Monday, April 30, 2012

Description of Brunei in 1700

I was looking up something on The Brunei Museum Journal (1978) when I came across this map showing the Island of Borneo drawn way back in 1700s more than 300 years ago. The island is this unfamiliar shape but has some rudimentary look of how the actual Borneo Island is shaped. The cartographer who did this probably has more data on the southern part of the island as that is more developed and less knowledge on the top half of the island. I had a hard time searching where Brunei was located. I found it and circled it red.

The actual book was written by Rev Dr Francis Valentyn who was with the Dutch Reformed Church and was a missionary to the Indies in the late 1600s and early 1700s. He collected a lot of material and published in eight volumes entitled Oud en Niew Oust Indien (The Old and New East Indies) sometimes between 1724 and 1726. He also wrote a bit about Brunei including this short passage about us Bruneians in the past:

"... Further north or rather NNW, resides the King of Borneo in a village of the same name. The village is also situated on a very large river with a collosal bay, protected by the east and west by a reef with three small islands just in front of it. There are another three islands 12 1/2 miles ouside the reef, Poelo Tiga and another one named Monpaciam as well as a small unnamed island. Near these island is another reef extending itself in northeasterly-northwesterly directions ..."

"... Some people consider him the head king of the island and his village the capital city. The village is situated in a large swamp, which is innundated most of the time, so that it is necessary to use boats to reach the houses, about 2,000 - 3,000 in number, which are made of wood. The people are armed with bow and arrows. Whoever gets hit by their arrows is usually a dead man. They are strong, well built men, disloyal and untrustworthy in character, as our people have had to experience ..."

Poelo Tiga is actually Labuan. I did not know that it was Pulau Tiga in the past. There is some more description about Brunei but it was a tad too long. Maybe another time.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tracing the History of Brunei-China Relationships

Recently the Information Department launched the above book. The book is very interesting as it contained not just lots of stories about Brunei and China but also with photographs. I will not say much about it and here is the news release during the launching of the book by my colleague, the PS at PMO:


Bandar Seri Begawan, 29th March 2012 - The publication of a commemorative book 'Menjejaki Sejarah Hubungan Brunei-China' or tracing the history of Brunei-China Relations is important from a historical perspective and also from cultural, diplomatic, economic, social and trade aspects of both countries. Disclosing historical facts based on ancient Chinese documents has uncovered evidence of Brunei's glorious past. The Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office underscored the matter at the official launch of the commemorative book on Tracing the History of Brunei-China Relations.

Pengiran Haji Abdul Haris said that the publication of the book emphasises the long-standing and close relationship between Brunei and the People's Republic of China. He added that Brunei should be proud of the fact that although circumstances in the world have changed rapidly and the country's link with China has spanned more than a millennium, the relationship between the nations has remained close. This has been consequence of the country's understanding and respect, and is convinced that such cooperation will expand continually for the mutual benefit of both nations.

The Acting Deputy Director of Brunei Museums, Pengiran Doctor Karim, in his briefing touched on the background of the Tracing the History of Brunei-China Relations project that focuses on the history and archaeology carried out in Brunei Darussalam and the People's Republic of China. The 176-page book would provide understanding on the existence of the civilisation of the Brunei Malay Sultanate based on facts of the history of Brunei-China Relations. Meanwhile, art illustrations showcased at the exhibition among others recalled the ancient history of the Islamic Malay Brunei Sultanate, the location and nature of Kota Batu in the 13th century, the Limau Manis Residential area from the 8th to 10th century, the Arrival of the Chinese in Brunei, Merchant Vessels and the Arrival of Islamic Missionaries.

