumpamaan (simile), cerita usul ni (legends), while the Dusuns and Bisayas have siram ditaan (epic tales of deities), balakuh (oratory), banding (traditional songs), batiap (traditional songs), sandait (riddle), ndudui anak (lullaby), ndudui sindir, pantun (rhymed quatrains), paumpamaan (proverbs, simile, idioms), limu (magic mantra), serita asal usul (myth, legend), tuturan or teturan (folktales and fairytales), batuai (mourning dirge), and lagu kukui (a song for praising the human skull).

According to Pudarno Bichin in his paper ‘The Survival and Revitalisation of Indigenous Oral Traditions of Brunei Darussalam’ that most of the indigenous oral traditions are characteristically Bornean that reflect the simple organizational lives of egalitarian societies that are shaped by rice cultivation activities.
Many of those oral traditions that survived are that of Brunei Islamic oral traditions. However indigenous oral traditions and non-Islamic ones not being practiced, are going to eventually disappear. So much so that their numbers have dwindled and these oral performances are not performed anymore.

Diangdangan as an art was said to have been stolen from the ‘orang Bunian’ or the fairy folks of Brunei of Pulau Sari which is an island near Labuan. One ‘orang Bunian’ was repeatedly asked by his tribe to sing the diangdangan. He refused as he said if he is overheard, their tribe will lose the capability to sing the diangdangan forever. However after much persuasion, he sang the diangdangan and it so happened that he was overheard by a mortal hiding behind a rock. This mortal listened for many nights and was eventually able to reproduce the diangdangan.

Diangdangan tales tell many stories. Abdul Rahim Sudin who sang the first diangdangan on Radio Brunei from 1966 to 1967 tells stories with titles of Bujang Sigandam, Sikandung Larai, Siampar Lari, Puteri Magindera Sakti, Sultan Muda, Sultan Indera Sakti, Putri Nilawati and many others. A latter pendiadangan, Awang Kadir Kassim tells stories entitled Tuan Pemagat, Sultan Muda Pukul Gelombang, Sultan Muda Bunga Teluput and Sheikh Abd Rahman.

Most of these stories focused on the relationship between humans and the gods, the magical powers of the kings and the gods, the bravery of knights and the beauty of the princesses and other ladies. It may not be too farfetched to assume that these tales were indeed stolen from the fairies as the names used in the stories tended to be quite dramatic. However the Hindu influences are fairly strong too. The names include Sultan Songsi Alam, Sultan Sigantar Alam, Sultan Muda Pukul Gelombang, Si Kanak Berjambul Merah, Puteri Sinaran Bulan, Puteri Rantai Amas, Tuan Pemagat and Awang Silinong. The names of places were equally magical such as Digubah, Kambang Kayapu, Bandar Tandun, Bandar Melatang and others.

Diangdangan too is very elaborate in describing things. For instance in describing the beauty of a princess, the pendiadangan would describe her as:

“elok bukan sadikit lagi
gawal bukan sadikit lagi
tubuh putih umbut disintak
kirai lantik manungkat gading
mua bujur maekong sirih
rambut labat mangating batis.”

What is the story of Bujang Sigandam?

Bujang Sigandam tells the story of a king of a country called Negeri Bandar Malatang. The king was Bujang Sigandam. His pregnant queen, Puteri Rantai Amas, who was several months pregnant, was craving for several items which can only be found in the heavens. Bujang Sigandam went out in search of these items and along the way he met a king, Raja Hitam who wanted to conquer his country. He defeated and killed Raja Hitam by doing a number of magical things such as changing himself into a young kid. However he revived the king and forgave him.

He then flew to the seventh level of heavens and met several princesses who kept those items his queen craved. He was told that he would have to marry the princesses and protect them against their betrothed, Raja Songsi Alam. Again, Bujang Sigandam and Raja Songsi Alam squared up for a magical battle and Bujang Sigandam beat Raja Songsi Alam. Again Raja Songsi Alam was spared death.

Bujang Sigandam then flew back to earth and discovered that several years had gone by. His queen had given birth and had now married Sultan Muda Balah Muka. His prince is called Si Kandung Larai. Bujang Sigandam wanted so much to meet his queen and he asked his grandmother to bring his ring named Ranta Biranta together with three of his specially woven flowers to the queen. And there the tale ended.

Reading the tale, there would have been a better argument if the name ‘Bujang Sigandam’ refers to someone who is hard working rather than one makes do. Awang bin Ahmad in his book ‘Diangdangan Bujang Sigandam’ published in 2000 argued that the morals of the story ‘Bujang Sigandam’ is the true love of a husband to a wife; a brave mortal who is able to beat the gods in heavens; a man who is kind, considerate, compassionate and loyal. But with the disappearance of public performances of Bujang Sigandam, the sense of the name ‘Bujang Sigandam’ which entered into the Brunei Malay vocabulary has indeed changed.

Nazri Yusof, one blogger who wrote about Bujang Sigandam wrote that “the spirit of Bujang Sigandam reflects the ‘can do’ spirit Bruneians have. A characteristic we all must be proud off that nothing is impossible and anything can be done … Bujang Sigandam requires amongst others high self belief, leadership, innovations, creativity, perseverance, competency, patience, passion, resilience and trust on top of that great teamwork.”

That indeed is the true spirit of Bujang Sigandam.

