Tuesday, December 13, 2011

SMS Donations

Datin Adina, Acting Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports receiving contributions from donors through DST (Source: The Brunei Times)
The other day, I was accompanying our MCYS Deputy Minister, Datin Adina who was then Acting Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports to receive contribution from donors through sms using DST and B-Mobile. DST subscribers contributed about $38,000 and B-Mobile subscribers contributed around $28,000. These donations will go to the Orphans Fund.

Sms contributions is not new to Brunei. We first started using it for the Acheh Tsunami victims around 2004 and later on for the Orphans Fund. At that time the Orphans Fund received some $300,000 about 5 times more than what we received nowadays. Sms donations have been done so often that subscribers have been too inundated that the amount that can be collected has became much less. Lately it was the turn of the flood victims of Thailand and Cambodia.

How do we increase the amount collected? These are all good causes. Perhaps readers out there can point out the other innovative ways of doing this.

Monday, December 12, 2011

New Nama Jalan

I remembered complaining about the lack of road names years before I joined MOD. When I was at MOD, the Jawatankuasa Kebangsaan Nama Geografi was just beginning its task in recommending for road names. Sometime last year MOD started labelling new names for roads outside Municipal areas and if you are paying attention, you will see names such as Jalan Utama Tungku, Jalan Utama Mentiri and the likes. Even for the new housing area in Panaga, the roads are named after birds, Jalan Kruak, Jalan Parak and etc.

Even the road in front of the Istana Nurul Iman is now called Jalan Pengiran Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha, the name is used for the stretch of road from the Edinburgh Bridge to the Telanai traffic light. Pretty soon we will have more new names for a number of roads mostly unnamed at the moment and you can probably guess where these roads are:

Jalan Pengiran Muda Al-Muhtadee Billah
Jalan Permaisuara
Jalan Jame Asr
Jalan Industri Beribi
Jalan Stadium
Jalan Dewan Majlis
Jalan Pusat Persidangan
Jalan Pusat Dakwah
Jalan Landasan Lama
Jalan Pertahanan
Jalan Muhibbah
Jalan Pembangunan
Jalan E-Kerajaan
Jalan Dato Haji Ahmad

I have problem thinking where the last two will be. I was told that the launching of these new road names will be sometime in January next year.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Brunei Heart of Borneo

During the 8th Heart of Borneo Council Meeting, His Royal Highness Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince as the Royal Patron of the Brunei Heart of Borneo graced the meeting and listened to the briefings on the works of the Heart of Borneo.

Before the meeting, he was presented with a book entitled "Brunei Heart of Borneo: Its Journey". The book was published by the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources with help from Brunei Shell and the Forestry Department.

The book contained the history of the Heart of Borneo and everything you ever need to know about the HoB including its strategies, its challenges and where it wants to go.  It also contained a list of endemic plants of Brunei. These plants are only available in Brunei Darussalam and cannot be found or not much can be found elsewhere. It shows how unique Brunei can be.

I am not sure whether the book is for sale. However it does inside the covers that if you want copies of the book, the person to write to is the Chief Executive Officer of the Brunei Heart of Borneo, c/o Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Royal Regalia Coffee Table Book

When I was first posted to the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, my first thoughts were that this would be an interesting ministry to work in especially given my interests. This has proven to be true. Recently I was asked to be the Guest of Honour for the launching of the book marking the 15th anniversary of the Royal Regalia building at the where else but the Royal Regalia Building itself.

It was sometime ago in 2009, that the Museums Department signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the publishing of a book entitled Coffee Table Book: The Royal Regalia of Brunei Darussalam.

The book is aimed towards increasing interest and appreciation for the country's Royal Family history and to promote the Royal Regalia as a tourist attraction and provide visitors with a souvenir to generate more international interest in Brunei. More than 100,000 visitors visit the Royal Regalia Building every year. This initiative was undertaken by the Museums Department in collaboration with sponsorship by DST Group and Digital Impressions.