Courtesy of Radio Television Brunei


Note: You will have to ask the Information Department how to obtain the book.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Speeding Can Kill

It was 7.20 this morning when my wife was queuing up in her black Honda CRV waiting for her turn at the Rimba Highway traffic light junction to enter into the Royal Brunei Airforce HQ. She was just transferred there last week to be the Airforce Commander's PA. Suddenly she saw in her rear view mirror this grey car suddenly looming into view and even though she can hear the screeching sound of the car braking, she knew her car will be hit. The driver in the white KIA Cerrato in front of her also heard the sound. He knew someone was going to get hit. The crash came. The grey Hyundai Accent hatchback slammed into my wife's Honda CRV and bounced back. She in turn felt the Honda being pushed into the white KIA Cerrato also queueing up in front of her. The Cerrato was only a month old. Her Honda was three years old.

When I went there, I saw the long thread marks of the Hyundai's tyres on the road. There was no two ways about it. He was travelling really really fast and by the time he saw the queue of cars, there was no way he could have stop no matter how much brake power he had. He claimed he was travelling at just 80 km/hour. As if... The only consolation was no one got hurt. Our only consolation, his car looked a total write off. The Hyundai hit the towing hook of the Honda and that caved his engine in.

The hassle is that - the police report has to be done, the insurance claim has to be done, the workshop has to be done and not to mention the loss of the service of the car while it is still in the workshop. In between, I did not realise the number of documents that needed to be photocopied, the photographs etc. We were very lucky. The police was fast, kind, courteous and professional, so thank you to Corporal Kamsul of the Berakas Police Station. We did not encounter any problem at the Claims Department of the Takaful Am. Thank you too to Hayatul Izzati. These two brought comfort to an otherwise traumatic experience.

To my colleague, Dato Alaihuddin at MOC, Yes! Bring the demerit points system. Bring it on real fast. Speed fiends must be eliminated if we want to have safe roads in Brunei.

To all the drivers out there - DON'T DRIVE FAST. Speed can kill. It nearly did on this one. Alhamdulillah, the Al-Mighty is still protecting us.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Preparations for National Family Day 2012

The National Committee for the National Day Celebrations Meeting on 23rd April 2012

Bandar Seri Begawan, 24 April 2012 - The National Committee for the National Family Day celebration held their second meeting on the proposed celebration yesterday morning at the Digadong Hall, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

The meeting was chaired by Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hazair bin Haji Abdullah, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports. Also in attendance were Pehin Datu Lailaraja Mejar Jeneral (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohammad Yusof, the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Datin Paduka Hajah Adina binti Othman, the Deputy Minister, Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Hamid bin Haji Mohd Jaafar and Haji Mohd Rozan Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Yunos, the Permanent Secretaries at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports and senior officers and officials from the ministry.

The importance of family institution was recognised after His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam's titah at the official opening ceremony of the First Meeting of the 8th Legislative Council of Brunei Darussalam last month. The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports has collaborated with the Ministry of Home Affairs and will be organising the first-ever National Family Day celebration, which will be held nationwide on Sunday, May 6.

Some of the objectives are to strengthen and improve the wellbeing of families by bringing them closer together through collaborative programmes, which effectively will create a closer society and instill a greater awareness amongst the general public on the importance of family institutions in the development of the community

The event will be preceded by a thanksgiving ceremony, which will involve mass Maghrib and Isyak prayers followed by a recital of surah yaasiin and thanksgiving prayer in mosques and suraus throughout the country on Saturday, May 5.

The National Family Day will involve a series of organised activities, where families nationwide which will be divided into several zones to enable a larger participation by the local residents. Owners of restaurants and hotels have agreed to give special prices on National Family Day for their respective customers. The theme for National Family Day will be 'My Family My Aspirations'.

-- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin (with corrections) --

Note: The corrections made to BB's news are: 1. National Committee replaced High Committee 2. The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs was not mentioned in the news article despite his presence 3. the theme in English is corrected to My Family My Aspirations (Keluargaku Harapanku) which is the official translation, the one in the news article was My Family My Hopes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sultan Hassan's Canons: Islamic Law in Brunei from the 16th Century

[I wrote the following article for my Golden Legacy column on The Brunei Times. It was published on 23rd April 2012].


