Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Reality in Advertising

I am currently on leave and a number of people asked me why should I go on leave during the Hari Raya period. The number one reason is that my son is moving to another school and this other school requires a lot of preparation. For instance, my son had to go for an interview, a written test etc and not to mention when he was finally accepted, we had to buy new school uniforms, books and also went for the Induction Day. Leaving the other school also means that there is a number of administrative things that we had to do. And as with most Brunei kids and our ugama school parallel, leaving one school actually means leaving two schools and getting into another two schools. So it has been fairly hectic for us in the family.

Regardless, it does mean that we have a bit spare time especially in the morning and afternoon and we had been fulfilling those time by going to a number of cafes and eating places for breakfasts and lunches. One of the places we discovered that are opened early in Brunei was the famous fast food chicken place.

What bugged me was that whenever you looked at the menu displayed in the board of these fast food places complete with the photos of the items, you are very much tempted by those photos. My wife ordered a morning riser which is basically a chicken and egg sandwich, in the photograph, you will find that the sandwich looked very big with the cup of coffee very small in the background. When it finally arrived on our table, the tiny cup of coffee was very much bigger than the sandwich and it really does not look as wholesome as the ones in the photo. Of course this is not new. This happened at all the fastfood places.

The bun of the photoshoot-ready Quarter Pounder with Cheese (right) has not suffered the loss of puffiness that comes from being wrapped and placed inside a steamy box. Photo: YouTube
I was pleasantly surprised to discover this news article and a video by Mcdonald Canada about the discrepancy between photos of their items and reality. They have explained it well and you can link here at Theweek.com and now really know why the photo of that burger in the menu looked so much more tempting. Thanks to Mcdonald for being honest and to Theweek.com for your news article.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Royal Brunei Airlines Changes

The Travel Daily News Asia-Pacific on 22nd August 2012 posted this news article about Royal Brunei Airlines:


Quiet Changes at Royal Brunei Airlines
written by Luc Citrinot

It was more than a symbol: the reactivation of Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) Online Check-In service since the middle of July 2012 shows the commitment of the carrier to be more passengers-focused with a pro-axtive use of modern technologies. Since that date, online check-in services are available from all Royal Brunei Airlines' destinations excluding Dubai, Jeddah and Surabaya. The service is open from 24 hours up to 60 minutes before the scheduled departure time of each flight, excluding London and Melbourne where the online check-in service is open from 24 hours up to 180 minutes before the scheduled flight. Online check-in is directly available on RBA website. Dermot Mannion, Deputy Chairman of Royal Brunei Airlines stated, "We are pleased to re-introduce online check-in services to our passengers in Brunei. The service will allow passengers, including those travelling with checked baggage, to check-in online and create a smoother travel experience.”

The reactivation of the check in online was necessary to give RBA tools to sustain the offensive of competitors, especially from AirAsia. RBA is now embarked in Year Two of its Stabilisation Plan. Launched during the summer of 2011, the plan must bring back RBA into profitability. It translated last year about the cutting of unprofitable routes to Auckland, Brisbane, Ho Chi Minh City, Kuching and Perth and a reduction of 25% of total staff. RBA wants to now concentrate on routes generating the most profits such as Dubai and Jeddah in the Middle-East, Northeast Asia as well as major Southeast Asian cities. In the long-haul market, RBA flies only today to London and Melbourne. Code shares have been signed with Malaysian Airlines, Dragonair, Garuda and Thai Airways to connect with other long-haul destinations around the world. Five brand-new Boeing B787 Dreamliner are due to arrive into the fleet by 2014, which will help to offer more frequencies and more comfort to passengers. There is also a project of modernizing facilities at Bandar Sri Begawan International Airport to welcome 3.5 million passengers a year compared to 1.5 million currently.

