Friday, January 21, 2011

Brunei Darussalam Review 2010

[The Oxford Business Group reported the following on 21st January 2011.]

Brunei Darussalam Review 2010

For Brunei Darussalam 2010 was a year of consolidation and building for the future. The economy has emerged from two years of negative growth amidst the fallout from the global financial crisis, and there are projections of better things to come in 2011.

While final year-end figures have yet to be released, it seems the Asian Development Bank’s forecast for GDP expansion of 1.1% will likely be met.

With the hydrocarbons sector contributing around 90% of Brunei Darussalam’s GDP, a steep rise in prices – with oil ending the year just under the $90 mark and expectations that it could top $100 in early 2011 – could have a major impact on the economy.

Additionally, oil production is set to increase in coming years to 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) or more, as a result of new fields coming on stream and of long-term efforts to raise output from existing fields to above the average of 190,000 bpd in recent years.

Another boost for the sector came in mid-December, when Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia formally settled a long-standing dispute over two offshore blocks, agreeing to jointly develop Blocks J and K, located in the waters between Brunei Darussalam and the Malaysian state of Sarawak. With some estimates putting the value of the combined oil and gas reserves of the two blocks at up to $100bn, the shared flow from the fields could help to ensure the viability and sustainability of the country’s energy sector for years to come.

Throughout 2010 efforts to broaden the base of the economy continued, a policy that has met with some success. In April the country’s first petrochemicals facility was opened. The $450m methanol plant, sited at the Sungai Liang Industrial Park, has the capacity to produce some 850,000 tonnes of methanol annually, with its entire output destined for the export market, primarily Japan.

A joint venture between Petroleum Brunei and Japanese firms Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company and ITOCHU Corporation, Brunei Methanol Company is seen as just the first of a number of downstream projects that will build off the success of Brunei Darussalam’s hydrocarbons industry, with further chemical production businesses in the works.

The year also saw an increased focus on the financial sector, particularly the sharia-compliant segment, which is considered to have great potential as a means of attracting investment and of serving the needs of both the local and international banking communities.

One of the measures taken during 2010 was the establishment of the Brunei Darussalam Monetary Authority, which formally began operations at the beginning of 2011. The authority is charged with overseeing monetary policy, supervising financial institutions and managing the local currency, and will add another dimension to the country’s financial markets by acting as a strong regulatory body and working to build investor confidence.

The Sultanate is also optimistic about the potential for its sharia-compliant food and pharmaceuticals sector, with its Brunei Halal Brand looking to capture a healthy slice of the global halal market. A recent high point in this campaign came in early December at the ground-breaking ceremony for a halal pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products plant. The $20m project is being developed by Vivapharm (Brunei), a joint partnership between Canadian firm Viva Pharmaceutical, Aureos (Brunei) Capital Fund – the private equity fund set up by the government through the Ministry of Finance – and other local investors.

Brunei Darussalam faces a number of challenges as it enters the new decade, one of which is its dependence on imported foodstuffs. While efforts have been made to boost domestic agricultural production, both by increasing the amount of land available and through the use of higher-yielding varieties of some crops, especially the staple rice, the limited area of land not dedicated to other use or protected under the country’s stringent conservation laws means it is unlikely Brunei Darussalam will be able to achieve self-sufficiency in many areas.

The Sultanate remains vulnerable to price and supply fluctuations, which in turn can have a very real effect on domestic inflation, and this was seen in 2009 when shortages of some commodities saw steep increases in the cost of rice and grains.

With supplies returning to near normal levels, inflation eased back from the 2.7% recorded in 2009. The latest figures from the Department of Economic Planning and Development showed the consumer price index declining and year-on-year inflation at around 1.2% as of August.

With the local hydrocarbons industry looking forward to expected growth on the back of higher oil prices, the Sultanate will have the additional time and resources it needs to devote to further diversifying the economy. The Asian Development Bank has forecast 1.5% GDP growth for 2011, although this could well be surpassed if oil prices maintain their momentum into the new year, as they looked set to do in early January.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Remembering Brunei's Naval Ships

[Note: I wrote the following article on Sunday morning 16th January 2011 for it to be published on Brunei Times on 17th January 2011. It was the conversation with Pehin Jalil which gave me the impetus to write this article.]