Sultan Hassan's Canons: Islamic Law in Brunei from the 16th Century

In a news article in The Brunei Times Last year, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during a meeting with members of the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) proposed the introduction of an Islamic Criminal Act to deal with crimes while maintaining the implementation of existing civil and religious legislations.

His Majesty noted that Brunei does not have an enactment that specifically handles criminal offences under Islam. His Majesty noted that despite the establishment of the Syariah Court, it was only influential in the area of Family Law. He stated that the establishment of the Syariah High Court authority was to fully manage the Islamic Criminal Act, as ordained by the All Mighty.

His Majesty also noted that Brunei has been implementing Islamic Law since the 17th century, and it was only recently with the intervention of foreign powers that Brunei had to or was rather forced to abandon it.

What is this Islamic Law which Brunei had maintained way back in the 17th century?

The late Professor Saedon Othman writing in his 1996 book entitled “The Implementation and Administration of Islamic Law in Brunei Darussalam” noted that before the British implemented its Civil Law, the main body of basic law in Brunei was Islamic law and that the law was well executed and administered and it was effective.

The law was initiated by the ninth Sultan of Brunei Sultan Muhammad Hassan (1582-1598) and implemented and enforced during the reign of Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar (1619-1649) and his son Sultan Abdul Jalilul Jabbar (1659-1660). It was widely known as the Sultan Hassan’s Canons.

Sultan Hassan’s Canons or Law dealt with almost all aspects of socio-economic life, including debts, bankruptcy, interest payments, trade, marriage and divorce, and general crime such as adultery, slander, murder, theft and burglary. It also covered a wide area of Islamic law, with at least 47 clauses complying with Islamic law.

According to Haji Metassim Haji Jibah in his article “Catatan Mengenai Hukum Kanan” originally published in Bahana (October to December 1980 edition) and later compiled in his book entitled “Dokumentasi” published in 2004, the Brunei Canons existence was noted by Sir Richard Windstedt in his book “A History of Classical Malay Literature” published in 1972. Sir Richard’s original article was written much earlier and published in 1939 in the Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.

Sir Richard noted that the Brunei Canons which he obtained dated 1709 was similar to the old Malay Laws which could also be found in Riau, Pahang and Pontianak. He thought that the Canons were either copied or based on the ‘Hukum Kanan Melaka’ (Malacca Canons or Laws).

Many latter day commentators disagreed that the Brunei Malay Canons and any other canons should not be considered as part of the old Classical Malay Literature as these are not meant to be literary works. Though a number argued that the Canons could be included, as any literary work during that period should be considered as Malay Literature.

The important question is: was the Brunei Malay Canons taken from the Malacca Canons of the same period?

The introduction to the copy of the Brunei Malay Canons kept at Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka published in a 2003 book entitled “Hukum Kanun” compiled by Haji Asri Haji Puteh, stated that the laws or traditions stated in the canons were originally from Sultan Iskandar Zulkarnain or better known as Alexander the Great.

When one compares the Brunei Canons and the Malacca Canons, there were similarities but there were also significant differences. First of all the Brunei Canons were longer with 44 chapters but the Malacca Canons only had 27 chapters.

Brunei’s Canons 44 chapters dealt with:

Chapter 1 – the Adat and the rights of the Sultans and the Royal Family with regard to clothing, colours and other accessories;

Chapter 2 – the language usage of the Sultans and the Royal Family;

Chapter 3 – the usage of the gold thread in mattresses, umbrellas and handkerchief;

Chapter 4 – punishment for crimes of murder and other capital offences,

Chapter 5 – punishment for the killing of another with the knowledge of the Sultans and other nobilities;

Chapter 6 – punishment for running amok;

Chapter 7 – punishment for killing slaves;

Chapter 8 – punishment for hacking and slapping;

Chapter 9 – the rights of the Bendahara, Temenggong, Shahbandar and Nakhoda in carrying out capital punishments;