The carrier tries also to rebrand itself as a “niche airline in a niche destination”. More promotion for Brunei itself is now part of the airline strategy which wants to emphasize not only the last Malay Kingdom in the world but also what can be considered as the best preserved rainforest of Borneo island. For the first time, RBA is working side by side with Brunei Tourism for promotion abroad. Recently a campaign was launched in London with famous black cabs carrying advertising for Brunei and RBA.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Temporary Foster Parents Wanted

Illustrative Purpose Only. Picture Source: http://www.cathnewsusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Foster-Parent.jpg
The Community Development Department is now calling for those who are interested in welfare work especially looking after children to become temporary foster parents. You can read it for yourself at the Community Development's website here or you can read my unofficial translation as follows:



The Community Development Department, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports has introduced a new scheme called the Temporary Fostering Scheme. The fostering sceheme is meant for teenagers and children under 18 years old as stipulated under the Children and Young Persons Act 2006. The children and young persons are:-

(1) Children who are given protection by the department because of domestic violence and abandonment by family members;

(2) Children whose mothers are incapable of looking after them because the mothers are being protected at the welfare homes due to personal or family problems. These include children who are born from incestual relationship;

(3) Children whose parents are incapalbe of looking after them due to the parents' personal problems such as health, poverty etc;

(4) Children whose parental rights have not yet been determined by the court due to divorce proceedings.

(5) Children whose parents are separated due to religious differences such as one of the parents have converted to Islam;

(6) Children whose mother or parents have disappeared;

(7) Children who are orphans (losing both parents);

(8) Children or teenagers whose family are problematic and requires family care;

(9) And any other category which may be considered fit under the scheme.


The Temporary Fostering Scheme is introduced as one of the ways to ensure the harmony and the welfare of children who needed them in this country. Based on the current situation, the Community Development Department has found that there is a need for such a scheme to be introduced especially with a number of familes facing problems in this country. For example, there is a case where the court has decided that a one year old child be placed in the Children Welfare Home because the mother is found unfit to look after the child because of her illness. Due to the uncertain nature of such problem, the child may have to stay for a long time at the welfare home. This may affect the child's growth. Staying at such institute is very much different from a normal family life. A family life can provide a much better environment and give tender loving care to a child compared to the formal surrounding of an institution.

At the same time, the department also found that there are children who are in need of protection and care due to the parental problems such as poverty, divorce, domestic violence, abondonment and death. These required those children to stay at the welfare homes. So to help the children cope and for their sake especially from the psychological point of view, it would be much better if the children can stay with a foster family who can play the role of the parents to them and to look after them temporarily.


There are several criterias that needed to be fulfilled before one can become a foster parent from those who are interested. It is hoped that the physical, spiritual and emotional development of the children will be looked after especially to form a perfect and courteous personality.

The main criterias are:

(a) The couple must be man and wife;
(b) Both are Brunei citizens and Muslims;
(c) The adults must be 'mukalaf' - competent people;
(d) Physically and mentally capable;
(e) The wife must be a home maker (if she is working, there must be a maid);
(f) The couple do not have any children under the age of 3;
(g) The couple does not suffer from any contagious illnesses;
(h) The couple have sufficient income and capable of looking after the child;
(i) The couple must be loving and caring.


Application can be handed in to the Director of Community Development Department.

Every couple must fill in the relevant Temporary Fostering for Children Application Form prepared by the Community Development Department.

Applicants will be contacted for an interview session.

Every application received will be investigated by the Community Development Department.
Once the department is satisfied, the Community Development Department will submit the application to the court so that the court can issue and order that for the couple to be temporary fostering parents for a particular child;

The couple will then be contacted.

The couple will be asked to come to the deparment to bring the child home.

The couple is reminded that they can only look after the child temporarily. They must return to child back to the child's family or whoever is appointed by the court to look after the child permanently.
If the couple is interested in adopting the children permanently, they are required to submit a separate application through an approved process used in Brunei.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Brunei's Focus on Education

The Oxford Business Group on its website wrote the following economic update for Brunei Darussalam:


Brunei Darussalam: Focus on education
Asia | 10 Aug 2012

To boost the quality of its education system, Brunei Darussalam has formed key partnerships with foreign governments and leading international institutions, as well as taken a leadership role in regional education.

On June 11, for example, the University of Brunei Darussalam (UBD) and the US-based East-West Centre, a research organisation aimed at promoting better relations between the US and Asia, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to provide English-language instruction to all 10 ASEAN countries.

