Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Memukun in Brunei




NURHAMIZA HJ ROSLAN
BRUNEI-MUARA

Sunday, April 26, 2015

IN THE early 1990s when Hj Wahab Jumat was at his peak as a pemukun providing traditional entertainment at weddings, he at one time earned almost $2,000 in one month.

“Every week we would be invited to perform at a wedding. There were so many requests we had to decline sometimes,” he says.

That was back in the day when memukun, a form of entertainment that involves the exchange of poems between a male and a female performer, was still popular in Brunei.

These days, 74-year-old veteran pemukun Hj Wahab no longer gets as many invitations and when he does, it is normally to perform at a cultural event organised by a government agency.

The pemukun, usually the elderly people who exchange pantun poems while traditional music is being played, have been pushed to extinction by modern-day forms of entertainment, including karaoke sessions at weddings.

It is not an easy feat as those exchanging pantun poems have to be spontaneous and able to think fast, and come up with poems that suit the atmosphere of the event. It can be challenging, Hj Wahab says.

“While listening to the other pemukun’s poem, you must already think of a comeback. If you are unable to reply with your own poem it would disrupt the whole performance.”

He said performers must also be familiar with their surroundings, and understand the nature of event where they perform.

Hj Wahab says he began performing at memukun in the early 1980s, and has been active in performing at memukun sessions for about 30 years. Having wit and mental sharpness are abilities pemukun must have in order to deliver an entertaining performance. He says he has no secrets as to how he keeps mentally prepared for each performance.

“I wake up early every day and I perform the Subuh prayers, and after that I make doa(supplication) to Allah SWT so that he will always bless me with good health.”

Apart from prayers, Hj Wahab says he also tries to lead a healthy lifestyle by controlling his food intake and watching what he eats to prevent high cholesterol and diabetes.

“I also do light exercises in the morning. I walk around the compound of my house or do some gardening.”

The memukun performance is slowly disappearing especially at weddings. Other forms of entertainment are taking over, such as karaoke, Hj Wahab says.

Even though sometimes people choose to have a traditional form of entertainment at weddings, it is usually a gulingtangan or traditional musical performance, he adds.

And the performers … only a few veteran pemukun get to perform when the rare opportunity comes.

Memukun is more than just entertainment. It is a Malay traditional and cultural heritage. Through art forms such as memukun, “we could preserve part of our culture, for example, the Malay language”, says Hj Wahab.

“If there is no one to continue the art of memukun, it will disappear.”

The Brunei Times

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

HM Sultan Brunei Attends 26th ASEAN Summit





RACHEL THIEN
KUALA LUMPUR

Monday, April 27, 2015

HIS Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, and Her Majesty Duli Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha last night joined Southeast Asian leaders for a gala dinner, ahead of their meeting today.

Malaysian Prime Minister and ASEAN Chair Najib Razak and his spouse hosted the dinner at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre’s banquet hall.

In his speech during the dinner, the prime minister said with this year’s theme, ‘Our People, Our Community, Our Vision’, the focus is on the creation of a ‘people-centred ASEAN’ to translate that into a tangible reality.

“A people-centred ASEAN is about the realisation of our peoples’ dreams and aspirations – for more effective and responsive governance; for higher standards of living; for strengthened environmental protection; for further empowerment of women and youth; and greater opportunities for all.”

He went on to say that over the years, governments of ASEAN member countries have signed agreements and treaties, and issued communiques, statements and declarations, and that an infrastructure for regional integration has been created.

“I am convinced that ASEAN regional integration can only truly advance once our peoples are fully involved in the process, and invested in its outcome. They must feel that they are not just part of ASEAN; but that they are ASEAN, and its future is their future,” said the prime minister.

Today marks the beginning of the 26th ASEAN Summit, which will begin with its opening ceremony, followed by the summit’s plenary session.

Realising economic integration and the South China Sea territorial dispute are expected to be discussed during the meetings.

Upon arrival, His Majesty and Her Majesty were greeted by Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Chief of Protocol Dato’ Kamilan Maksom and Chief of Ceremony and Conference Secretariat Datuk Wan Hamidah Wan Ibrahim.