Monday, May 24, 2010


(S)witch (O)ff Unnecessary Lights

(S)witch (O)ff Water Heater
When Not in Use

(S)et Your Air Conditioner Temperature
to 24 degrees Celsius or at least
1 degree Celsius Higher than Usual

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Yesterday, I was sitting in the National Housing Committee. We were going through the appeals of quite a number of applicants who had earlier been rejected because they had a piece of land under their names. The rules of the housing program is that no one who is given a house under the program should have no land of their own. Of course, that does not stop many people who technically had no land but will have their land handed down to them after they got a house under the housing program. I am not going to go through all that. That deserved an entire blog to itself. Those discovered owning land can appeal especially if their piece of land cannot be developed like being in the middle of the jungle with no facilities etc.

What I wanted to do is to bring a light relief. Yesterday, when we went through this inches thick documents, I saw this interesting occupation written by the applicant.

Cipkalak? What kind of job is Cipkalak? It took quite a while to dawn on us that he meant Chief Clerk.

The other occupation was Sawahta Aport. Again it took quite a while to dawn that he meant Sawasta Airport or Private Company at Airport. It's not a job but a description of who he was.

But Cipkalak has to take the cake!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Natives on Buffalo

The other day I talked about 4 of Brunei postcards from the 1920 era. I won another two on ebay but getting these two were the hardest. I got a rival who wanted these two postcards as much as I wanted to and he pushed me all the way to about US$800+ for one and US$400+ for the other. I will save showing these two postcards until last.

What I wanted to show was this postcard which I purchased earlier for about US$18.45. When I bought this, I am not sure whether this is a scene in Sabah or Brunei. I assumed it is in Brunei but I could be wrong. If this was indeed Brunei, we will never see this scene anymore.

This postcard is similar to other one that I showed about the Sungai Kedayan. The postcard is a monochrome with splashes of colour added to it in subsequent printing. The accuracy is amazing but at the same time if you see carefully, you can see where the discrepancies where the new colours did not overlay the old monochrome picture right on the spot.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Probocis versus Human

One of the difficulties working at the Ministry of Development is that we are constantly faced with issues of trying to meet the expectations of everyone. Interestingly enough we looked after infrastructure and physical development but at the same time we are also responsible for the environmental issues.

Lately, a growing concern voiced on the internet over a project at Damuan River. A number of photographs have been placed and I have enough tags to make me more than aware of what the problem was. Apparently an area which has been used as a sanctuary for Proboscis monkeys is no longer available for the monkeys because of development works.

First of all, the development work was to deepen and widen the Damuan River because if this was not done, there will be floods to the houses further up the river especially around the Mulaut areas. Secondly, the consultants did take into account the proboscis monkeys. There are two sites for the proboscis monkeys, one is where the site has been cleared and the other is across the river on a much bigger area and more secure as it is an island. So the proboscis monkeys in the affected area can swim to the other side.


Email from project manager:

IEC Sdn Bhd was instructed by Dept of Drainage to undertake channel widening works at Madewa with due regard to the sensitive environs of Makam Luba and the proboscis monkey habitat.

To alleviate flooding in residential areas upstream in Ban Mulaut a channel of 50 metres bed width is required. The existing channel varies 20-30 m width.

In order to reduce loss of riverside vegetation and habitat, we are diverting the outlet channel to the west of Pulau Luba (around the Bengkurong end of the island), thereby negating the need to clear along the length of Pulau Luba and Pulau Ranggu. Hopefully this channel will also restrict access of feral dogs and create more of a sanctuary for the monkeys on the islands(although they regularly swim channels).
The channel diversion does require clearance on the Kg Bengkurong side where monkeys have been sighted, however we consider the untouched habitat on the islands is of sufficient size for temporary displacement. Riverine vegetation will be replanted once works are completed.

I have attached the environmental mitigation measures adopted for the project for your information and hope this addresses your concerns.




Sg. Damuan channel at Kg. Bunut Perpindahan is being widened to enable the conveyance of floodwaters into Sg. Brunei thereby reducing flood damage problems in Ban Mulaut, Kilanas and Bengkurong.

The location is a high quality environment: it is scenically attractive and of archaelogical significance (Makam Luba is a historic burial site for Brunei Royal lineage). It is also a foraging site for Proboscis monkeys which graze at the riverbank of Pulau Luba and are an attraction for visitors and tourists.

“Proboscis monkey groups range in size from 3 to 30 individuals, usually based on one male and a number of females. They occupy a home range of less than 1 sq. mile (2 sq. km), and sleep alone in trees reasonably close to other troop members. Mating is undertaken anytime of year, with a single young born after a gestation of 166 days” (

Environmental measures are incorporated into the Design and Works Plan to reduce the removal of mangrove and avoid long term disturbance to the proboscis monkey habitat. Measures include:-


• Diversion of the new flood channel to a silted up reach of river at the upstream end of Pulau Luba, thereby avoiding any disturbance to the riverbanks around Mukim Luba where the proboscis is regularly seen.

• Restricted clearance of vegetation on riverbanks to the urbanized sides of the river only (away from the island habitat).

• Widening of the channel at the northern end of the island will reduce access for feral dogs from urban areas improving the sanctuary character of the island.