Remembering Brunei's Naval Ships
by Rozan Yunos

This writer was in Islamabad recently. Regular column readers would now be asking what have Islamabad got to do with Brunei history. The answer to that would be none.

It just so happened that this writer met with the Brunei High Commissioner to Islamabad. The High Commissioner was His Excellency Pehin Datu Penglima Col (R) Abdul Jalil Haji Ahmad. He was formerly the Commander of the Royal Brunei Navy before he retired and became a diplomat.

During the visit, this writer and His Excellency Pehin Jalil discussed issues of developments in Brunei Darussalam including the recent news that the Royal Brunei Navy had accepted two brand new Darussalam Class Patrol Vessels named "KDB Darussalam" and "KDB Darulehsan". His Excellency noted the new names and reminisced all the names of the vessels that were part of the Royal Brunei Navy.

According to the Ministry of Defence news release, with these two new corvettes, the Royal Brunei Navy will be able to enhance its capability to defend Brunei Darussalam's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The handing over ceremony took place at Lurssen Shipyard, Germany, and accepting on behalf of the government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam was the Deputy Minister of Defence, Dato Paduka Haji Mustappa Haji Sirat.

The Darussalam Class is the first of its class with a length of 80 metres and 13 metres wide. It is propelled by diesel engines and has an endurance of 21 days at sea. The ship is equipped with surface to surface missile and a medium calibre gun.

Both ships are expected to start their maiden voyage back to Brunei in March and expected to arrive in May this year, in time for the 50th Anniversary of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces. The ships will be manned fully by officers and men of the Royal Brunei Navy personnel.

The day before the acceptance ceremony, the third Darussalam Class ship, "KDB Darulaman" was launched, marking the first time the ship was laid into the water. The ship will undergo the Harbour and Sea Acceptance Trials before the plan delivery in August this year.

Previously, a total of four 41-metre Ijtihad Class Fast Patrol Boats have also been commissioned into service with the Royal Brunei Navy, where two of the ships began operating since March 2010 followed by another two in August 2010. The Ijtihad Class is also part of the project between the government of His Majesty The Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Negara Brunei Darussalam and Lurssen.

The Ijtihad Class boats were named "KDB Ijtihad", "KDB Berkat", "KDB Syafaat" and "KDB Afiat".

The Darussalam class ships will also replace the Missile Gun Boats Waspada class which had been in service with the Royal Brunei Navy for more than 30 years.

According to Pehin Jalil in his memoir published in 2008 entitled "Memoir Wira Samudera di Muara", the Waspada class boats were named "KDB Waspada", "KDB Pejuang" and "KDB Seteria" and was launched in 1977. The Waspada class spent most of its time in the South China sea and "KDB Waspada" as the Brunei flagship was known among the ASEAN Navies.

The Waspada class vessels were built by Vosper Thornycroft in Singapore each weighing 206 tons fully loaded and armed with 2 MM38 Exocet, 30mm BMARC-Oerlikon GCM-B01 AA and 2 7.62mm machine guns. The vessels were modernised in 1990s.

Pehin Jalil was among the first few Bruneians to be trained in the Brunei Navy. He joined the Armed Forces in February 1972 and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in December 1973. He was trained at the Royal Naval College Dartmouth in the United Kingdom.

By the time Pehin Jalil joined the Royal Brunei Navy, the navy was almost a decade old. It was on June 14, 1965, that the Boat Section of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces was formed. It only had 18 people including one officer from the First Battalion.

At first the Boat Section was only equipped with a number of aluminum boats, known as Temuai in Brunei Malay and Fast Assault Boats (FABs). The original role of the Boat Section was to provide transportation of the infantry to the interior of Brunei. It was not until 1966 as the Boat Section expanded that the Boat Section was renamed the Boat Company.

At that time too, the Boat Company had received three River Patrol Boats. These boats were named "KDB Bendahara", "KDB Maharajalela" and "KDB Kermaindera". All the ships were crewed by Bruneians, led by a qualified Commanding Officer. By 1968, two hovercraft vessels type SR.N5 and SR.N6 were also added to the assets of the Boat Company.

It was not until 1968 that the flag ship for the Boat Company was received. The first fast patrol craft was named as "KDB Pahlawan", a name which many people remembered as compared to the other vessels' names. His Excellency Pehin Jalil served as the XO on this vessel.