Chapter 10 – punishments for kidnapping other people’s wives and slaves;

Chapter 11 – punishments for thefts;

Chapter 12 – punishments for adultery and accusing someone for adultery;

Chapter 13 – punishments for those who absconded;

Chapter 14 – punishments for those who accused each other;

Chapter 15 – punishments for those who used the services of a slave without the owner’s permission;

Chapter 16 – punishments for slandering, aiding and abetting a guilty friend

Chapter 17 – punishments for those who accepted payments to kill and beat people;

Chapter 18 – punishments for those who rebelled against the Sultan;

Chapter 19 – rules for selling fruits, wood and mortgaging farms;

Chapter 20 – rules with regard to land;

Chapter 21 – punishments for allowing not keeping cows in a cow sty;

Chapter 22 – rules for rice plantations burnt by another;

Chapter 23 – rules or guidance with regard to finding injured or hungry persons due to disasters, drowning persons in the sea;

Chapter 24 – punishments for stealing slaves from other countries;

Chapter 25 – rules with regard to marriages, the bride’s wali (guardians), the marriage provisions (syarat) and the marriage proclamation (lafaz);

Chapter 26 – rules with regard to marriage witnesses;

Chapter 27 – rules with regard to the number of witnesses;

Chapter 28 – rules with regard to what constitutes illnesses and diseases which makes a woman unable to be married;

Chapter 29 – rules with regard to divorces;

Chapter 30 – rules with regard to the measurement of gantang and cupak;

Chapter 31 – rules of trading and not allowing usury and interest, sales of alcohol, dogs and other haram products;

Chapter 32 – rules for trades of farm products including domesticated animals;

Chapter 33 – rules for loss of deposits in cases of debts;

Chapter 34 – rules for bankruptcies including promises during business transactions;

Chapter 35 – rules for trustees and punishments for the unlawful usage of the wealth in trust;

Chapter 36 – rules with regard to making pledges and who is allowed to make pledges;

Chapter 37 – punishments for apostates and rules with regard to the disposal of the bodies of apostates;

Chapter 38 – rules with regards to those who can be witnesses and also the rules with regard to sighting the new moon for the fasting month;

Chapter 39 – rules for claiming wealth (related to Chapter 35);

Chapter 40 – punishments for killing another Muslim;

Chapter 41 – punishments for those who committed adultery;

Chapter 42 – punishments for yelling obscenities at another;

Chapter 43 – punishments for drinking alcohol and other intoxicating drinks;

Chapter 44 – rules for cutting down trees.

According to Awang Metassim, the first to the twenty first chapters had similarities to the Malacca Canons. He noted that the Brunei Canons followed the traditions of Islam but the Malacca Canons were influenced by Hinduism. The Brunei Canons also focused on the rules of marriages.

Alas, space does not permit a longer discussion on this subject. Perhaps it can be visited again in the future.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Brunei Stamps 1906

The first stamps issued by the British Resident in Brunei were Labuan 1902/03 stamps overprinted with the word BRUNEI and the value of the stamps (photo credit: Rozan Yunos)

In 1895, Sultan Hashim issued the first Brunei stamps under a PPP under the guy who got the franchise went round selling those Brunei stamps as fast as he could. In those days, that was considered unfair and many stamp catalogues refused to acknowledge that as Brunei's first stamps. Even in today's Scotts Stamp Catalogue, you will not find the 1895 stamps listed.

The stamps many cataloguers consider as the first official Brunei stamps is the set above widely known as the Labuan Overprint. Brunei had its first British Resident administering the country in early January 1906. He set up the first Post Officce and ordered new stamps to be used. However those stamps for the new postal service. But those stamps did not arrive until 1907. Luckily for him, the Labuan Island's administration was moved under the jurisidction of the Federal Government and will not be using their stamps anymore. So the first Brunei stamps were those left over Labuan stamps and stamped with the word BRUNEI and the value needed.