Unfortunately the book was not launched sooner for various reasons. Now, the book is finally launched but with slightly dated information. The foreword is written by the previous Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Pehin Ahmad Jumat and the preface is written by the now retired Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, Dato Jemat Ampal.

Together with Bantong Antaran, Director of Museums (Photo Source: The Brunei Times)

Despite that small shortcomings, the book contained a montage of the Royal Regalia including the grand Royal chariot, ceremonial armoury, jewel-encrusted crowns and clothes used during the coronation and a replica of the throne in which His Majesty sits on during state occasions.

 Bantong Antaran said that the book aims to become an important source of reference about the Royal Regalia not just in Brunei but also outside the country. "By promoting this book, we hope to contribute positively to the tourism industry," said the Director adding that the book will provide convenience as people could view the Royal Regalia buildingin their own time. As the book is currently a Limited Edition, it is only available to official visitors as a souvenir from the Royal Regalia Museum. The Director of Museums said the prints for the public sale will be ready in the near future.

The Royal Regalia building represents one of the most significant landmarks in the country. Glorious displays of symbols portraying historical artifacts of a 600-year-old monarchy including art, culture and Brunei's heritage are exhibited at the building in the heart of the capital.

The Royal Regalia building, which abides by the national philosophy of Melayu Islam Beraja or Malay Islamic Monarchy, was completed in September 30, 1992 to promote research and stimulate interest in the rich cultural and natural heritage of Brunei. It was opened to the public in the same year by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in conjunction with the Silver Jubilee of His Majesty's accession to the throne.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Remember, Remember, the 8th of December

[This is an updated entry of an earlier entry I made in 2009. The entry was as relevant then as it is now.]

Exactly 49 years ago today, some people thought they heard fireworks. They were wondering why fireworks? Thy did not know that it was not fireworks that they heard. It was the sound of small arms fire. A group of people decided that they needed to take matters into their own hands.

Ask many people who had gone through those era and you will get many tales which you don't or even expect to hear today. I was not born yet. I was a two month old fetus in those days. My father was an Administrative Officer Cadet at the Belait District Office. My mother told me that she and my father had to sleep on the floor in case any stray bullet went through their wooden government quarters in Kuala Belait.

One uncle told me that he was almost shot at by another uncle when he as members of the armed guards of BSP went to the Panaga Police Station to take refuge. The police shot at them because they thought the guards wanted to attack the police station.

A group of people burst through my father in law's shop in Muara demanding bullets. In those days bullets are sold through licensed shops.

One of my former officers told me how his father who was a warden at the SOAS College hostel walked from Kiulap to ensure that the boys were fed. He did not come back until later at night and his family thought he had died.

The one and only memorial dedicated to the events of 8th December is currently inside the ferry passenger terminal building in Bangar. The memorial is dedicated to a number of Bruneians who were killed during the turbulent period.

What I know about what happened 49 years ago was what I heard and read. A number of books had been written about it. Today my entry is about those books which you can go to the bookshops and buy them for yourselves.

"Remember, Remember, The 8th of December." Our own HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah wrote this book. Published by Brunei Press in 2007, this one is easily available at any bookshops in Brunei. This one is an easy read and contained lots of photographs making it probably more dramatic and makes the pain of the fight of Bruneian versus Bruneian more intense.

HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah wrote that "... if we are going to enter this new era confidently, then each of us has to remember our past, acknowledge it and respect it. That's what the founders of ASEAN did and that's what we all must continue to do so. In Brunei this means we have to come to terms with what happened forty five years ago, on a grim, dark Saturday morning, early on the 8th of December, 1962 ..."

This book is easily available at most bookshops in Brunei.

Title: "Remember, Remember, the 8th of December"
Written by: HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah
Published by: Brunei Press Sdn Bhd
Year published: 2007
ISBN: 99917-32-18-17

"Rebellion in Brunei: The 1962 Revolt, Imperialism, Confrontation and Oil" written by Harun Abdul Majid.