The Boat Company was then renamed as the First Sea Battalion of the Royal Brunei Malay Regiment. It had 42 personnel including one officer. In 1971, the First Sea Battalion received two more Coastal Patrol Craft named as the "KDB Saleha" and the "KDB Masna".

The Perwira Class inshore Patrol Boats were received in 1974 and 1975. The Singapore-built variant of Malaysian PX class police boats; its wooden hull were armed with 20mm BMARC-Oerlikon B01 AA and two 7.62mm machine guns. These were named as "KDB Perwira", "KDB Penyerang" and "KDB Pemburu". The Sea Batallion also received two unarmed land craft utility vessels named as Damuan and Puni in 1976-1977 and two other armed amphibious warfare craft known as Serasa and Teraban in 1996.

In October 1991, the Angkatan Laut Pertama, Askar Melayu DiRaja Brunei, was reorganised and renamed as the Royal Brunei Navy due to the growth of the armed forces in Brunei.

The names of the ships will be long remembered after they have been decomissioned for the services they have rendered for the country.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Memoirs of a Warrior

I don't think I have ever met Pehin Datu Penglima Colonel (R) Abdul Jalil before. Yet when I met him at the hotel greeting and welcoming us, the Brunei delegation to the OIC COMSTECH meeting, I was at ease. He certainly made us feel very welcome and the Embassy staff looked after us very well. I was with him when we attended the official dinner hosted by the Prime Minister on the first night. And he hosted the dinner for us on the next night.

During the conversation, we discovered that he had actually penned his memoir. According to him, he wrote the book much earlier - during the leave period just prior to his retirement. However he published and printed the book when he was in Pakistan. He sold some and he gave away some. I was lucky enough to have gotten a copy personally signed by him which he gave during the dinner.

The book is indeed interesting. Pehin Datu Penglima was Commander of the Royal Brunei Navy when he retired. He was trained at Royal Naval Staff College at Dartmouth and Royal College of Defence Studies. His book outlined his life from the beginning and then his training and his career in the Navy. It is indeed an interesting book as this is probably the only book I know that was written by someone in the armed forces about his life in the Royal Brunei Armed Forces.

I wish this was widely available so that it can also provide a direction to other senior officers to start writing and making their information available to the public.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Flying Home

I am now on the way home via Dubai and Insya'Allah will be home by Friday morning. The flying home began by leaving the Serena Hotel on Thursday at 1 am, the Emirates flight to Dubai at 3 am and reach Dubai at 6 am. Stay in Dubai until 10.30 pm before taking the BI flight back to Brunei. Enjoy some of the photographs I took along the way in Islamabad. Remember Islamabad is like Old Airport Government Complex - full of government buildings!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I feel safe

The number of meetings overseas I attended last year was in the double digits. It is ironic as I don't like to travel. I don't mind the occassional overseas meeting now and then just to keep in touch with what's going on in the international world but last year was exceptional.

A few of them were for my other hat being a member of the CSPS and some additional ones were because the meetings took place only every few years and last year happen to be the one year, most of them were held.

In most of the meetings last year, even the ones organised by the United Nations, the security was minimal. There were screenings, metal detector bars etc but none that I can not tolerate.

I especially hate it when going in and out of hotels that you have to subject yourself to all these checks. It's not just the x-ray machines but the metal detectors, the pat downs. Practically everything you have on you makes a ping. The only way not to be suspicious was to walk totally naked! Some argued it is inevitable and not having one would make you regret it. I saw it in Surabaya. I saw the same thing in Jakarta. You just can't go up the hotel driveway anymore. At one time I saw it in Singapore. There was no car whatsoever in front of the hotels.

The one that I have to undergo at Islamabad is probably among the more stringent one. Even getting into the hotel is one huge hassle. There were huge flower ports acting as barriers all over the place forcing your car to zig zag through the already tiny road going up and down the hotel entrance, metal barriers, metal gates, metal road barriers in the roads itself, guards checking the car's bonnet and hood, mirrors, you name it, we have it.