The MoU represents just one education-related partnership the Sultanate has formed in recent years. Indeed, it follows up on an announcement in November 2011 launching the Brunei-US English Language Enrichment Project for ASEAN, a $25m project funded by the Bruneian government to span five years.

Next month will see government officials and teacher-trainers from all ASEAN countries arrive in both Brunei Darussalam and the US state of Hawaii for three-month English courses to improve their communications skills, discuss issues impacting the region and learn how to best use information technology. The teachers will have then have the opportunity to teach at higher education institutions in various ASEAN countries, implementing what they’ve learned in Hawaii.

Recent collaborative efforts also include an agreement between UBD and the US’s University of Michigan to conduct research and development programmes, an initiative announced in late July by Andrew Haig, a professor in the physical medicine and rehabilitation department at the University of Michigan.

Regarding the collaboration, Haig said, “Our universities have gotten really close […] Five faculties from UBD have visited and are developing research on obesity and exercise. Besides the research, we are also developing a nursing programme, whereby one of the University of Michigan’s nursing professors is now a joint professor at UBD. UBD is also developing a programme in public health on joint research projects.” The two institutions are cooperating in other areas as well, such as the business school and education.

Brunei Darussalam has taken an active role in promoting education within the region as well. This is part of the country’s overall goal of developing a competitive knowledge-based economy, with specialised labour at all levels. Indeed, the Sultanate has participated in several initiatives to boost education in ASEAN, thus asserting a leadership role within the region.

Another project Brunei Darussalam has promoted is the ASEAN curriculum sourcebook. According to Muhammad Nuh, the minister of education and culture, the text will be a teaching resource for primary and secondary schools within the bloc, intended to develop an outward-looking, stable, peaceful and prosperous ASEAN community. The book addresses important themes related to the ASEAN as an organisation, such as its origins, processes, purposes and achievements, among other topics. With a population of 600m, representing 9% of the global population, ASEAN has enormous potential to take a leading role in the global economy, making it all the more crucial for bonds to be formed between the bloc’s nations.

The Sultanate’s diligent efforts reflect its awareness of education’s significance in economic development. A key target of Brunei Darussalam’s Long-Term Development Plan 2035 (Wawasan 2035), launched in 2008, is to build an education system that provides opportunities for every citizen and resident to meet the requirements of the changing economy.

Much is at stake for the Sultanate. According to a report published in 2011 by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the country’s low foreign direct investment (FDI) levels are linked to its tertiary education index, which stands at around .18, compared to the average ASEAN index of over .30.

As a result, UNCTAD says, Brunei Darussalam currently receives the lowest level of FDI among ASEAN countries. In the first half of 2011, the country received $522.88m in FDI, with the mining and quarrying sector receiving the lion’s share, with $425.87m.

According to Roger Gibbins, the director of SGS Economics and Planning, an Australia-based consultancy firm, the tertiary education index is low because the economy is driven by oil and gas revenues, which are then injected back into the economy through public services.

“The need for people in the workforce to pursue education is not so great, as jobs in the public sector are secured,” Gibbins told local media, emphasising the need for planned economic diversification as the current private sector would be unable to support a growing workforce. Education would play a key role in spurring greater diversification.

With increased opportunities being made available to Bruneians and support from important partners such as the US, the Sultanate is headed on the path of creating a knowledge-based economy. The outcome of its initiatives in education will be significant, not only for the country’s future, but for the region’s as well.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Pengiran Muda Abdul Malik Mosque, Tungku

The new Pengiran Muda Abdul Malik Mosque at Kampong Tungku. Picture Credit: Information Department
Over the last 4 weeks, Brunei had seen 4 new mosques being officially opened and used for prayers. We had the Masjid Ash Sallehin, then the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Damit Mosque at Mukim Kilanas and the third was the Pengiran Muda Abdul Malik Mosque at Kampong Tungku. It was officially opened on Friday July 27. Here is the news report from The Brunei Times:


Amir Noor
Saturday, July 28, 2012
HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam blessed the official opening of the Pengiran Muda 'Abdul Malik Mosque yesterday with his presence at the mass Friday prayers.