• The area of Pulau Luba and adjoining Pulau Ranggu is approximately 2.5 square kilometre, providing adequate displacement area for the monkeys should they wish to move. Proboscis monkeys regularly swim river channels and could cross Sg. Brunei to mangroves at Kg. Kilugus if desired.

• Replanting of mangrove trees and nipah on the reformed southern riverbank, for rehabilitation of natural habitat.

Works Program

• Excavated material treatment will occur to the South of the river, 0.5 – 1.0km away from the island habitat.

• Channel work will be undertaken using floating dredge returning all excavated material to vacant land away from Pulau Luba. This minimizes heavy machinery working close to the proboscis habitat.

• Overall Works Program is 15 months. However, channel works at northern end of Pulau Luba will take 15 weeks to complete, thereby minimizing the period of equipment working in proximity to Pulau Luba.

• No concurrent works will be undertaken on or around Pulau Luba, allowing temporary displacement of the monkeys whilst channel works are ongoing in Sg. Damuan.

• Excavation work will be supervised by Department of Drainage and consultants to ensure environmental mitigation measures are implemented fully by the contractor throughout the Contract Period.


We can't please everyone but we have tried as best as we can.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Cabinet 2010

The talk of the town has focused on what the next cabinet will look like and for most of us at ministries, guessing who our next bosses will be if he is not retained. Let's look back at previous cabinet changes. (Apologies, I simplified the names and titles and they are not listed in correct order of protocol)



The first cabinet in 1984 was quite small.

Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Minister of Home Affairs: His Majesty
Minister of Defence: Al-Marhum Begawan Sultan Haji Omar Ali
Minister of Foreign Affairs: HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah
Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports: HRH Prince Jefri Bolkiah
Minister of Education and Health: Pehin Abd Aziz Umar
Minister of Development: Pehin Abd Rahman Taib
Minister of Law and Communications: Pengiran Laila Kanun Pg Hj Bahrin



After the death of Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali in 1986, the cabinet looked like this:

Prime Minister and Minister of Defence: His Majesty
Minister of Foreign Affairs: HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah
Minister of Finance: HRH Prince Jefri Bolkiah
Minister of Home Affairs: Pehin Isa
Minister of Education: Pehin Abd Rahman Taib
Minister of Health: Dato Dr Johar
Minister of Development: Pengiran Dr Ismail
Minister of Communications: Pehin Abd Aziz Umar
Minister of Law: Pengiran Laila Kanun Pg Hj Bahrin
Minister of Religious Affairs: Pehin Md Zain
Minister of Culture, Youth & Sports: Pehin Hussein



In 1988, with the expansion of another Ministry, the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources (spun off from the Ministry of Development), the cabinet looked like this (new ministers in asterisks):

Prime Minister and Minister of Defence: His Majesty
Minister of Foreign Affairs: HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah
Minister of Finance: HRH Prince Jefri Bolkiah
Minister of Home Affairs: Pehin Isa
Minister of Education: Pehin Abd Aziz Umar*
Minister of Industry and Primary Resources: Pehin Abd Rahman Taib*
Minister of Health: Dato Dr Johar
Minister of Development: Pengiran Dr Ismail
Minister of Communications: Pehin Zakaria*
Minister of Law: Pengiran Laila Kanun Pg Hj Bahrin
Minister of Religious Affairs: Pehin Md Zain
Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports: Pehin Hussein



Between 1998 to 2004, several ministers resigned as follows:

Minister of Health: Dato Dr Johar
Minister of Finance: HRH Prince Jefri Bolkiah (1999)
Minister of Law: Pengiran Laila Kanun Pg Hj Bahrin (1999)
Minister of Development: Pg Dr Ismail (2001)

and replaced as follows:

Minister of Health: Pehin Abu Bakar
Minister of Finance: His Majesty
Minister of Development: Pehin Ahmad Jumat
Minister of Law: Never replaced



The new cabinet in 2005 was as follows:

Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Minister of Finance: His Majesty
Senior Minister at Prime Minister's Office: HRH Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah
Minister of Foreign Affairs: HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah
Minister of Education: Pehin Rahman Taib
Minister of Industry and Primary Resources: Pehin Ahmad Jumat
Minister of Home Affairs: Pehin Adnan
Minister of Health: Pehin Suyoi
Minister of Communications: Pehin Abu Bakar
Minister of Religious Affairs: Pehin Md Zain
Minister of Development: Pehin Abdullah
Minister of Culture, Youth & Sports: Pehin Mohammad
Minister of Foreign Affairs II: Pehin Lim
Minister of Finance II: Pehin Abd Rahman Ibrahim
Minister of Energy: Pehin Yahya



3 reshuffles took place (new ministers in asterisk)

Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Minister of Finance: His Majesty
Senior Minister at Prime Minister's Office: HRH Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah
Minister of Foreign Affairs: HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah
Minister of Education: Pehin Rahman Taib
Minister of Industry and Primary Resources: Pehin Yahya*
Minister of Home Affairs: Pehin Adnan
Minister of Health: Pehin Suyoi
Minister of Communications: Pehin Abu Bakar
Minister of Religious Affairs: Pehin Md Zain
Minister of Development: Pehin Abdullah
Minister of Culture, Youth & Sports: Pehin Ahmad Jumat*
Minister of Foreign Affairs II: Pehin Lim
Minister of Finance II: Pehin Abd Rahman Ibrahim
Minister of Energy: Pehin Mohammad*



We certainly looked forward to the announcement of the new cabinet.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sungai Kedayan circa 1920

This postcard, believe it or not is close to 100 years old!

