Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Memories of the Brunei Regatta

[The Managing Editor of Brunei Times asked me to write about the regatta in time for the Brunei River Regatta last Sunday. Usually my article on my column The Golden Legacy is every Monday but because the regatta was on Sunday, the column appeared on Sunday too and was published on 22nd January 2012. This article is based on a 2007 article which I wrote about Berjanawari which is the Brunei word used for regatta in Brunei.]


Memories of the Brunei Regatta
by Rozan Yunos

THE Ministry of Home Affairs' decision to revive the Brunei River Regatta was certainly appropriate. The Brunei River has always been choc-a-bloc with activities. Though today's activities have been focused on using the river as the waterways with perahu tambang criss-crossing the river to bring the residents of the Kampong Ayer to the other side and vice versa. In the old days, there would be fishermen and also boat races along the river.

The word "regatta" was first used in popular English literature as far back as 1709. According to the Webster's Dictionary, a regatta originally referred to a gondola race in Venice, where a grand rowing match was held in which many boats or gondoliers are rowed along the Grand Canal for a prize.

Nowadays a regatta can refer to any boat race or series of boat races which can include both powered and unpowered crafts. The whole event or festivities leading up to the races is also term as the regatta. One of the longest running regatta is called Cowe's Week which has been held every August since 1826 on the Isle of Wight.

In Brunei, a regatta used to be called "berjanawari", a word which will crop up every now and then among elderly folks in Brunei. Many have said that the word "berjanawari" comes from the month January. For these folks, "berjanawari" conjures up the time when January was a festival month hence, "berjanuari". In fact, Bruneians called the people who celebrated during this period "Orang berjanawari".

By the 1950s, when Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien became the Sultan, the regatta was moved to September as that was the month of his birthday. By then, the name "berjanawari" was no longer appropriate and was dropped.

According to the explanation of this year's organisers, the Brunei Regatta is to bring back memories of the regatta in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. However many remembered the regatta on Brunei River was much earlier than that.

Some say that this regatta was first conjured up by the British as a way to celebrate their New Year here in Brunei Darussalam. In the early days, during the regatta, the river would be festooned with rows of British Union Jack flags rather than the black, yellow and white Brunei flags. It was also said that this was to celebrate the British Queen's birthday but for some reasons it was never called that.

To most Bruneians who lived in Kampong Ayer, before the World War and after, berjanawari is a most unique festival. It is a time when the river is jammed packed with boats. Some boats come "dressed" for the occasion and some boats are said to be berpanga decked with a roof on top.

This would be a time for spectators around Brunei who would come in their tongkangs and other large boats. In those days too, when the border was deemed an administrative boundary, Bruneians who lived in the non-Brunei areas would come flocking to Brunei.

Rowers and boats came from the other "rivers" near the Brunei River. They came from Lawas, Sipitang, Rangau, Baru-Baru, Awat-Awat and Limbang. The regatta which normally took place for about five days was organised by the Marine Department and was probably about the most unique event in Brunei then.

Due to the distance of the other rowers, the "foreign" rowers would come to Brunei with their family and stay here for those few days. Kampung Lela Menchanai was a favourite place for them to stay.

Some of the rowers would be bringing their own boats and race them against the other "river" teams. Some would be paid or sponsored to race for a Brunei team. This was also the time for cows to be slaughtered to provide food for the mercenary rowers as well as for the celebratory festivities.

There will be a series of races for the rowing boats, all finishing their races at the Royal Brunei Customs wharf in Bandar Seri Begawan or Brunei Town as it was called then. There were a number of categories including single rowers, a pair of rowers, a 20-men rowing team and a 30-men one.

The single rowers would race from Kampung Pengiran Pemancha to Customs Wharf, the double rowers from Kampung Pandai Besi, the 20 rowers from Jong Batu (just behind Istana Nurul Iman) and the 30 rowers from Luba (near Kampung Bunut).