Today these are worth around RM$2,400 as listed in Standard Stamp Catalogue of Malaysia Singapore and Brunei. Whereas the Scotts Stamp Catalogue at about GBP685. I managed to acquire it for much less than that.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

National Family Day

HRH Prince Abdul Azim together with Datin Hajah Adina, Acting Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports and Haji Mohd Rozan, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports meeting youths and NGOs on the National Family Day Celebrations to be held on 6th May 2012 (Photo Credit: Borneo Bulletin)
HIS Royal Highness Prince Haji 'Abdul 'Azim yesterday suggested that people refrain from using their mobile phones on May 6 and spend quality time with their families to make the inaugural National Family Day more meaningful.

Highlighting the importance of better communication among family members, HRH said this was one of the ways for making family bonds stronger.

As many people spend more time on their phones in this digital age, HRH said having fun with family members like having dinner together will go a long way in strengthening the family institution.

HRH was present at a dialogue between the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) and about 200 youth aged between 15 and 30, individuals representing special needs, youth and parent associations, students and former National Service Scheme (PKBN) participants, among others, aimed at bridging the gap between parents and children.

The MCYS said parents are spending less time with their children due to factors such as full-time working parents, peer pressure among youth to socialise outside of home, developments in technology and parents pressuring their children to attend tuition classes.

These have resulted in a breakdown of communication, and are stripping off spending quality family time together.

The interactive session at the ministry was also held to gather more ideas for activities for families to enjoy on the first National Family Day, themed "Keluargaku, Harapanku", which will be celebrated at 12 zones across four districts.

HRH said families should celebrate with each other by being together and doing fun things. "That is when you realise you have more things in common," he said, adding that was a way of reminding each other what family is all about.

The ministry has already planned various activities to be held nationwide, and HRH said all these will emphasise the importance of families and spending quality time together.

The Prince even encouraged writing cards to family member(s), to express their love and appreciation towards each other, if some may feel short of being close to their family or family member.

"That is the first step. If you are close (to your family), join in the fun and enjoy each other's company," HRH said.

"Take the first step and first initiative," he added.

Among some of the ideas shared by participants were having motivational talks among parents and children, circus carnivals, English song competitions on national family day among schools and even declaring every national day as a "public holiday".

The ministry acknowledged them and said they will look into it, and that some of them are already in the pipelines.

Meanwhile, a student questioned how technology can play a role in establishing relationships with family members, given that it is also an obstacle in bridging them together in society nowadays.
In response, HRH said there are certain cases where people tend to overuse technology.

"There needs to be a balance. You have to have human contact and speak with each other," he said.

Also in attendance were Acting Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Datin Paduka Hjh Adina Othman, Permanent Secretary Hj Mohd Rozan Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Yunos, Deputy Permanent Secretary Hj Ismail Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Setia Dato Paduka Hj Hashim, Acting Director of Youth and Sports Mariam Ulat and other senior officials.

Datin Hjh Adina also propelled the notion for families to allocate a certain time or day in spending quality time together, such as Sunday as a family day, as suggested by Smarter Brunei President Hj Malai Abdullah Hj Malai Othman.

The Brunei Times

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Brunei's First Stamps of 1895

In 1895, Sultan Hashim signed an agreement that allowed a company to produce Brunei stamps and sell them on behalf of the government while at the same time running the postal service from the proceeds which made this the first public private partnership in Brunei Darussalam. The post office was opened by the company, it is believed, on 22 July 1895 and a set of 10 stamps, which had been printed in Glasgow by the firm Maclure Macdonald, was placed on sale. These stamps were printed on unwatermarked paper with 14 gauge line perforations, with the values in British Trade dollars (then in circulation in Brunei).