This postcard issued around the 1910s/1920s of Sungai Kedayan in Brunei around the same period. I first saw this at one of Brunei's antique dealers who specialises in books and maps. He was selling it for around B$600.00. That postcard has been there with him for so long and I knew it quite well. Anyway, it finally popped up in ebay and I won it not as expensive as B$600 but at around US$122 which is not so bad.

This is actually not a colour postcard. The ability to do colour postcards were only available around 1940s. What this is, is actually a monochrome (black and white) photograph and colour spots were later added on to give it the effect of full colour. However you can't get any coloured photograph one way or another and this indeed is a very rare collection.

This currently can be considered the most valuable of all of my deltiologist collection. I have a series of three other postcards from the same era. One is a native Kedayan and two of scenes from Brooketon (Muara) both in the 1920s. Over the next four days, I will blog on these four postcards.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

T'kidum (Recycled)

Someone asked in the box about Brunei cartoonists. I remembered I wrote about Brunei cartoonists way back in 2006 and so I thought I will repost it. Of course, everyone knows that my favourite is Cuboiart and you can go to his website at here. Here is my old 2006 post:-

How many people in Brunei have seen this? When I first saw it on the magazine shelf at Pustaka Remaja two Sundays ago, I thought, wow! A Brunei own comic book. That's a first. It was reasonably priced at about $4.90 but I thought compared to other comics from Malaysia and especially from UK or USA, $4.90 is nothing, besides talent has to be paid for and when it's Brunei own talent, we have to make our sacrifices. So I settled down as soon as I got home to read it. It has its own ISBN number 999 17-32-12-8 and it was issue no.1. It was published by Brunei Press. Then the date of the publication struck me. This comic book was printed in June 2003. Three years ago!

Where was I three years ago not to have noticed this? But to make amends I read the comic from cover to cover. The front cover has got the five cartoon characters but the back cover has the cartoon caricature of all the cartoonists. I am reproducing both the front and back covers of the comic so that you can all go out and grab whatever copies that are left on the magazine shelf at Pustaka Remaja.

The five cartoonists are Rahim or Rhyme ( better known for his Cuboiart and Si Cuboi books; Noh (Malai Yunus Malai Yusuf) for his Malaiku books published in 1992, 1994 and 1996; Suhaili Omar who used the pseudonym Alai; Kahamarul (ROL) and Denny Azriman@Jeman or Jenah. All these five are our local cartoonists.

According to the blurbs in the inside of the front and backcovers, Rahim as you know has Borneo Bulletin readers tickled pink with his accurate but humourous depiction of the local scenes. He graduated as a Chemical Engineer and began his cartooning with his Si Cuboi series in Media Permata. The series were compiled into two books Koleksi Si Cuboi and Si Cuboi 2. Noh taught hismself art and has represented Brunei in Japan and Malaysia in Cartoonists Conferences. While Alai started off as a serious artist and did not have any intention to draw cartoons. He was attracted to draw cartoons when he saw them in Borneo Bulletin and had his first cartoon published in 1991. Rol on the other hand is an illustration artist and his creations can be seen in the Media Permata, Weekend and Sunday Bulletin and some of his drawings have been exhibited in Asia and Europe. Jeman had been drawing as soon as he knew how to hold a pencil and part of his earlier drawings appeared in the well known Malaysian comic. His first drawing appeared in BB in 2000 and ever since he had became a serious cartoonist.

I want to know whether anybody had ever seen the next issues after this issue no.1? It would be a pity if T'kidum did not continue as I thought the cartoons are among the best local cartoons I had ever seen related to our country, Brunei Darussalam.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Commenting on the Comments

I have not been keeping up with the comments on the CBox. So I thought I will spend time answering some of the latest comments.


10 May 10, 21:01
Din: Mr BR, how much did it cost to 'print' a Bruneian coin with a face value of 1 cent during the reign of Sultan Hashim?

BR: I wish I knew. No, I have not gone that deep into researching about it but it is certainly a subject that I may visit one day.


10 May 10, 11:22
Jogger: Do you happen to have a map of Taman Rekreasi Menteri Besar?

BR: I will check with the JASTRE people and see if I can post it here.


9 May 10, 21:48
AwgB: *BEDB housing
9 May 10, 21:47
AwgB: Salam Mr BR, would like to knw d diff betwn MOD & BDEB housiing projects.? Why Brunei has two hsing prjks?

BR: There is only one government housing project, the National Housing Program or in Malay, Rancangan Perumahan Negara. Housing Development Department is responsible for building and distributing the houses and because of the demands, BEDB has been tasked to help the government in building more houses. The distribution of both houses will be given to all RPN applicants. In addition, PWD builds houses under the STKRJ program (Skim Tanah Kurnia Rakyat Jati).


8 May 10, 21:51
Intrigued: May I ask, what do you think are the major issues facing Brunei today? I would love to read a post on that.

BR: I have written about 1,100 post over the last 4 years and have touched on a number of major issues. To write just one post would not justify the seriousness of the issues. But every now and then I do write one serious blog.


8 May 10, 20:12
avidreader: the latest article on cinema. correct me if im wrong. Brunei was in no way involved in the first world war isn't it? how come the would be Boon Pang cinema was destroyed in that era?