Sometimes I feel like saying to the security guards, the whatever it is you are searching there is not there, it's with me! But then I don't want to get into trouble either. I know it is for my own protection. Even the diplomats here have a joke for these checks. They would shout 'have you checked the oil?' or 'did you check the water?' I have only been here for less than two days. These people have to endure it throughout their stay.

The saddest part is that the machine gun totting guards were not on the lookout for outsiders. They were on the lookout for their own countrymen. When safety and security standards have deteriorated that the only way you can keep safe is to be a fortress means that the country is not worth living in anymore. I remembered when I did my Master at Harvard, one of my class mates was a Senator from a South American country which is well known for its violence. I often see him cycle on campus and I asked him don't you get tired? He told me that it was only then that he felt so safe that he could cycle and go out without having a lorryfull of security personnel following him around or checking under his car every single time to make sure nobody left something that can blow him to smitherins.

I enjoyed living in Brunei. It may not have the huge malls or the big tall buildings which other people wanted, there are certain things I could not find in Brunei, but it is a very safe country. I don't go through metal detectors. I don't have someone frisk my body everyday I wanted to enter into a building. I don't see metal barriers. It may not be the most advanced country in the world but I have it safe. I remembered the movie in Transporter 3, about three quarter way through the movie when the girl who was kidnapped finally told the transporter, now I feel 'safe'. I know what she meant. And I pray to the Al-Mighty, may it remain that way.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Greetings from Islamabad

Greetings from Serena Hotel in Islamabad. I have only seen the main entrance of the hotel. According to, the hotel is located on the foothills of Margallas on fourteen acre area with beautiful gardens near the Rawal Lake. The architecture and interiors of this fabulous hotel building are a mere reflection typical Pakistani cultural heritage depicting the skills and craftsmanship of talented artisans. Being state-of-the art building, the hotel beautifully combines traditional systems equipped with latest technologies.

It's 2:48 am Brunei time but only 11:48 pm here. I have only just checked in after a long almost nine hour flight from Brunei to Dubai, stayed there for a few hours and another three hour flight from Dubai to here. The ride from the airport was uneventful, we had the security personnel with machine guns leading the way. So it was really fast. The Brunei High Commissioner has warmly greeted us with his staff at the hotel and did all the checking in, so we had a pretty much easy time compared to the last time I was here. The last time I was in Islamabad was in 1997 when I attended an OIC Fiscal Seminar at the Quaid-i-Azam University. I still keep that rather unique certificate given by that university.

I am here now representing my minister leading the Brunei delegation for another OIC meeting, this time the 14th General Assembly of COMSTECH. From its website: COMSTECH is a Ministerial Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation established by the Third Summit Islamic of OIC held at Makkah, Saudi Arabia in January 1981. Its mission is to help strengthen the individual and collective capacity of OIC member states in science and technology through mutual cooperation, collaboration, and networking of resources. COMSTECH enables the OIC member states to use science and technology as a major contributor towards socio-economic development and rapid industrialization in the OIC region. It is entrusted with the follow up actions on science and technology related decisions of the Summit and creating successful implementation strategies. All of the OIC member states are members of COMSTECH.

The meeting starts tomorrow morning and the secretariat has been more than efficient. In my room, there is now a brand new executive James Bond bag, about 30 document papers each bound into a book, the bag filled with pens, clips, glue, yellow highlighters and get this, quick acting aspirin tablets for headaches, one strip of Trisil for treating acidity and one strip of Dependal-M for diarrhea. What were the organisers expecting?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A Historic Journey Through Sabah

[Note: Together with about half of Brunei, my family and I were in Sabah over the December holidays. We flew there but my brother in law and his family drove there. When we met up, he drove us around including taking us to Papar. On the way back to KK, I was reminded by the road signs of the historical significance of Sabah. So I wrote this article and this was published in THE GOLDEN LEGACY column on BRUNEI TIMES on 3rd January 2010]


A Historic Journey through Sabah
by Rozan Yunos

During the last holidays, there were so many 4-wheel drive Brunei registered SUVs in Kota Kinabalu that the driver of the hotel’s car that the writer was staying in, thought that in Brunei, no one drove small cars. There were indeed many Brunei holiday makers in Kota Kinabalu and all parts of Sabah, some ending up going up to the peak of Mount Kinabalu. Virtually all of those Brunei cars drove for about 6 to as long as 10 hours to get from Bandar Seri Begawan to Kota Kinabalu.