The stamps are not that difficult to obtain as the stamps were then deliberately sold in quantity by the company to raise the proceeds. However used stamps are relatively rare and even ones with the postal cancellations were quite difficult to find. I was first offered the complete set with CTO (cancelled to order) about five years ago and the asking price was B$800 which I thought was a little steep. I declined on the offer which I regretted eventually. So I thought if I was offered a second chance, I will be willing to pay the asking price.

So this set came up on ebay a couple of weeks ago with the starting bid of GBP99 which I thought was high. However the stamps were postmarked 16 July 1896 (116 years ago!) and I certainly could not pass up on this chance again. I duly bidded and eventually there was only one other interested bidder and we fought to the end. The final price was GBP221 (B$435) which was a lot more than what I had wanted to spend but definitely a lot less than what I was asked to pay for five years ago. This is the first complete CTO for Brunei's first ever stamps and will go nicely with the two mint sets which I had already acquired.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Humanitarian Fund for Philippines Washi Typhoon Victims

Last Thursday, I chaired the meeting to close the humanitarian fund for Philippines' Washi Typhoon Victims. Before that we had all the organisations who had collected funds to present their collection to my Minister, Pehin Hazair and to the Acting Religious Affairs Minister, Pengiran Dato Bahrom. This is the 21st or 22nd fund that Brunei had established since the first one for the Ache Tsunami victims. Despite the many number of funds, Bruneians were still contributing. The total collection for the Washi Fund is B$202,491.35. Here is the news article I borrowed from Borneo Bulletin.


Bandar Seri Begawan - The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) yesterday received a total of B$202,491.35 in donations from several government and non-government agencies at a ceremony held at the ministry's building.

The donations were collected for three months from January 4 to April 3 for the victims of the Philippines Typhoon Washi.

Present as guest of honour and to receive the donations was the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Hazair bin Hj Abdullah.
There were seven contributors for the Philippines Typhoon, Washi Rind namely, the Prime Minister's Office and departments under it with total donations of B$5,407.41, handed over by Hj Mandi Mohammad Yussof.

The Ministry of Education and its departments presented a donation of $2,607; the Ministry of Development with $1,217; the Mosque Affairs Department with $10,258.83; Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah with $50,000, and another $1,981.41 collected from donation boxes allocated at the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Shopping Complex; DST Group contributing $5,000 and $42,350 from the SMS Brunei Prihatin initiative; and the $18,235.55 contribution from the Tulong Mindanao Charity Auction and Bazaar.

Acting Minister of Religious Affairs, Pengiran Dato Paduka Hj Bahrom Pengiran Hj Bahar also received donations at the event - from the Ministry of Defence and the Royal Brunei Armed Forces with $5,000; the Belait District Office donated $833; the Tutong District Office with $1,186.50; the Temburong District Office with $533.49; the Islamic Studies Department with $6,000; private schools amounting to $14,094.73; B-Mobile Communication donated $10,650 collected from the SMS Brunei Prihatin initiative; KatakIjau Humanitarian Action Aid with $1,000 and also some contribution from the National Disaster Management Centre.

The presentation of donations was then followed by the closing meeting of the Philippines Typhoon Washi Victims Fund committee, chaired by the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, Hj Mohd Rozan bin Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Yunos.

The meeting agreed that yesterday marked the closing of the fund officially, as well as the dissolution of the committee.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Celebrating 40 Years of MABBIM

[I wrote the following article for my column, The Golden Legacy on The Brunei Times 9 April 2012]


Celebrating 40 Years of MABBIM
by Rozan Yunos

Launching 40th Anniversary of MABBIM, 3 April 2012 at Rizqun Hotel

THE Language Council of Brunei Indonesia Malaysia (MABBIM) recently celebrated its 40th Anniversary in Bandar Seri Begawan. Many in the Malay literary world know that MABBIM (Majlis Bahasa Brunei Indonesia Malaysia) is responsible for the coordination of the Malay/Indonesian Language but not many know how it was formed, the history of the organisation and its effect on the Malay language.