BR: It was just destroyed coincidentally during the same time period, it was not destryoed because of the War. I don't have the details of it but I believed it was caused by a fire.


7 May 10, 16:22
TMian: Di sabah misalnya kalu kn meliat bangkatan ani, jauh perjalanan lagi. Ada stakeholder kah dah dibuat bagi proj Kem pembangunan? or undg2 Brunei tidak terpakai untok proj Kerjaan? T Kasih perhatian
7 May 10, 16:19
TMian: 1/2jm dr BSB dapat meliat bangkatan ani. Sudahkah Kem Pembangunan membuat EIA akan projek yg dilakukan?
7 May 10, 16:19
TMian: Assalamualaikum, saja kan tanya. Skrg ada kerja menumbangkan pokok bakau di sg damuan sebelum jambatan bengkurong. Disana tah tempat pelancong meliat PROSBOSCIC mokeys or bangkatan. Unik sal about 1/2

BR: I am not sure what that project is. Around the area are two potential projects, one is the expansion of the Pusat Ehsan and the other is the new Mukim mosque.


5 May 10, 19:28
tenuwan: Mr. Rozan, do you think the book "Collection of Brunei's Traditional Woven Cloth" are still available anywhere else?

BR: I don't think so. You can check with the author, Hajah Kadariah.


5 May 10, 16:50
labuan perception: kpd Din: Labuan dulu pun milik brunei..bukan setakat itu,Sarawak & Sabah pun milik Brunei.dr zaman kesultanan Brunei..kalaula sabah,sarawak n labuan bergabung dibawah brunei..kan bgus..
4 May 10, 16:35
Din: Limbang adalah tanah tulin Sultan Hashim, suatu hari nanti ia akan kembali kepada yang berhak, insyallah.
4 May 10, 16:35
Din: Labuan di rampas oleh Brooke dengan kekerasan.
4 May 10, 16:35
Din: Mana adil! Kedua2 blok itu adalah milik mutlak Brunei. Malaysia kira nasib baik kerana dpt jiran yang baik dan mahu berkongsi dengan mereka. Labuan juga adalah milik mutlak Brunei.
4 May 10, 12:57
labuan perception: aku rsakan psl limbang atu bah baik tah inda pyh lg di rista...psl apa,Malaysia dpt limbang,Brunei Darussalam dpt 2 block minyak...kira adil tah tu kali...sama2 dapat ...jgn tah dikelaiekan...=)

BR: You can check the historical facts in most books about both Labuan and Limbang.


5 May 10, 14:47
WK: People can lie about history but they cannot change history they can only rewrite it.
5 May 10, 14:38
WK: Why is it that we can't find very important history books such as Raja Bongsu - A Bruneian Hero In His Times being kept/sold in Brunei libraries & bookstores? But are kept/sold in other countries.

BR: Only in Select Books in Singapore where they specialise in selling hard to find books. The problem with most Brunei books is that the sale rates are slow. It took me about a year to sell about 500 copies of my Volume 1 book. Now the bookshops wanted me to reprint but I won't. Print too little, it's expensive and print too many, it can't sell. The only place you can buy my Volume 1 is also now at Select Books.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

This is Radio Brunei

[The Managing Editor at BT asked me whether I could do an article on Radio Brunei as they just celebrated their 53rd Anniversary. It brought back memories. In the early 1990s I used to be a part time English newscaster on the English Channel or what the RTB now called Rangkaian Pilihan. In those days, there were only 3 of us, Charan Kumar, Ideris Ali or me. If anyone was ill, then one of us has to do a lot of reading. There were 3 slots, 6.45 am, 12.30 pm or 9.15 pm. I was always in the studio about 30 minutes before to mark the scripts and all the places to stop etc. Most importantly I had to edit the English, it was mostly passable as direct translations but in most cases not very flowing. There were times I had to rewrite entire paragraphs just to get it flowing. I was not supposed to do that but I did it anyway. After about 3 years, I just could not cope with my regular work and all that. The pay by the way was $20 per news session. Anyway, this article on Radio Brunei was published yesterday in my Golden Legacy Column on Brunei Times.]

“INILAH RADIO BRUNEI” (this is Radio Brunei). Those were the first words said by the first announcer, Dayangku Intan binti PDP Pengiran Haji Apong to the Brunei airwaves marking the first official broadcast of Radio Brunei. It was the first day of Hari Raya Puasa.

The first radio broadcast was at 7.45 pm on 2nd May 1957. It went out on 242.1 Megahertz frequency and can only be heard by those who had radios within a five kilometer radius of the transmitter at Bukit Salilah.

Communicating to the public or the masses was a big undertaking. Communications allow countries to be built, and diverse societies and cultures be forged into one nation. For Brunei, the radio service was one such service which needed to be put into place as soon as possible.

Prior to the radio service, Brunei only had the Information Service. The Information Service began its life in 1952. The Information Service functioned as a print media where Pelita Brunei, a weekly government publication (now twice weekly) was published and given out for free to the public. The Information Service also functioned as a broadcaster. At first it only played movies to the public. In 1961, the Radio Service was merged with the Information Service adding radio as part of its broadcasting duties.