I wrote an entry about this book a few months ago which you can link here. This book is written by Datuk Harun Abdul Majid, one of our local businessmen. This book arises out of his dissertation when he was doing his Masters at King's College in London and he carried out his research at the Department of War Studies there.

What's different about Datuk Haruns's book is that his view is seen from the larger regional 1960s Malaysia-Indonesia conflicts. A number of British servicemen who served in the region noted the fighting in Malaya and Brunei was part of the Small Wars which the British soldiers, sailors, and airmen from Britain and the Commonwealth have been fighting to defend Britain's shrinking empire since the end of World War Two.

Professor Michael Clark, Director of the International Policy Institute of the King's College wrote that the book 'contains a lot of colourful material which is genuinely original and throws some new light on an interesting military operation of the 1960s.'

I have not seen any bookshops in Brunei carry this book but the book can be bought online and cost a fair bit at around US$79.

Title: "Rebellion in Brunei: the 1962 Revolt, Imperialism, Confrontation and Oil"
Written by: Harun Abdul Majid
Published by: I.B. Taurus and Co Ltd, London
Year published: 2007
ISBN: 978-1-84511-423-7

"Brunei 1839-1983: The Problems of Political Survival" written by D.S. Ranjit Singh.

This was probably one of the oldest modern book about Brunei history. Published by Oxford University Press in 1984, the book remained for quite a while one of the most comprehensive written about Brunei's modern history. Ranjit Singh was a lecturer in University of Malaya when he wrote the book at the time when Brunei was taking her tentative steps towards full independence.

It traced how Brunei's rulers struggling to maintain Brunei's autonomy and control Brunei's destinies despite the British and Western Imperialism in the 19th century. The success and the turbulent times of the 1950s and 1960s pave the way to Brunei's sovereignity and independence in 1984.

This book is almost impossible to get hold of brand new now. I was lucky to have found a copy at the Select Books in Singapore many years ago and I doubt if you can find it today in any book shop. Most libraries will have this book though.

Title: "Brunei 1839-1983: The Problems of Political Survival"
Written by: D.S. Ranjit Singh
Published by: Oxford Univ Press
Year published: 1984
ISBN:  0195825713

"8 Disember: Dalangnya Siapa?" Written by our national historian and our Principal of Brunei's History Centre, Yang Berhormat Pehin Jamil and published by Brunei History Centre in 2003 is an official account of what happened on that fateful day in 1962. Surprisingly I was also informed recently by one of his officers that that fateful date is also Yang Berhormat Pehin's birthday.

In his introduction, Pehin wrote that this book tries to depict a part of the many events related to the 8th December and at the same time trying to trace the origins and the many issues related to it. He admitted that in writing the book, there are many other evidences and events which needed to be learnt and researched. In the end, he hoped that this book will raise people's awareness of what happened and the way to move forward '... menimbulkan semangat kesedaran berbangsa dan bernegara: Brunei Darussalam ...'

This book is available from Brunei History Centre and local bookshops in Brunei.

Title: "8 Disember: Dalangnya Siapa?"
Written by: Pehin Jawatan Dalam Seri Maharaja Dato Seri Utama Dr Haji Awang Mohd Jamil Al-Sufri
Published by: Pusat Sejarah Brunei, Kementerian Kebudayaan, Belia dan Sukan
Year published: 2003
ISBN: 99917-34-27-9

"Pertumbuhan Nasionalisme di Brunei (1939 - 1962)". This book written in Malay by Dr Haji Zaini Haji Ahmad was published in 2004 and contained the forewords of Pehin Jamil.

Dr Haji Zaini (full name: Dr Haji Zaini bin Pehin Orang Kaya Shahbandar Dato Setia Awang Haji Ahmad) wrote it as an insider and was one of the main character of the 1962 event. This book is actually rewritten from an earlier book published by the writer below.

Pehin Jamil described the book as interestingly written and recorded a part of Brunei's history which is still actively discussed. Even though the event remained a painful and bitter event for Brunei, we can only learn from it and pray that it will not be repeated in the future.