Those hours could have been very useful if the Brunei passengers knew their history. Not many would realized that until the beginning of the 20th century, many parts of Sabah or North Borneo as it is known then was still in the possession of the Sultan of Brunei. Even after the formation of the North Borneo Company which eventually governed Sabah until 1946, many parts of Sabah especially in the west were still under the control of the various Brunei owners.

In 1901, the Sultan of Brunei granted his personal territory, from River Sipitang to River Trusan, to the North Borneo Company. The company also acquired Mengalong and Merantaman (now in Sipitang district) in 1901 through a grant by Pangiran Tengah Damit of his tulin right on those areas. The acquisition of these areas was done separately because lands such as these are owned individually by Brunei princes and noblemen through their tulin right and independent of the authority of the sultan.

Until 1900, the Sipitang River marked the frontier between Sabah and Brunei until Trusan was acquired later by Rajah Brooke adding that to the Limbang District. However demarcation has now receded to the present day Sabah-Sarawak border, near Mengalong now known as Sindumin.

The drive from the border between Sabah and Sarawak started from the border control post at Merapok and Sindumin. From there, one will head towards Sipitang. From Sipitang, the next major town will be Beaufort.

Beaufort was once an interesting place called Padas Damit. During the North Borneo Chartered Company days which then already controlled parts of North Borneo, the Company wanted to own all the lands in Sabah including Padas which at that time still was still governed by the Brunei Sultan under the leadership of a Brunei noble named Pengiran Shahbandar Hassan.

The Bruneians living around that region protested and the North Borneo Company sent in its army. During that battle, the North Borneo army failed to defeat the Bruneians. Part of the reasons, it was said that around the Manggalela Fort, the defenders had put up a white cloth curtain as a shield against the army and bullets supposedly did not go through it. Legend has it the shield was considered as ‘magical’ and ‘indestructible’.

However an interesting description of the battle named the ‘Padas Damit Battle’ can be found in the Sabah local government homepage which described the battle. There was no mention of any magic bullet proof curtain but what was important was the building of a very strong fort made up of eight foot tall round wooden pillars at Kampung Galila which prevented the well armed British army from attacking. And what was also important was the bravery of the locals who were only armed with knives and swords as opposed to guns and cannons.

It was a long drawn out battle and fought between the two sides from December 1888 to May 1889. The locals eventually lost when the British declared them as pirates and started to kill them one by one. The British eventually took over the area and renamed the whole area as Beaufort in 1895 after Governor Beaufort who was the British Governor based in Labuan then.

Istana Manggalela in Kuala Belait completed in 1958 was named after this historic fort in Padas Damit.

After Beaufort, the next major town will be that of Papar before reaching Kota Kinabalu itself.

Just about 10 miles from Kota Kinabalu, many sharp eyed tourists will be able to see the label for a major tourist site in Kinarut which is in the Papar District. The site was the former house of a rubber estate manager there. The house was Panorama Kinarut Mansion. A few pillars are all that remain of this once grand mansion of a rubber plantation manager.

Unfortunately, what was not sign posted was a former Brunei fort. There used to be the remnants of an old Brunei fort in Kinarut. This was the fort that was built by Sultan Hakkul Abdul Mubin when he retreated from Pulau Cermin during the Brunei Civil War. From here with the assistance of the local Bajaus and Dusuns he managed to repel attacks from Sultan Muhiyiddin even killing a few of Sultan Muhiyiddin’s Cheterias before returning and losing the final battle at Pulau Cermin.

The fort was strategically placed on top of a hill with two rivers flowing beside it and a view that can oversee a few small island in the South China Sea. The fort was so good that Sultan Hakkul Abdul Mubin stayed for about 10 years becoming the Sultan in Kinarut where he among others also managed to curtail piracy activities in that area.

According to a research done by the Sabah Museum, the fort used to be walled with steps leading from the fort all the way to the bottom of the hill. It was made out of clay and gravel and the buildings made out of bamboo and other local wood. The hill was also known as Belud Kota and is situated facing the town of Kinarut.