The names of the boats or perahus used then were also household names. These included "Duri", "Seri Tamoi", "Paita" and "Santana".

Equally famous were the names of the "pencaruk" and "pengemudi", rather like the captains or players of today's football team. The pencaruk is the one sitting up front who shouts encouragement to his teammates and is like the team captain. The pengemudi is the one at the back, ensuring that the boat steers the right course. Famous names included Pengiran Damit, Pengiran Haji Daud, Haji Bakar Bayau, Yassin, Ibrahim Metali and others.

Many elderly people recalled that Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien himself was a famous pencarok and would shout words of encouragement to his teammates during the race. He had a difficult task of manoeuvring the boat as pencarok and as lead rower.

In the book "Memoir Seorang Negarawan" written by Dr Muhammad Hadi Muhamad Melayong, the author described His Highness Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien as a keen sportsman and one of his interest was to take part in boat races. His Highness team usually takes first prize and his boat named "Seri Gudam" designed by His Highness himself won as many as six times. Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien himself took part in the rowing boat races and also the fast boats. For the fast boat, His Highness designed the boat himself and in the construction of the boat, he would be assisted by Pengarah Haji Mokti and Haji Murah. Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien has been known to construct boats as his hobby at both Istana Darussalam and Istana Darul Hana.

In the latter years when outboards fitted with power motors of about 15hp entered the scene, there was a new set of players and teams. Now boats like "Pila-Pila", "Sporting Star", and "Garuda" appeared on the scene.

On the river banks too, there were a number of activities, rather like today's nightly birthday celebrations for His Highness. There were so many people who came to Brunei, especially for the regatta, that something had to be done to entertain the visitors.

There would be a number of stage performances such as "Pertunjukan Pentas Bengsawan", "Bangsawan Seri Noran" and "Bangsawan Si Bakir". These stage performances came from Singapore and Indonesia as well as the performers from Brunei. Even now, on the eve of the Regatta, performers and dancers from the Culture and Arts Division of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports performed various ethnic Brunei songs and dances.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Brunei: 2011 in Review

[The Oxford Business Group had this report about Brunei on 19th January 2012]

Brunei: The Year in Review

Brunei Darussalam’s economy closed out 2011 in good health, with GDP rising, inflation under control and plans to build on existing strengths and develop new opportunities. However, concerns remain over the slowing global economic growth and how this may impact the country.

Final figures have yet to be issued, but by most accounts the Sultanate’s economy had a steady year in 2011. In October the IMF lowered its growth forecast for the country’s economy, predicting that GDP would rise by 2.8% in 2011 and 2.2% in 2012, down from the 3.1% and 2.7% expansion the agency predicted in April.

The IMF’s revised forecast for Brunei Darussalam’s GDP puts the country’s expected rate of expansion below that projected for the global economy by the UN, which predicted a worldwide growth of 2.6% in a report issued in early December 2011.

The Sultanate is looking to exceed the expectations of international agencies, stepping up targeted investments to increase growth and broaden the base of its economy. In his address to the nation to mark the new year, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah said one of the main driving forces for the economy in 2012 would be the 10th National Development Plan, due to come into effect on April 1, 2012. Under the latest long-term development scheme, set to run through 2017, the main focus will be on reinforcing economic diversification efforts to further boost the economy and create more jobs, the Sultan said.

In particular, this will be achieved through creating a conducive business environment to boost growth in the private sector, continuing a theme stressed in 2011 when the government sought to implement reforms aimed at streamlining bureaucratic processes and facilitating trade. These reforms were highlighted by the World Bank in its latest Ease of Doing Business index, issued in late October. Brunei Darussalam jumped 29 places on the global rankings, placing 83rd out of the 183 countries assessed.

This sharp improvement, among the best in the world for 2011, was mainly a result of reforms such as fast tracking the processes for registering property, trading across borders and obtaining electricity connections. The government also established a dedicated state agency tasked with coordinating processes to improve the country’s rankings on the Ease of Doing Business survey and to monitor reforms so as to keep the process of reducing red tape on track.