This book is available at selected bookshops around the country for the price of $12. The last time I checked, only Kedai Buku Mega has it. Try also Book Lane at Delima, that shop tended to have unusual collection.

Title: "Pertumbuhan Nasionalisme di Brunei (1939-1962)"
Written by: Haji Zaini Haji Ahmad
Published by: Haji Zaini Haji Ahmad
Year published: 1989, 2nd Edition: 2004
ISBN: 99917-48-18-0

"Brunei Merdeka: Sejarah dan Budaya Politik". This book was published earlier by Dr Zaini in 2003. This is actually based on the manuscript that he wrote as his PhD thesis at Universiti Malaya in 1996. Its contents is almost similar to the latter book above. It also contained the forewords of Pehin Jamil.

The book is divided into 10 chapters. It started with the old histroy of Brunei and end with the Brunei scenario of 1962 and the events and questions surrounding it. I will not try to summarise the book but hoped that you are able to read it for yourself and find out what the end is.

The book is also available at selected bookshops throughout the country. The copy that I have, I bought it from Bismi for a rather expensive $23. Despite the price, the book is invaluable in the amount of knowledge it gave me. So I do hope you too will try to read the book.

Title: "Brunei Merdeka: Sejarah dan Budaya Politik"
Written by: Dr Haji Zaini bin Haji Ahmad
Published by: Dr Haji Zaini bin Haji Ahmad
Year published: 2003
ISBN: 99917-34-01-9

"Sejarah Brunei: Menjelang Kemerdekaan". This book published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Malaysia is written by a Malaysian and two Bruneian.

The Malaysian was Professor Sabihah Osman from UKM and the Bruneians were Dr Muhamamad Hadi, who was the Deputy Principal at Brunei History Center and now the Director of Information and Sabullah Haji Hakip, an Education Officer at MOE.

This book tried to avoid the usual historic theme of glory and fall but focused on several themes which are important to the Brunei's history. The book read more like a collection of essays written by the three historians but at the end does try to be more like a book. It has interesting photographs of Brunei's fishing industries and equipment as well as other photographs.

The copy that I have I bought from Kedai Buku Mega in Kiulap for $22. I have not seen any other book shop carry this book.

Title: "Sejarah Brunei: Menjelang Kemerdekaan"
Written by: Sabihah Osman, Muhammad Hadi Abdullah & Sabullah Haji Hakip
Published by: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur
Year published: 2001
ISBN: 983-62-4816-1

There are other history books out there which if you are really interested. One interesting book is entitled 'Partai Rakyat Brunei: Selected Docements' edited by Haji Zaini Haji Ahmad, published by Institute of Social Analysis (INSAN), ISBN unknown, another is 'A History of Brunei' written by Graham Saunders, Professor Hussainmiya's various books are also good and not to forget HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah's first book 'Time and the River: Brunei Darussalam 1947-2000' is also a very good read. The first two published more than 20 years ago are not found in Brunei but the latter ones are all available at good bookshops around the country.

One very recent book published by Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah also contained interesting background materials to the events of 1962.

Title: "R.H. Hickling's Memorandum Upon the Brunei Constitutional History and Practice"
Introduced by: B. A. Hussainmiya dan Nicholas Tarling
Published by: Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah under the series Brunei: Traditions of Monarchic Culture and History
Year published: 2011

You can link here to read more about the book including the book review (in Malay) which I did during the launching of the book at the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah on 19 May 2011.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Nanjing, Bandar Seri Begawan's Twin City

[Brunei Times asked me to write an article about Nanjing becoming Bandar Seri Begawan's twin city and it was supposed to be published on 21st November 2011. I could not meet that deadline as I was coming back from Bali together with His Majesty's entourage after attending the ASEAN Summit. The article was published a week later on 28th November 2011.]