Brunei’s Radio Service was launched officially by His Royal Highness Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien. It was his aspiration as the ‘Architect of modern Brunei’ for wanting to bring such services. In the Brunei Annual Report of 1956, detailed planning for the broadcasting station was undertaken and that all necessary equipment had been bought. The service was to be centred in a new broadcasting house to be built and fed by VHF to a 20 kilowatt medium wave transmitter. A small studio was to be established in Belait and connected to the Tutong transmitter.

However in 1956, only the 2 kilowatt transmitter was on its way to Brunei. All the staff was then being trained at Radio Sarawak and the first hopes were getting to the air by the first quarter of 1957.

By 1957, that first broadcast was made. Both His Royal Highness the Sultan and the British Resident broadcasted personal messages. However that first official broadcast on 2nd May 1957 was not the first. During April 1957, Radio Brunei had already been on the air with ad hoc programmes.

The first daily transmission was two and a half hour with Malay programs occupying one and a half hour and English forty five minutes. The contents of the programs comprised of musical entertainment, religious programs, radio plays, talks, world and local news. The musical entertainment comprised of gramophone records, folk orchestras as well as full packaged programs from Sarawak.

Live programs were also broadcasted including the opening of the airport, the Brunei Hotel and the telephone exchange as well as commentaries of rugby matches. BBC programs were also played such as ‘The Goon Show’, ‘A Life of Bliss’ as well radio parlour games called ‘Beat the Gong’ with the assistance of the pupils of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien College.

The first staff comprised of one station manager, one record librarian, four Malay program assistants and one cleaner. It was not until August that part-time announcers were engaged. The British Resident acknowledged that these early staff ‘have worked, more often than otherwise, well over the prescribed working hours including week-ends and holidays’ and ‘their efforts have been noteworthy’.

The government offered a subsidy to buy radios by monthly installments. More than 1,048 radio sets were sold.

By 1958, three languages were broadcasted, Malay, English and Chinese. The transmitter at Tutong was switched on. By 1960, Radio Brunei held the first singing competition ‘Bintang Radio’ (Radio Star). Many Bruneians who can sing became famous through this competition. There were a few popular singers such as Ali Paun, Dayangku Aminah and M. Noordin. One notable band was ‘Dendang Teruna’.

By 1962, the Belait Radio Station first planned in 1957 was finally opened. It was in 1965 that Radio Brunei could be heard around the country through short wave frequency. It was also able to broadcast to the Asia Pacific region. Radio Brunei was now operating in two channels, in Malay and in English.

The radio service was now making an impact. Popular dramas were introduced by Wahab Mohammad entitled ‘Bujang Sigandam’. ‘Diandangan Bujang Sigandam’ first introduced in radio service around 1966 stayed on until the 1970s. The stories were very popular and the ‘peniandangan’ – the guy who did all the verse singing such as Abdul Rahman Sudin, Awang Kadir Kassim and Awang Metassan bin Jair did very well in catering to the public’s imagination with stories entitled ‘Sikandung Larai’, ‘Puteri Mengindera Sakti’, ‘Sultan Indera Sakti’, ‘Shiekh Abdul Rahman’ and ‘Wang Udin Raya’.

By 1970, radio service was able to broadcast from its new home at Jalan Stoney. The new building had 5 recording studios, 2 broadcasting studios as well as the auditorium. By 1978, ‘Bintang Kecil’ (Small Star), a singing competition for children was started. However up to 1990, the television services took the limelight away from the radio service and not much innovation went on.

By 1990s, there were many changes. Radio Brunei began operating from 4.30 in the morning. By 1994, the service was extended to 12 midnight. In 1995, channel 91.4FM was opened for the National Day. In 1996, the three existing channels were renamed as Rangkaian Nasional, Rangkaian Pilihan and the new 91.4FM; Rangkaian Pelangi. Later that year, a fourth channel; Rangkaian Harmoni.

The following year saw the fifth channel, NurIslam, being born. By 2001, NetRadio was launched. Now the entire radio services are available world-wide.

In the meantime, the merger and the split between the broadcasters and the publishers continued. On 1st December 1985, the Information Department and RTB was merged to form the new Information and Broadcasting Department under the Ministy of Culture, Youth and Sports. By 1986, the new department was moved to the Prime Minister’s Office. In 1991, it was split again for the final time into the Information Department and Radio Television Brunei.

Radio Brunei played important roles in disseminating information to the public. That was clearly seen during the run up to the first written Constitutions where information about the Constitution was read out on radio. According to Dr. Haji Asbol in his paper ‘Persekolahan Melayu Brunei Darussalam 1950-1984: Perubahan dan Cabaran’ during the Third Brunei History Seminar in 2006, the introduction of the radio in the 1950s has influenced the minds of the local communities. Through this media, the public were not just entertained but they were exposed to the development of politics, economic and social which they can hear from the radio stations transmitted locally and from abroad. In forums which involved the public in Radio Brunei, they were forthcoming with many ideas and issues which involved politics and the government machinery including education issues.

From a small station, Radio Brunei today has matured into a multi channel radio broadcaster. As it moved into digital transmission and despite the challenges of multi channel television broadcasts, the radio has remained a basic staple need of the public.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Houses at Meragang and Tanah Jambu

Last Saturday, we had three different ceremonies to lay the foundation at the huge Meragang/Tanah housing project. Many people got lost searching for the areas but it is not that difficult to find. You can enter to access the sites via the Muara-Tutong highway or via Jalan Bunga Kebun near Kampong Kapok.