While these reforms, and those to follow, will help foster growth and economic diversity, hydrocarbons remained the backbone of the Sultanate’s economy in 2011 and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. In 2011, fresh offshore reserves were identified, with a number of new oil fields set to boost the country’s stocks and extend the productive lifetime of the industry. These finds, as well as the enhanced extraction technology used to increase yields from existing fields, will help increase output after a few years of reduced production.

The oil and gas industry is expected to be given a new direction in 2012, when the government releases its long awaited energy white paper, which is intended to serve as the blueprint for the industry’s future. An outline of the plan was made public in September, with the initial plan showing how the country is looking to increase production and national income.

Under the outline of the paper, production could be increased fourfold from the current output, while far greater emphasis will be put on downstream activities, with the Sultanate to further develop its chemicals and hydrocarbons processing industries.

Brunei Darussalam is also looking to boost employment rates and domestic economic activity through the energy sector. In November the government announced that it wanted to see at least 70% of all positions in the oil and gas industry filled by locals, as well as an increase in the number of supply and service contracts awarded to domestic businesses.

The government will be hoping inflation remains under control after consumer prices rose by 2.1% in the first 10 months of 2011 and by 2.8% year-on-year as of the end of October, according to data issued by the Department of Economic Planning and Development in December. The Sultanate is susceptible to inflationary factors that are often beyond its control, having to import much of its foodstuffs and basic commodities, though state-backed initiatives to promote higher rice yields and better fruit and vegetable harvests will help reduce this dependence on overseas produce and cut costs.

As long as international oil prices do not slump, the Sultanate should be well placed to ride out any renewed bout of global economic instability. With strong fiscal reserves and a tradition of prudent management, both the state and the financial sector are insulated against a cooling of the global economic climate.

Though 2012 may be somewhat subdued in terms of domestic growth, the external price of oil is unlikely to put pressure on government finances, leaving the Sultanate in a strong position to build on existing plans to diversify the economy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Few Legends in Brunei Muara District

I first saw the title of this book in a list of references for one article in either Beriga (published twice a year by Dewan Bahasa) or Pusaka (published yearly by the Brunei History Centre), I can't remember which. I thought to myself then, I must find this book. That was about three or four years ago. I could never find it. Sometime last year, I saw this book being sold by Dewan Bahasa in Kuala Belait and I immediately bought it. Being a Dewan Bahasa book, the book is more than affordable. The list price is $4 but Dewan Bahasa sold it for $3.20 which is a 20% discount. The book was originally published in 2003 but Dewan Bahasa rencently republished it.

The reason why I wanted to read this book obviously was the title - A Few Legends in the Brunei Muara District. I wanted to make sure that I know of all the legends. When I finally got to read it, for me I found it greatly disappointing. It is a very short book and about 2/3 of it is spent on the theory of legends etc which would be great if this book was a thesis. The few legends listed in the book are all well known and I did not find any new one. Personally, I was very disappointed. However, since it only cost $3.20, I should not complain.

BUT, if you don't know much or any legends, then this is a worthwhile book for you to buy so that you can bring yourself up to speed with regard to Brunei/Muara legends. Ignore what I just wrote up there as I am reviewing this book from an entirely different perspective. There are eight tales of origin of legend plust maps where these places are.  At $3.20, that is a steal. Available at all Dewan Bahasa in Brunei.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Another 1970s Photo of Bandar Seri Begawan

I purchased this relatively old Bandar Seri Begawan photograph recently on the internet. This is a fairly common photograph and I have shown several versions about it. This view was taken from the mosque and over the years I have shown photographs and postcards showing the same view. But what I like about this particular photograph is the size of the photo, it was an 8R black and white and all the details came out well. This photograph was around the 1970s.