According to the local legends, Kinarut itself is an old town used by the Brunei Sultanate. Some said that the name of the town was derived when Chinese traders used to sell coal along the streets and the street was called China Road and over time becomes Kinarut. Though this is very unlikely as the period when Sultan Hakkul Abdul Mubin came to Kinarut was in the late 17th century. But what is very likely that the name Kinarut must have been derived because of early Chinese connections similar to Kinabalu and Kinabatangan.

The fort was said to have remained until the early 20th century but unfortunately the surrounding forest caught fire and destroyed the fort. It would have been interesting to see such a fort today.

Even upon reaching Kota Kinabalu, one failed to realize that less than a hundred years ago, the place was known as Api-Api. Wendy Suart wrote in her book ‘The Lingering Eye’ that “… there is in the [Sabah] State Museum a Dutch map of Borneo and the Celebes dated 1657 in which the settlement where Jesselton was to stand is clearly labeled Api-Api …” The area was owned by the Sultan of Brunei before it was acquired and renamed as Jesselton, named after Sir Charles Jessel, the then Vice Chairman of the Company. As Jesselton, many Brunei students flying out of Brunei would have taken their first jet ride from Jesselton in the 1960s. It was not until 1968 that Jesselton was renamed as Kota Kinabalu.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Brunei's Online Book Store

The quest for Year 6 text book continues. The other day, I happened to be at Bismi Gadong when a van drove in and dropped boxes of books - all new textbooks. It was interesting to watch the scene. There were quite a number of parents, students there and everyone started to hang around and wait for which books will now magically appear out of these boxes. After about half an hour or so, most of us realised that the Year 6 books which are not yet available will still continue to be unavailable.

Every time I tell this tale, I have been advised by parents and other interested people to go to this other bookshop somewhere else. The thing is, I have been somewhere else. In Brunei, if you cannot find it in one bookshop, you won't find it elsewhere. Trust me. I have been to the other bookshops.

Last night, interestingly enough, I opened my email and pop out this email:-

My name is Taj from I have been informed via my wife of your article of search of SPN Year 6 TextBook/Activity Book from your blogspot. I checked it out and saw your comment on your quering of the Year 6 books from us. Unfortunately, we are not sure via what means do you contact us, is it via our Facebook account "Nolly Brunei" ?

Indeed most Year 6 textbook/activity books are not available in Brunei due to delay in printing in Singapore. It is also affecting Year 3.

Just to share with you, to reduce our customer's visit to bookstore to check on the book availability, we at keeps our customer abreast on its availability when it hit our store directly from our sole distributor (other bookstores go to them as well ) , we will inform them via our Facebook status or email and immediately issue the books via home delivery. Delivery is free!

If you are still desperately searching for your kids' Year 6 and Year 3 textbooks and workbooks, you know where to go. Click on If you have not tried out online book buying before, this is the best time to learn.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Origins of the Calendar Months

[Note: I wrote this article over the last weekend of 2010 and emailed it to my BT editor whether they would like to run it. I did not receive any reply but apparently Brunei Times did run it. It was published yesterday.]


The Origins of the Calendar Months
By Rozan Yunos

Human beings have always been curious and have realized that the need to know and to keep time was useful to their lives especially in knowing when was the best time to sow and reap their crops. They look to the sun and the moon for their guidance. From these observations began all calendars with people recording time using the natural cycles of the moon and the sun.

The difficulty was that the Earth year does not quite round up nicely. The earth year is 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes 46 seconds long or 365.242199 days and the time between full moons is 29.53 days. At first the calendars need constant adjustment but the Romans eventually had the best calendar and that was used and had influenced us till today including the months that we used now.

The original Roman calendar had 10 months with 304 days in a year that began with the month of March. Over time, two additional months were added. A few names of the month were derived from Roman gods and goddesses. Most simply came from the numbers of the months or -- in two cases -- in honour of Roman emperors.

The month of January was named after Janus. Janus was the Roman god of doors, gateways, beginnings, endings including sunrise and sunset. He is shown as having two faces. One at the front and one at the back of his head supposedly to symbolize his powers.

The month of February was said to come from the Latin word Februa which is the Feast of Purification. This ancient Rome celebration celebrated the festival of forgiveness for sins. Februare is a Latin word meaning ‘to purify’. It is also possible that the month could be derived from another Roman god, Februus, the god of death and purification.