The first one was the project to build 361 basic housing at Meragang to be done by Thong and Thong Sdn Bhd. The cost is almost $27 million and is expected to be completed by July 2011. The houses will look like this:

These houses are similar to the 372 which are already under construction done by Alim Bena and Galfar.

The second one was the project to build 300 houses at Meragang to be done by Haqqah (B) Sdn Bhd. The cost is about $22 million and is expected to be completed by December 2011. The semi-detached houses will look like this:

The third one was the project to build 358 houses and dual carriageways at Meragang to be done by TSL Construction. The cost is around $40 million and is exected to be completed by February 2012. The houses will look like this:

The fourth ceremony was at Nikkoh Construction and Development Sdn Bhd. They are expected to be building 266 semi-detached houses and 158 terrace houses of similar designs to the above; and a dual carriage way through the whole areas. The cost is almost $68 million.

Altogether, in the whole area, there will be 1,833 houses to be completed between now and by 2012. There are a couple more projects to be awarded in the area also due for completion by the end of month to bring the total houses for the entire area to be around 4,000 houses. This should cover applicants from the year 1991 to about 1995.

Altogether, the Ministry together with Housing Development Department and Public Works Department is still on target towards 10,000 houses to be completed. BEDB is expected to build another 7,500 houses. That 17,500 houses will mean that the queue for housing will be considerashorter from 2012 onwards.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Cinemas and Movie Memories of Brunei

[I wrote the following article for last Monday's Golden Legacy column on Brunei Times. Regular readers of this blog would realised that this article is a combination of my recent (about 2 months back) entry on the one and only Brunei movie and an old entry (about 3 years back) entry on cinema memories. I have incorporated some of the comments on those entries as part of the article as well.]

HOW many people in Brunei remembered when our nation produced its first and so far only movie?

Yet we did, although you have to go a long way back to remember this movie. In fact you have to go back more than one generation ago — you have to go back more than 42 years back in time and you would at least have to be in your 50s now to even recall that movie.

Those who remembered would know that the movie was called “Gema Dari Menara” (Voices or Echoes from the Minaret). The making of the movie was sponsored by the Religious Affairs Department (now the Ministry of Religious Affairs).

The movie was filmed on location at the house of Pengiran Anak Kemaluddin, (now known as Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Indera Mahkota Pengiran Anak Dr Kemaluddin Al-Haj ibni Al-Marhum Pengiran Bendahara Pengiran Anak Haji Mohd Yassin, the Speaker of the Legislative Council). Pengiran Anak Kemaluddin, then as the Principal of the Religious Affairs Department also directed the movie.

Outside scenes include Jembatan Rangas, Jerudong and Batu Satu. The actor was Pengiran Abbas, an Inspector with the Department. The actress was also a local named Aisah Haji Mohd Noor.

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. It was said that the movie was funded by the government to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars.

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. According to some folks who remembered watching the movie, some of the actors were clearly reading their lines from where the script was written down — on their hands and on their palms.

The movie was shown at Boon Pang Cinema in 1968 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 remembered what happened to this movie. The movie was said to be controversial as too many people either enjoyed too much or disliked the “sinful” sins; and it was said that 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.

Similarly, not many people remembered what happened to the Boon Pang Cinema which showed the movie. In fact not many people remembered what happened to the other Brunei cinemas in the same era. In today’s multiplexes cinemas world such as the Mall Gadong, Empire and the Q-Lap Mall, single screens cinemas are considered so yesterday.

For some reason, cinemas never found a strong foothold in Brunei. Before the First World War, there was one cinema but it was destroyed during the war. It was rebuilt as the Boon Pang and later on in Bandar, there were three — the Boon Pang, the Bolkiah and the Borneo, the latter two built in the 1950s. The Boon Pang is now gone replaced by the BIBD building.

The Boon Pang had an interesting history. It was once used as a detention centre for a few months. After the 1962 rebellion, the army rounded up all the detainees and placed them in the open tennis court areas at the padang. The Police Station in front of the mosque was still there then. The detainees were eventually moved to the Boon Pang to keep them from being out in the open and while preparing the teacher training institute in Berakas as a detention centre for long term placements.

One avid movie-goer reminisced the Boon Pang Cinema also had a little cafe or snack bar attached to the side of its first floor, called “OKK CafĂ©” — OKK being the initials of the cinema’s owner Dato Ong Kim Kee. Many remembered it as somewhat of a dark and smoky dive, where one can enjoy “ice cream floats”. Apparently, it was a popular place for dates in the 1960s and 1970s (one has to imagine bell bottomed trousers, kebayas and beehive hairdos).

Other than the Boon Pang, the Borneo and Bolkiah are still standing. The Bolkiah, originally said owned partly by the Shaw Brothers has been upgraded and one should go there at least to find out the better experience of watching a movie in a full size cinema unlike the smaller screens in the Empire or the Mall.

Another avid movie-goer recalled a story. He said that for many years, the Bolkiah Cinema was run by a group of mainly Chinese shareholders. One of the perks of being a shareholder was that every month they get a special card that entitles them to 5 (free) tickets to every show in the cinema. He used to have a neighbour whose family has one of those cards, so on lazy afternoons during school holidays they would show up and the lady in the ticket booth would simply mark-off the spaces on the card and they would get their tickets. The downside is that shows on week day afternoons were usually bad…pretty bad!