If you look closely behind the Borneo Theatre, you can make out the vegetables market. The filling station at the end of the road was still there, I remember that filling station was still there until the late 1980s as I had already started working at the Ministry of Communications then.

The old Police Barracks in the foreground was completely demolished to make way for the expansion of the Padang for the 1984 Independence Declaration and of course later on for the Yayasan Building project in the early 1990s. All the wooden shops along the street were later removed and became the location of the Yayasan Building. If I am not mistaken there was a fire too which gutted many of these old shophouses though I cannot recall when that was.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

New Road Names, finally....

The new road names are finally officially launched by the Minister of Development yesterday. It will take time to get used to these new names. These 15 road names and where they are as follows:-

Jalan Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha
Mukim Kianggeh, bermula dari simpang ‘T’ Jalan Haji Basir dan Jalan Sultan berdepanan dengan Bangunan Balai Bomba Bandar Seri Begawan

With this road, Jalan Tutong which used to begin from outside the General Post Office will have a break.

Jalan Pengiran Muda Al-Muhtadee Billah
Mukim Gadong B, bermula dari simpang empat Jalan Gadong dan Jalan Telanai menuju pusing keliling Kawasan 1 Perpindahan Mata-Mata

Jalan Permaisuara
Mukim Gadong B, bermula dari simpang ‘T’ depan Jalan Pengiran Babu Raja hingga simpang ‘T’ depan Jalan Telanai

Jalan Jame ‘Asr
Mukim Kianggeh dan Mukim Gadong B, bermula dari simpang empat depan Jalan Kumbang Pasang (SOAS) menuju pusing keliling Masjid Jame ‘Asr Hassanil Bolkiah dan menuju pusing keliling Jalan Pengiran Babu Raja

Jalan Stadium
Mukim Berakas A, bermula dari simpang ‘T’ depan Jalan Berakas sebelah kiri kawasan Angkatan Bersenjata Di Raja Brunei, menuju pusing keliling Pusat Persidangan Antarabangsa ke simpang Jalan Pulaie menuju simpang ‘T’ depan Jalan Berakas.

Jalan Dewan Majlis
Mukim Kianggeh, bermula dari simpang empat depan Jalan Menteri Besar menuju ke bangunan Dewan Majlis hingga simpang ‘T’ depan Jalan Kebangsaan

Jalan Pusat Persidangan
Mukim Berakas A, bermula dari simpang empat Jalan Stadium hingga simpang empat depan Jalan Menteri Besar

Jalan Pusat Dakwah
Mukim Berakas A, bermula dari simpang empat Jalan Kebangsaan dan jalan ke Kementerian Kebudayaan Belia dan Sukan, hingga pusing keliling Pusat Persidangan Antarabangsa

Jalan Landasan Lama
Mukim Berakas A, bermula dari simpang empat depan Kementerian Pendidikan hingga Pusat Latihan Kementerian Pembangunan

Jalan Pertahanan
Mukim Berakas A, bermula dari simpang ‘T’ Jalan Berakas hingga simpang empat Kementerian Pertahanan

Jalan Muhibbah
Mukim Berakas A, bermula dari simpang ‘T’ depan Telbru hingga pusing keliling Kementerian Pembangunan
Jalan Pembangunan
Mukim Berakas A, bermula dari simpang ‘T’ depan Pusat Pemprosesan Mel hingga Pusat Latihan Kementerian Pembangunan

Jalan E-Kerajaan
Mukim Berakas A, bermula dari simpang ‘T’ Jalan Perindustrian Beribi hingga simpang T Jalan Pengiran Babu Raja

Jalan Dato Haji Ahmad
Mukim Berakas A, bermula dari simpang ‘T’ Jalan Pertahanan hingga hujung jalan

Jalan Industri Beribi
Mukim Gadong, bermula dari pusing keiling Jalan Pengiran Babu Raja hingga pusing keliling Perindustrian Beribi

All information provided by the Survey Department. Thanks so much....

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