Before proceeding into the banquet hall, Their Majesties and ASEAN leaders were greeted by the Malaysian prime minister and his spouse, before proceeding to take a group photo.

Accompanying Their Majesties were Second Minister of Finance at the Prime Minister’s Office YB Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Hj Abd Rahman Hj Ibrahim, Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade YB Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng and Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister’s Office YB Pehin Datu Singa-manteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Mohammad Yasmin Hj Umar.

Courtesy of The Brunei Times

Monday, April 27, 2015

Kuala Belait Old Market Building Facelifted


KB’s old market building gets facelift
Posted date: April 16, 2015

| Faza Suraj |

THE old market building along Jalan McKerron of Kuala Belait under the jurisdiction of Kuala Belait-Seria Municipal Department has got a facelift with new painting which highlights a more attractive theme.

The weekly Night Market has been ongoing at the ground floor of the building every weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) since September 24, 2011.

Various food items are available at the market such as cakes, fried noodles, soto, burger, nasi katok, and grilled food among others.

During the revamp, repair works have also been done including cleaning of the area.

The Kuala Belait-Seria Municipal Department informed that it wishes to fulfill the public’s wish for more daily choices and will strive to support local entrepreneurs by providing appropriate places for them.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Keeping Traditional Music Alive in Brunei






NURHAMIZA HJ ROSLAN
BRUNEI-MUARA

Saturday, April 18, 2015

TRADITIONAL instruments such as guriding, tangkong and gandang sadaman have lost their appeal among the younger generation, but veteran musician Hj Nayan Apong has not given up on them.

The 86-year-old from Kampung Kulapis reminisces how the sound of these instruments used to resonate in paddy fields across the sultanate.

The Kadayan Malays used to play them while they tended to their farms, Hj Nayan says. It’s a forgotten art, but he still enjoys playing them and crafting them by hand.

“I learned by looking at other people and because I was interested, I tried and slowly learned (how to play the instruments) myself.”

One of the earliest instruments he learned to play was the guriding. “I began playing the guridingwhen I was very young, in my early teens,” Hj Nayan says.

It is small and thin, a flat piece of wood not more than 10 inches long. It is made from the frond of the Bengkala palm tree. To play the guriding, the instrument is held horizontally and pressed against the lips. To create sound, the musician blows against the part held closest to the lips and use the free hand to pluck the projecting end of the instrument.

“In the old days, the guriding is played to wind down after clearing an area of land for planting paddy … It is commonly played together with the gandang sadaman,” says Hj Nayan. The gandang sadaman is another traditional musical instrument commonly played by the Kadayan people. It resembles a xylophone.

“The gandang sadaman was played as a means of entertainment when people were tending to the paddy fields.”

Older versions of the gandang sadaman were not portable as it used to be made by arranging pieces of wood next to each other and pressing them to the ground.

The name sadaman, Hj Nayan explains, is taken from the name of the wood used to make the instrument which comes from the Sadaman tree.

Another instrument Hj Nayan fondly talks about is the tangkung. It is usually played on its own without accompaniment from other instruments, he says. It resembles a tube with strings that are meant to be plucked. Its strings are thin pieces of bamboo skin carved out from the same piece of bamboo used for thetangkung’s body.

This bamboo instrument is one of the traditional musical instruments that Hj Nayan is able to make by hand. Making one tangkung takes him about a day. It can be sold for $50. However, he only makes them upon request. Among his clients include the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

Occasionally he also indulges in crafting a guriding. “You need to be very delicate when making a guriding because the instrument can be broken easily. It takes about one day to finish making one guriding,” Hj Nayan says.

These days, due to poor eyesight, he rarely makes them.

Unfortunately, there are not many people who know how to make traditional musical instruments such as the guriding and tangkung. The few that Hj Nayan knows of are his friends and some have already passed away.

Hj Nayan says he does not know anyone else in Kampung Kulapis, who knows how to make the traditional musical instruments that musicians used to create melodies across paddy fields in the sultanate.