As for the Borneo Theatre, it is no longer in operation as well. The fire to the department store right next to it triggered an effort to remodel the place, but still has not got many patronage like it used to. The last time anyone remember when the whole theatre was full, was of a showing of Isabella, a Malay movie, released way back when.

Another cinema was the Seri Theatre at Batu Satu, Jalan Tutong which opened around the mid 1970s. That did not survive for long. At first run by the owner but later on by the Chinese Chambers. It did not make much money and was razed down when the owners were thinking of building a hotel there.

Seri Theatre has a little restaurant as an extension of its front and many remembered being taken for treats of fried chicken wings as children.

There was an old cinema in Tutong. One former Tutong resident said it did not have a name. Whereas there are others who vaguely remembered it said it was named Mohamed Bolkiah. It was somewhere opposite the Police Station.

Kuala Belait had at least 4 cinemas previously. The Roxana has been razed down. Roxana was said to be structurally unsound.
Another cinema in Kuala Belait was the Capital. The exact location of the Capital (which had been demolished ages ago) is now a vacant lot in between the KB Chung Hua Middle School and the Swiss Hotel there. There used to be a famous cafe/restaurant selling chicken rice that’s in the same building.

The Marina in Seria is still standing. It used to be a grand building when Seria was completed in the 1950s. Another one which people still remembered is the Puspa which was somewhere at the back of the Seria filling station.

Not many remembered the time when cinemas ruled the entertainment of the public in Brunei.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Measured Expansion

Oxford Business Group reported on 30th April 2010 the following news:-


Brunei Darussalam: Measured Expansion

30 April 2010

Brunei Darussalam is rapidly gaining an international profile as a major Islamic financial services centre, with foreign partners showing an interest in joining forces with the Sultanate in order to tap into the increasingly lucrative sector.

In late March, Japanese financial services firm SBI Holdings (SBIH) announced it was entering into a partnership with Brunei Darussalam's Ministry of Finance to set up a fund management company expected to handle private equity funds, including sharia-compliant vehicles.

According to a statement issued by SBIH on March 25, Brunei Darussalam is the centre and gateway to the Islamic world in South-east Asia, and is surrounded by various opportunities to expand and diversify the economy.

The company will manage private equity funds, and look to make sharia-compliant investments into various companies mainly in Asia, which have sound financials, clear potential for growth and are led by capable management, said SBIH.

The new firm, which will be incorporated in Brunei Darussalam, would enable SBIH to build broader, stronger networks with promising partners and investment pipelines into the Islamic world, the company statement read.

It is not just Japan that is looking to ally itself with Brunei Darussalam to gain greater access to the Islamic finance sector. In late March, John Tsang Chun-Wah, the financial secretary of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, was in Brunei Darussalam for talks with senior officials, with much of the focus of these discussions on establishing a linkage with the Sultanate's Islamic finance industry.

While Hong Kong has a well-established financial infrastructure, the emphasis has been on conventional finance, whereas Brunei Darussalam's expertise is on the understanding of sharia compliance, Tsang told local media on March 21.

"We have a good network and relevant professionals in Hong Kong, so I see great potential in working together," he said. "Professionals from both sides can work for mutual benefit in Islamic finance."

Though Brunei Darussalam has made good progress towards reaping the harvest of these mutual benefits, still more work has to be done to achieve the goals set by the government, according to Dr Mohamed Sharif Bashir, the dean of the faculty of business and management science at Brunei's Sultan Sharif Ali Islamic University.

In particular, there is the need to bolster the financial infrastructure, develop a clear strategy over future directions and strengthen their capital and human resources base, he said in early March.

"Domestic Islamic banks and takaful companies need to enhance their capacity and capability in order to be able to compete with global players in the Islamic finance industry in terms of product offerings and innovations, corporate governance and human capital," said Dr Mohamed. "Any proposed strategy in this regard will bolster financial, trade and investment ties and linkages between Brunei Darussalam and other countries."

Brunei and its Islamic financial institutions also had to keep pace with the latest developments in the international markets, Dr Mohamed added.

"All south-eastern economies, including Brunei Darussalam, are experiencing a rapid change in economic environment due to globalisation. The changes in business landscape and market expectations, as well as demand, create a new challenge in Islamic financial institutions in this country," he said.

One of the main challenges for Brunei Darussalam, according to Dr Zohra Jabeen, assistant professor from the Institute of Management Studies in Pakistan, is creating a competitive environment in order to attract the right talent.

"If Brunei Darussalam wants to develop the Islamic finance sector, they have to have the talent. Human resources are very important," she told delegates attending an international conference on Islamic finance held by the Sultan Sharif Ali Islamic University in early March.

Here too the answer could be international cooperation, said Dr Zohra, while also taking advantage of the Brunei Darussalam government's policy of developing the Islamic finance sector.

"Brunei and Pakistan could work together and collaborate on many things, we have a population of about 16m people and we have a very competitive environment for Islamic finance, and the Islamic banks in Pakistan could work with Brunei Darussalam on a bank-to-bank basis to come up with some collaborative programmes," she said.

With an increasing tide of investors beating a path to Brunei Darussalam's door, growth for the country's Islamic finance sector seems assured, as long as the pace of expansion is measured and the required groundwork is done to give the industry a solid base from which to develop.


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