It was His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah himself in September 2011 during the 50th Anniversary of the Language and Literature Bureau, who pointed out that in the 7th to 13th centuries, the Malay Language was so important that it was the "lingua franca" throughout the Malay Archipelago. From 1603 to 1708 at least twelve Malay dictionaries were known to be published by non-Malays so that Europeans could learn the language while trading in the region.

It was also in the 16th century that the Malay language was enriched with new vocabulary from Arabia, Persia and Hindi. Other changes were undergone at the same time with the introduction of the Arabic rhetorical style and changes in grammar based on oral speech.

From 1850 to 1957, the Malay Language saw the incorporation of more loan words from Portuguese, Dutch and English. By then, the state of the Malay language in the two largest Malay countries (Indonesia and Malaysia) in the region had gone beyond just incorporation of loan words.

The 1824 Agreement between the British and the Dutch saw the separation of the region into English and Dutch colonies. By the end of World War Two, the Malay Language had separated with Indonesia's romanised writing influenced by the Dutch whereas Brunei's and Malaysia's were influenced by the British system. The spelling of the words in both countries had also changed.

After independence from the colonial powers in the early 1950s, the Malay speakers in the region realised the need to standardise the various divergences in Malay in the region.

The Third Congress of Malay Language and Letters (Kongres Bahasa dan Persuratan Melayu) meeting in September 1956 attended by 500 delegates from Malaysia and Indonesia agreed among others that there should be formed a Language and Literature Bureau that can act as the custodian of the Malay language as well as the need to unify the spelling between Malaysia and Indonesia.

By December 1959, a committee of Malaysia and Indonesia experts was established to work on unifying the Malay language. A meeting in December 1959 established the Malindo Spelling System with January 1962 as the target date for its launching. However the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation postponed the implementation until September 1966.

Asmah Haji Omar in her article "The Malay Spelling Reform" published in the Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1989, noted that "when the warfare between Malaysia and Indonesia ended at the end of 1966, among the first items on the agenda of a detente between the two countries concerned was a common spelling system."

On May 23, 1972, a Joint Statement was signed by the two countries represented by their Education Ministers and it was in August 1972 that a common spelling system was to be adopted by the two countries. It was announced simultaneously in Indonesia and Malaysia on 16 August 1972, the eve of the anniversary of Indonesia's Independence. In Indonesia, the announcement was made by President Soeharto, while in Malaysia it was by the Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak.

A grace period of five years was given for the Indonesians and Malaysians to get used to the new system. In the meantime the two governments undertook a rigorous programme to implement the new spelling system. This included giving special classes to the people, especially teachers and administrators, on how to spell according to the new spelling system. In December 1972, the two countries agreed to form the Language Council of Indonesia-Malaysia (MBIM - Majlis Bahasa Indonesia Malaysia). This council consisting of language experts from Indonesia and Malaysia is tasked to be the main body which will coordinate all meetings pertaining to the Malay language including grammar, definitions, spelling and anything related to the language.

When Brunei joined in November 1985, the acronym MBIM changed to MABBIM (Majlis Bahasa Brunei Indonesia Malaysia or the Language Council of Brunei Malaysia Indonesia. Singapore joined as an official Observer in the same year.

In the last 40 years, what has MABBIM achieved?

The most important obviously is the common spelling in the region. There was this change to the consonant Malaysians "ch" and Indonesians "tj" to be spelled as "c" which for example "contoh" instead of "chontoh", "cuaca" instead of "chuaca" and "percaya" instead of "perchaya". In Indonesia, place names such as "Atjeh" and "Tjirebon" became today's more recognisable "Aceh" and "Cirebon".

The Indonesians "dj" became plain "j" for example Jakarta used to be spelled Djakarta. The Indonesians "sj" and Malaysians "sh" became "sy" such as "sharat" becoming "syarat".

There used to be a special "e" with a tilde above it. All diacritics were removed and only standard characters were used. Apostrophes and hyphens were removed. Reduplications using the figure "2" were removed such as "bermain2" became "bermain-main".