Nanjing, Bandar Seri Begawan's Twin City

What do these cities have in common with Bandar Seri Begawan? Alsace in France, Barranquilla in Colombia, Belo Horizonte in Brazil, Bloemfontein in South Africa, Daejeon in South Korea, Dallas in the Unites States, Eindhoven in the Netherlands, Florence in Italy, Hauts-de-Seine in France, Leipzig in Germany, Limassol in Cyprus, London in Ontario, Canada, Malacca in Malaysia, Mexicali in Mexico, Nagoya in Japan, Perth in Australia, St Louis in the United States and finally Sunderland in United Kingdom.
Nanjing Waterfront photo from sites.google.com

These cities and Bandar Seri Begawan belong to a special club. They are all twin or sister cities of Nanjing, China.

The establishment of Bandar Seri Begawan as a sister city of Nanjing was signed by Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and Ji Jianye, Mayor of Nanjing, Jiangsu Province on 21 November 2011 on the occasion of the visit of Wen Jiabao, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China to Brunei Darussalam. Nanjing is Bandar Seri Begawan’s first ever twin city.

Mayor Ji noted that both Bandar Seri Begawan and Nanjing “…have a historical link of more than 600 years, with the Poni King (Brunei was historically known as Poni) visiting Nanjing, the China capital back then (during the Ming Dynasty in 1408) …”

Indeed, it was about 53 years ago that on 12 May 1958 that villagers at the Village of Yinxi at Yu Hua Tai District, a few kilometres away from the city of Nanjing in China discovered a relic in a nearby forest near a hill.

It was a giant tortoise with a giant tablet on its back. When experts read the texts carved on the tablet, they were amazed to discover that the tablet was describing the tomb of a king from a foreign country, who died while visiting China in 1408. The tablet told a fascinating tale of a visit by a King called Ma Je Ka Na from the Kingdom of Poli. It seemed that in August of the sixth year of the Reign of Yongjie of the Ming Dynasty (1408), that King visited China with a delegation of 150 people including his wife, brothers, sons and entourage.

When the delegation arrived in China’s Fujian Province, the then Chinese Emperor Chengzu (1403 to 1424 AD) immediately sent officials to greet them and ordered that wherever the delegation arrived a banquet should be hosted. After a long journey of friendship and feasts, the delegation finally arrived in Nanjing, capital of the Ming Dynasty, and was warmly welcomed by Emperor Chengzu.

According to Ming Tai Zu Shi Lu – the veritable records of Ming Emperor Taizu, Volume 83: “On the Bingwu Day of the 9th month of the 6th year of the Yongjie Reign (September 20, 1408), the Ministry of Rites said there should be some set rituals for the Boni king to observe when he met the princes. The emperor said, “… Boni is a vassal state of ours. So let him follow the etiquettes of the high officials when they visited the princess.” The regalia and official chair were presented to the Boni king, and water pots and basins were all made of silver. He was also granted with umbrellas and fans made of white gauze, two horses with gold decorated saddles, gold-thread-woven brocades, and ten suits of silk clothes. The king’s wife, brothers, sisters and attendants were all bestowed gifts according to their ranks. Male members of the Boni delegation wore Chinese-style clothes whereas the females were dressed in their own style …”

Unfortunately, the King fell ill in Nanjing, where the Emperor ordered his imperial doctors to treat and take good care of him. The King was buried on Shizi Hill outside the Andemen with the burial rites normally offered to kings. According to history, Poli was one of the ancient names of Brunei. As far back as the 14th century, the King and his envoys had been visiting China. That visit in 1408 comes after a series of other visits.
Who was that King of Brunei who died in Nanjing? According to the Brunei History Centre, even though the King was not mentioned in the Brunei Salasilah, that King called Ma Je Ka Na and described as Maharaja Karna by the Chinese was in fact Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan. He reigned in Brunei from 1402 to 1408. In the genealogical table produced by the Brunei History Centre, Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan was placed in between the first Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Muhammad and the second Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Ahmad.

Nanjing is indeed an old settlement. Human activities in Nanjing have been traced to more than 6,000 years ago. The villages of primitive race were said to begin here. It was more than 2,400 years ago when the original settlers began to build a city.