Courtesy of The Brunei Times

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Her Majesty Raja Isteri of Brunei Opens New Women and Children Medical Centre

Her Majesty Duli Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha (5th L), Her Royal Highness Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah (4th L), Her Royal Highness Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Hjh Zariah (6th R), Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Bini Hajah Faizah (3rd L), Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Raabi’atul 'Adawiyyah (5th R), Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Rashidah Sa'adatul Bolkiah (2nd L), Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Majeedah Nuurul Bolkiah (4th R), Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Masna (L) and Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Amal Umi Kalthum Al-Islam (3rd R) together with the Minister of Health (2nd R) and spouse (R) in a group photo during the official opening of the new Women and Children's Centre. BT/Zaim Kasmat

Her Majesty signs a commemorative plaque to mark the official opening of the new centre. BT/Zaim Kasmat

Her Majesty touring the facilities available at the new centre. Infofoto


Her Majesty (2nd L) visiting one of the patients accompanied by Her Royal Highness Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah (3rd L), Her Royal Highness Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Zariah (2nd R) and Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Bini Hajah Faizah (3rd R) during the official opening of the new Women and Children’s Centre at RIPAS Hospital in the Capital. Infofoto

Her Majesty Duli Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha (R) is shown a scale model of the new Women and Children’s Centre by the Health Minister during the official opening of the new facility at RIPAS Hospital in Bandar Seri Begawan. Infofoto



Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (R), accompanied by Her Royal Highness Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah (2nd R), having a light moment with hospital staff members during their visit to one of the consultation rooms in conjunction with the official launching ceremony of the new Women and Children's Centre of Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital yesterday. BT/Zaim Kasmat

Her Majesty (2nd R) together with Her Royal Highness Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Hjh Zariah (3rd R) and Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Bini Hjh Faizah (4th R) viewing the exhibits on display. BT/Zaim Kasmat


AARON WONG
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

Thursday, April 23, 2015

HER Majesty Duli Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha Al-Marhum Pengiran Pemancha Pengiran Anak Hj Mohamed Alam yesterday graced the official opening of the $69.2 million Women and Children’s Centre at the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital.

Her Majesty was welcomed by the Minister of Health Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Johan Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Adanan Begawan Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Seri Setia Hj Md Yusof upon arrival, before proceeding to the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Clinic where she listened to a brief introduction of the recently completed centre by the Minister of Health.

She then officiated the centre and watched a video showcasing the extensive facilities, before proceeding to the Paediatric clinic to sign a commemorative plaque.

Her Majesty then toured several floors, interacting with patients, doctors and other health professionals.

She also visited a special exhibition on the fourth floor, charting the construction and development of the Woman and Children’s Centre as well as the history of RIPAS.

The Minister of Health, in his introductory remarks, said the centre was a landmark and a “significant achievement” for health services in the Sultanate, reflecting His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mui’zzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s leadership and deep concern for the health and well-being of his subjects.

“The centre, with its 11 floors and 382 beds offers paediatric services, midwifery and obstetrics and gynaecology which are equipped with the latest facilities, infrastructure and quality medical equipment which meet international standards,” said the minister.

The centre also includes a neonatal intensive care unit, a fertility unit, first-class rooms and an operation theatre.

He added that the majority of the skilled health professionals operating at the centre comprised of locals.

Accompanying Her Majesty during the visit yesterday were HRH Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah, HRH Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Zariah, Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Bini Hajah Faizah, YAM Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Raabi’atul ‘Adawiyyah, HRH Princess Hjh Rashidah Sa’adatul Bolkiah, HRH Princess Hjh Majeedah Nuurul Bolkiah, HRH Princess Hjh Masna and HRH Princess Hjh Amal Umi Kalthum Al-Islam.

Also in attendance yesterday were cabinet ministers and members of the legislative council.

Construction of the state-of-the-art centre was completed on December 18, 2014, under the Ninth National Development Plan.