March was originally the first month of the Roman Julian calendar. March was derived from Mars, the Roman god of war and was considered as one of their most important gods. Mars was also regarded as the father of the Roman people.

April was originally Aprilis which is from the Latin word ‘aperire’ which means to open. Presumably this is because it is in April in which the buds begin to open. It also indicated a time of fertility and it is supposedly in this month that the earth was supposed to open up for the plants to grow. It is possible that Aprilis was originally called Aphrilis, a Latin name which comes from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love equated to the Roman goddess of Venus.

May was probably named after Maiesta, a Roman goddess of honour and reverence. She was also the Roman goddess of the spring and was the mother of Mercury by Jupiter and the daughter of Atlas. Maiesta was also known as Maia, the goddess of growth and increase.

June was named after another Roman goddess, Juno. She was the sister and wife of Jupiter. The Romans considered Juno as the guardian of all women and protector of their lives. However, it is also possible that both June and May came from iuniores (young men; juniors) as opposed to maiores (grown men; majors) for May, these two months being dedicated to young and old men.

July was named after Julius Caesar. Originally the month was named Quintilis (fifth month) but in 43 BC, he decided to use a purely solar calendar with 365 days and this calendar became known as the Julian Calendar. It ordained that three successive “common years” of 365 days should be followed by a fourth year with an extra day added to the month of February to make a total of 366 days. By adding 90 days in the year 46 - 45 B.C., Caesar also made spring begin once more in March. The Julian reform also reaffirmed January 1 as the start of the Roman calendar year. This calendar stayed in effect until it was revised in 1582 AD. Julius Caesar was the Roman General and statesman who laid down the foundations of the Roman Imperial System.

August was originally Sextilis (sixth month) from the Latin word sextu which means six, but the name was later changed in honor of the first of the Roman emperors, Octavius Augustus Caesar.

The last three months are based on numbers bearing in mind that the original calendar only ran for ten months from March to December. December was supposed to be the tenth and final month of the year.

September is derived from the Latin ‘septem’ meaning seven. September was Septembris in the Roman Calendar. October is derived from the Latin ‘octo’ meaning eight. October was Octobris in the Roman Calendar. November was Novembris in the Roman Calendar. December is derived from the Latin ‘decem’ meaning ten. December was Decembris in the Roman Calendar.

Even though we use calendars to help us manage our personal life, our schedules, our time and our activities, especially when each one of us has numerous work, school, and family commitments, not many among us know how calendars were derived and how the months were named.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Where are the SPN books?

I have been carrying this piece of paper for about 6 weeks now. Ever since, school closed and my son said that his teacher told him that these books must be purchased for the start of the school year in 2011 which is tomorrow, these books had to be acquired.

I thought it was simple. Bring the list to any bookshops in Brunei and buy the entire set. After the first bookshop, I realised it would it not be as simple as that. The books were not there. The bookshops could not tell me when they would be ready. There is no point leaving telephone numbers at any of the bookshops as they will not call you back, so the only way is to drop in almost everyday to these bookshops to check which ones are available. Up to yesterday, I am about 9 books short. But of these 9 books, two of them are textbooks for Science and ICT which means if these books do not arrive by today, my son and the entire Year 6 in Brunei will not be able to start their Science or ICT classes. If there is anyone reading this from the the MOE Curriculum Department, can I ask when these books are due to arrive?

I am actually quite used to having shortage of text books. When I was studying in Singapore, I did not have one Literature book until about July. I had no problem, I managed to acquire a copy of the book from my friend and photocopied the entire book. At that point in time, I was desperate. I did not care much about book rights, all I wanted was that I was able to study my literature. Now, does anybody out there have Star Science Year 6 textbook and Star ICT Year 6 textbook? I just wanted to have a look at them for about 15 minutes, you can have the books back after that. Promise.....

Saturday, January 01, 2011

So, you want to celebrate new year? Which new year?

[Note: I published this article on today's Brunei Times. It is a rehash of an earlier blog entry in 2007 if I am not mistaken and I wrote the full article for that and publish it in the New Year of 2008 for Brunei Times. I used that article as the basis for this one. Happy New Year 2011 to everyone.]


by Rozan Yunos

TODAY is the first day of 2011 AD. For those who did not know, AD stands for the Latin words "Anno Domini" or "the year of Our Lord" and as the Oxford Dictionary has pointed out AD refers to "the Christian Era". For those who prefer to use a non-religious connotation, they can use 2011 CE where CE referred to "Common Era".