In the pure sciences, more than 21,000 new entries have been prepared with 6,480 entries for Chemistry, 5,257 entries for Physics, 4,289 for Biology and 58,017 for Mathematics.

In Social Sciences, 2,500 new entries for Anthropology, 2,750 for Photography, 400 for Golf, 58,071 for Culture and the Arts, 4,315 for Literature, 3,741 for Linguistics, 2,484 for Tourism, 4,971 for Education, 1,274 for Films, 5,439 for Political Sciences, 1,096 for Sociology and 1,816 for Legal.

In Applied Sciences, 1,985 new entries for Aeronautic, 901 for Archaeology, 2,325 for Automotive, 6,648 for Economic, 2,750 for Photography, 230 for HIV, 18,295 for Engineering, 4,513 for Finance, 4,497 for Livestock, 1,347 for Taxation, 1,274 for Films, 2,813 for Dentistry, 297 for Forestry, 4,178 for Fisheries, 8,315 for Agriculture, 21,249 for Medical, 14,773 for Information Technology and 3,845 for Veterinary.

Many dictionaries have been published for the above categories as well as one main dictionary comprising all the words of the three MABBIM countries called "Kamus Nusantara".

Most importantly MABBIM has been the venue and the catalyst for experts of the Malay language in various fields such as science, technology, social science and the humanities to meet and discuss new vocabulary which can further enrich the Malay language and make the language a dynamic one and adapted to suit the needs of a changing world.


Sometimes there is confusion between MABBIM and MABIMS. MABBIM stands for "Majlis Bahasa Brunei Indonesia dan Malaysia" (Language Council of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia) whereas MABIMS stands for "Mesyuarat Tidak Rasmi Menteri-Menteri Agama Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia dan Singapura" (Informal Meeting of the Religious Ministers of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore).

Monday, April 09, 2012

International Chess Tournament in Brunei

Officially launching the Brunei Campomanes Memorial Grandmaster Open at Orchid Garden
There is currently one international tournament currently taking place in Brunei which not many people in Brunei know about. I thought I will highlight that The Brunei Campomanes Memorial Grandmaster Chess Open 2012 is currently taking place at The Orchid Garden Hotel in Berakas.

The Chess Open is organised by the Brunei Chess Federation and I was lucky enough to have the honour to launch the tournament yesterday afternoon. The tournament is held in honour of Florencio Compamanes who was the former President of FIDE (1982 to 1995) and Honorary President (1995 to 2010), has passed away at age 83 in May 2010. Campomanes was often present at significant international competitions such as zonal and continental championships, chess olympiads and world chess championships including a few times here in Brunei Darussalam. For those who are curious FIDE stands for Fédération Internationale des Échecs or in English, World Chess Federation or more accurately International Chess Federation.

The tournament which began yesterday and will end on April 12 have several chess grandmasters including Olivier Barbosa of the Philippines, who was a silver medallist at the 2005 South East Asian (SEA) Games, and Dao Thein Hai of Vietnam, who claimed the gold medal in last year's SEA Games and was also the World Youth Champion in 1993. Prizes total US$10,000, with the Open Category winner getting US$1,500. There are special prizes and local prizes, as well.

What I did not know was that Brunei has one player which is already ranked in FIDE as FIDE Master (FM) Yee Soon Wei. His ranking points I have been told is 2200. To be a Grandmaster, it should be around 2500. The top 3 players in the world all have ratings of 2800 above, Magnus Carlsen (Norway) 2835, Levon Aronian (Armenia) 2820 and Kranmik Vladimir (Russia) 2801. The top 100 players have ratings above 2652.

If you are interested, you can visit the tournament now taking place at Level 8, Orchid Garden Hotel. But you have to be very quiet and switch off your mobile phones otherwise you will be affecting all those players.

Inspirational Quotes