Nanjing was established as the capital city for the six dynasties of Dongwu, Dongjin, Song, Qi, Liang and Chen from the third to the early period of the fifth century as well as the later dynasties of Nantang and the Ming.

The name Nanjing was established in 1368 when Zu Yuanzhang become emperor. Nanjing became China’s first political centre. It was also estimated that that from the mid 14th to the 15th century, Nanjing was probably the largest city in the world with a population of almost half a million people.

In 1421, Emperor Zhu Di relocated the capital to Beijing. Nanjing did become the capital a few times after the move to Beijing. However after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Nanjing became the provincial capital of Jiangsu.

The modern Nanjing city has made tremendous improvement to the lives of its inhabitants. In 2008, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) awarded the ‘2008 Habitat Scroll of Honour Special Citation’ to Nanjing Municipal Government for its bold, distinct, exemplary and comprehensive redevelopment, revitalization and improvement along the Qinhuai River which runs through Nanjing.

The city backed a comprehensive improvement and redevelopment program to overcome health dangers posed by industrial and human pollution of the river. The city also delivered affordable housing, put in place flood prevention measures, relocate business and industries and implement a new waste management system keeping all effluents away from the river.

Both Bandar Seri Begawan and Nanjing will hopefully benefit from being sister cities and will enable both to expand their economic potential in Southeast Asia and strengthen relationship between the two cities via frequent exchanges in cultural and tourism activities.


Friday, December 02, 2011


My brother called me up and said that I had a wide smile when His Majesty was talking to me. So I had to search infofoto.gov.bn and found this picture. It was during the Santap at the end of the Majlis Penyerahan Rumah-Rumah Sungai Buloh last Wednesday. His Majesty said that now that I am in the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, I have to start running and do sports!

For those wondering about the infrequent posting latley, let me just say that so many things had been happening over the last two months - highs and lows and in-betweens. My beloved aunty, Hajah Armah binti Haji Mohd Hussein, who has been like a second mother to all of us, her nephews and nieces passed away a month ago. I saw her before I went off to Beijing to attend an International Conference on Women and Sustainable Development and on the day I came back, she was in her final stages. We pray that the Al-Mighty will place her amongst the chosen ones. So, it was with sad heart when I had to fly off again a few days later to Bali for the Informal ASEAN Ministers of Culture and the Arts Meeting and the signing of the ASEAN MOU on Culture during the ASEAN Summit.

Another father figure, Pehin Zakaria, my former Minister of Communications, and from my own Kampong Lambak also passed away not that long ago. I remembered when he was my minister in the 1980s. My wife had been working with him since he was Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs way back in the early 1980s until 2005. We pray too that the Al-Mighty will place him among the chosen ones.

Personally, my son recently took his PSR. He improved tremendously over his school exams results. Though he did not get the coveted 5A, his 4A 1B was good enough for me. 17 out of 23 students in his class got the coveted 5A and we congratulate all the 17 as well as the other 6 who just fell short. Our advice is that this is just the beginning and all of you must continue to strive harder for the rest of your school career.

As for me, the move to another Ministry means the 13th time I have been transferred throughout my career. As my other career moves in the past, I hoped that I have done enough at my previous place and leave it a better place before I came in and will hopefully do as well in my new place. MOD now has the new divisions ABCi, LHE, STI and the IIP and a nice SP. I have always been asked how I felt about the move. All I can say is that I will continue to serve the public in whatever ways that I can.

This year has been quite a year tinged with sadness but also with achievements. The Social Media Forum went well. The MIB paper at UBD. The Keynote Address at the Borneo History Seminar. The launch of my third book, OUR BRUNEI HERITAGE. I pray and hope that 2012 will be a much better year. Thank you to my better half, Hajah Nafisah who has been the strong support, my precious little one, Md Nafis for giving joy to us, and to my parents and families who have always been supportive of us.

Inspirational Quotes