Nowadays, the beginnings of the new years of the Common Era are celebrated generally. Many places have become unofficial centres. In London, it will be at Trafalgar Square where everyone will be counting down the last few seconds to the New Year; in New York, it will be at Times Square; in Barcelona, at the Gothic Quarter and Las Ramblas; at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin; at the Sydney Harbour just to name a few places around the world.

The modern New Year is often celebrated with the song "Auld Lang Syne" written by the Scottish poet, Robert Burns. Singing the song on Hogmanay or New Year's Eve was originally a Scottish custom that spread to other parts of the British Isles. As they emigrated around the world, they took the song with them. Celebrating the coming of the new year is relatively recent.

In the middle ages, nobody celebrated. Even the church was against celebrating AD new years, calling it paganism.

It was not until only about 400 years ago that the beginning of the AD new years were celebrated. Even then and now, not everyone celebrated the same New Year. Celebrating the New Year depended on which religion or culture one belongs to.

The Muslims had just recently celebrated the New Year which was on 7 December to mark the first day of the Muharram and the new Hijrah year of 1432 but come 26 November, 2011, Muslims will be celebrating the new year of 1432. The Jews will celebrate their Rosh Hashanah to mark the new year of 5772 in September. The Chinese will be ushering in the Chinese New Year 4708, the year of the Rabbit, the Korean for their Seollal and the Vietnamese for the Tet not until 3 February, 2011.

The Sri Lankans will celebrate their Aluth Avurudhu and Puththandu in April and a host of other cultures will celebrate their new years at different times of the year Iran, 20 March for Nowruz (together with Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan); Tamil, 13 April for Vishu; Telugu, March for Ugadi; Thai (for Songkaran) and Cambodia (for Songkan) on 13 April; Bengali, 14 April for Pohela Baisakh; and Gujarats in October a day after the Diwali festival unlike all other Hindus who will celebrate the New Year on the Diwali itself.

In Europe, if you belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church, the civil New Year falls on the Gregorian Calendar in 14 January which is actually 1 January of the Julian calendar. Many countries where Eastern Orthodoxy predominates such as Georgia, Jerusalem and Russia celebrate both the Gregorian and Julian New Year holidays, with the Gregorian day celebrated as a civic holiday and the Julian date as the a religious holiday.

If you study the history of the calendar, even celebrating the New Year on the first day of January is a bit off. The Gregorian calendar we are using today was based on the old Roman calendar and originally it only had 10 months December stands for the decimal 10 and the original months derived from Latin, hence September the seventh month; October the eighth month and November the ninth month. So New Year was in March!

However as the years went out of sync with the season, the months of January and February were added. Even this did not keep up and additional leap months were added from time to time to keep the calendar in sync with the four seasons.

In the older days, celebrating the New Year was not always done on 1 January. Some do it on 25 December (Christmas); some 25 March (Feast of Annunciation); some on the first Friday of April (Easter); some maintained it on 1 March as well as a number of other dates. Similar to today's multicultural and multi religion, the first of January does not always mark the beginning of the New Year.

It took more than 200 years for countries in Europe to synchronise the beginning of the new year. Venice did it in 1522, Sweden 1529, Germany 1544, Spain Portugal and Poland in 1555, Prussia, Denmark and Norway in 1559, France in 1564, Netherlands in 1576, Dutch in 1583, Scotland in 1600, Russia in 1700 and Britain in 1752.

Even as today when everyone accepted the first day of January as the beginning of the new year, there are parts of the world which is still on "last year". The world is now divided into time zones. The first day of the new year moves progressively from the International Date Line in the middle of the Pacific until it reached the that Date line again 24 hours later.

If you want to be the first to usher in the New Year, go to Caroline Island, part of Kiribati, a Pacific Ocean island nation while the rest of the world is still "last year".

That is the New Year. I will not say Happy New Year just yet. You could still be on last year's calendar. Or maybe I will wait and wish you the new year on 8 January or 4 February or any other days depending very much on who you are.

The Brunei Times, 1st January 2011

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