Located at Kg Tungku/Katok, the mosque was completed on July 9, 2012, as part of the National Development Plan 2007-2012 project and can accommodate about 1,000 people.

His Majesty was greeted by the Minister of Religious Affairs, Yang Berhormat Pg Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Muhammad Pg Hj Abd Rahman, upon his arrival with His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, and HRH Prince 'Abdul Malik as they made their way into the mosque.

Prior to entering the mosque, the monarch signed a golden plaque which signified its official opening with the recitation of 'Allahu Akhbar!' three times led by the Minister of Religious Affairs and followed by the fellow Muslims.

His Majesty proceeded to the front where he offered his Sunat prayers which was followed by the call of prayer and reading of the Friday sermon by deputy State Mufti Pehin Orang Kaya Paduka Seri Setia Raja Dato Paduka Seri Setia Hj Suhaili Hj Mohiddin.

The Deputy State Mufti praised and thanked Allah (SWT) for His Majesty's presence at the new mosque as they prayed for his longevity and continued peace in the Sultanate.

The special sermon briefly highlighted the recent Bell 212 helicopter accident as well as His Majesty's efforts of visiting the victims as well as their families.

This demonstrated the monarch's care for the welfare of his people and country, said the deputy State Mufti who prayed for Allah's (SWT) blessings over the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) safety as protectors of the nation.

The mass Friday prayers were led by Pehin Orang Kaya Paduka Seri Setia Utama Dato Paduka Seri Setia Awang Hj Salim Awang Hj Besar, High Syariah Court judge.

Upon completing the Friday prayers, the Royal family exited the mosque as they acknowledged and greeted the hands of people present at the mosque before entering their vehicle in departure.

Also present during the event were State Mufti Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia (Dr) Ustaz Hj Abdul Aziz Juned, cabinet ministers, government senior officials and staff as well as residents of Kg Tungku/Katok.

The construction of the Pengiran Muda 'Abdul Malik Mosque began November 19, 2010, and was completed on July 9, 2012.

The mosque has prayer halls for both male and female, a multipurpose hall, a library and IT room, an ablution area and various other facilities.

The Brunei Times


One of the unique features of the mosque is the very large space outside the main hall. In most mosques, the space outside the main prayer hall is limited to corridor spaces, but at this mosque you can see that the area for prayer is very large indeed.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Brunei in 1846

A German Doctor contacted me the other day. He was asking for a translation of an envelope written in Jawi. The envelope was addressed to Mr MSH McArthur in 1910 but the Jawi script indicated that the letter should go to his daugher. Mr MSH McArthur was then the Assistant Governor in Singapore. Anyway, this German was apparently an avid collector of stamps including that of Brunei. I managed to read the Jawi script for him and in return he gave me a pdf file of the above woodcut of a scene in Brunei taken from a Hungarian newspaper in the 1850s.

At the back of the woodcut was this explanatory text:

"This is a woodcut from the "Leipziger Illustrirte Zeitung" of 1846 (original size 232 x 120 mm) entitled "Braunie [sic], Hauptort von Borneo i.e. Brunei, principal town of Borneo. On the reverse side there is a long story about other remote parts of the world, but unfortunately the text related to the picture of "Braunei" did not come with the newspaper cutting (from Hungary in fact)."

"The view is from the site of the later British Residency onto Kampong Ayer built on the mudflats of the inner Brunei River. The three steam vessels date the scene probably to July 1845 when Sir Thomas Chchrane occupied Brunei Town with a flotilla of three paddle frigates, Vixen, Pluto and Nemesis. The event is described in the Journals of Edward H Cree, Surgeon R.N., edited by Michael Levien. (Webb & Bower 1981)."

Thursday, August 09, 2012

British Trade Dollar in Brunei

British Trade Dollar coin found in Tutong. Picture Credit: Borneo Bulletin
I was pleasantly surprised to find these on the front page of the Borneo Bulletin yesterday. Apparently a family in Tutong found the coin and BB decided to make this 111 year old coin headline news.

A friend of mine text me and asked how unique is this coin. I told him that it is not that unique and I have a few in my collection. This is what the coin looked like close up:

British Trade Dollar coin. Picture Credit: Rozan Yunos
But then a lot of people are non collectors so this coin is unique to them. The British Trade Dollar coin was was issued from around 1895 to 1935. This coin was quite popular and used in Singapore and Hong Kong to stop other countries’ silver dollars from being circulated in British colonies. This coin was known as Ringgit Tongkat in Malaya because the Brittania statute was holding a trident.

The coin first appeared in China because China lost the Opium Wars. China had to open up their ports to the British. Many foreign banks were then established ans silver coins from all over the world were used to pay for Chinese products such as tea, silk and porcelain. The Spanish silver dollar was very popular and the British and the Americans decided to mint their own silver dollars as well, hence the British Trade dollar coin was minted for use in the Far East. That is why at the back of the coin we can see Chinese as well as Jawi writing.

The original Trade Dollar coin was originally a mostly silver (90% silver with 10% copper) coin weighing around 420 grams. There were many of these coins and it is not surprising that a number could be found used in Brunei as well. For 1911 alone, more than 37.5 million coins were issued.

So, how much is it worth? You can buy one off ebay for anything between US$75 to US$300 depending on the year of manufacture and quality of the coin. But do be careful. There are many fakes out there. I know the fake coins can be bought for as little as $5 each in one ASEAN country but if you don't know what they looked like, anybody can sell that fake coin for any amount they like.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Reef Building Corals of Brunei

What many people do not know is that in our small peaceful nation of Brunei Darussalam, we surprisingly hosts a diverse fauna of reef corals of more than 400 species! That comprised approximately half the global tally for this important group - the major builders of modern coral reefs.

Corals are notoriously difficult to identify. What the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources of Brunei Darussalam through the Fisheries Department has made that identification task easier by publishing this book "Field Guide to Reef-building Corals of Brunei Darussalam". Thus making this book a boon to divers, students, scientists, and indeed all with an interest in the tropical marine realm.

In the book each coral species is illustrated with high quality underwater photographs of the living coral and a close up image of the skeleton, accompanied by informative text that highlights the key characters for successful identification. We need to document and name the newly discovered species associated with coral ecosystems as there will be many species that may have been exinct before science can get to them. Our coral ecosystems are threatened by climate change, overfishing and pollution. Hopefully this book will bring some light to the global community of the importance of the coral econsystem.

This book is written by Emre Turak and Lyndon DeVantier. Together, they both have more than 50 years experience researching coral ecology, biogeography and taxinomy in the Indo-Pacific Region. It is a sequel to a much earlier book, "Coral Reefs of Brunei Darussalam" and accompanies the Coral Reference Collection housed in Brunei Marine Life Centre in Meragang.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

With the Wild Men of Borneo

A couple of months ago, I bought this book from the internet:

"With the Wild Men of Borneo" sounds like an interesting book to read and that probably was the main reason when I bought it. There was a handwritten note inside the book, it was a gift to someone and the giver dated it June 1, 1924. The book written by Elizabeth Mershon was actually printed in 1922. This book is just about 90 years old. Elizabeth Mershon and her husband Pastor Mershon are missionaries and their writing is about how their work is changing the people in the 'far-off' region of Borneo.

I read the book and it was a very interesting description of places in North Borneo starting with their arrival in Sandakan and moving downwards towards Beaufort. Even though the title was of Borneo, not much else is written about the rest of Borneo. However there were a lot of old photographs in the book. I was very interested in the photographs in the book and there were a couple of photographs of Brunei scenes in it.

When I saw the photographs, I was quite surprised as I had posted these much earlier here in this blog. What the book does was to give the photos or rather postcards which I had much earlier the date of publication.

This is the photo in the book:
And this is the colour postcard which I had shown sometime last year which is being sold for around US$600 making this postcard the earliest Brunei postcard to be printed in colour:
There is another photograph in the book. I will save that for another blog.

Inspirational Quotes