Courtesy of The Brunei Times

Friday, April 24, 2015

HM Sultan Brunei Concerned over Palestinian plight at 60th Asia-Africa Conference


His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bokiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, delivering a titah during the plenary session of the Asian African Summit 2015 at the Jakarta Convention Center yesterday. Infofoto
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam (L) waves to journalists and other onlookers upon his arrival at the Jakarta Convention Center to attend the Asian African Summit yesterday. BT/Sally Piri

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam (R, front row) attending the Asian African Summit 2015 and the 60th Asia-Africa Commemorative Conference at Jakarta Convention Center in Jakarta, Indonesia, yesterday. Infofoto

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah (R) chats with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) as Indonesian President Joko Widodo (L) and Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (2nd R) look on during a photo session on the sidelines of the Asian African Summit 2015 at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia’s capital yesterday. Infofoto

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam (L) is being greeted by Indonesian President Joko Widodo and his wife prior to a Gala Dinner for Heads of States and Government attending the Asian Africa Summit 2015 at the Merdeka Palase in Jakarta last night. Infofoto

SALLY PIRI
JAKARTA

Thursday, April 23, 2015

THE two-day Asian African Summit 2015 began yesterday in Jakarta, where 21 heads of state/government and delegates from 106 countries, 15 observer countries and 10 international organisations gathered to forge closer ties and find solutions to resolve the current challenges facing by the two continents.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, was among the 21 heads of state/government who had flown in to the Indone-sia’s capital to attend the Leaders’ Summit of the 60th Commemoration of the Asian African Conference 2015.

Other leaders include Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Iran’s President Dr Hassan Rouhani, China’s President Xi Jinping and Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. They were welcomed by Indonesia’s President Dato Laila Utama Joko Widodo, who is the host of a series of events for this year’s commemoration, held at the Jakarta Convention Center.

In his welcoming speech, President Widodo said that the challenges and struggle faced by the Asian and African nations are not yet resolved.

Under the theme “Strengthen-ing South-South Cooperation to Promote World Peace and Prospe-rity”, the president drew the focus to those present to the plight of the Palestinians and the need for a new collective economic structure to support the struggle for stability and equality through-out the two continents.

“For me, the global injustice feels more suffocating, when the “Bandung Spirit” that demanded freedom for all nations of Asia and Africa, still left one outstanding debt for six decades. We, and the world, still owe it to the Palestinian people,” said Widodo.

“The world is helpless before the suffering of the Palestinians, who live in fear and injustice, due to years of occupation,” he said.

“We cannot turn away from the misery of the Palestinians and have to continue to fight with them to support the birth of a free Palestine,” he added.

The first Asian-African Conference in 1955 at Bandung created the “Bandung Spirit”, which called on then new nations to build solidarity and friendship as well recognise their mission to fight colonialism.

The leaders and delegates shared experience to strengthen partnerships and discuss strate-gies to overcome common challenges and boost economic development in both continents through stronger South-South cooperation.

During the first plenary session, Dr Rouhani of Iran when delivered his views said that continued crisis and conflicts which have been intensified with foreign military intervention have created humanitarian catastrophe in the crisis-hit areas.

The present unfortunate conditions in Yemen and Syria are clear examples of this situation. “We believe that sustainable peace can prevail if military intervention is ceased and proper conditions are prepared for talks and dialogue among all political groups,” he said.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, ”We must build a market that is open and dynamic. We must turn that market or that frontier into soil that promises pros-perity for our children and our grandchildren.”

In between several plenary sessions, some leaders and delegates also attended bilateral meetings with their counterparts.

Later in the evening, His Majesty and other leaders attended the Gala Dinner for Heads of State and Government attending the Asian African Summit 2015 hosted by the Indonesia’s President at Merdeka Palace.

Accompanying His Majesty was Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Second Minister of the Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Courtesy of The Brunei Times

+++++

SALLY PIRI
JAKARTA

Thursday, April 23, 2015

BRUNEI Darussalam expressed deep concern that the plight of the Palestinians remains unresolved and that they continue to be victims of Israeli aggression and military occupation.

This was said by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, in his titah during the plenary session of the Asian African Summit 2015 at Jakarta Convention Centre yesterday.

The monarch spoke after Mswati III, King of Swaziland, and before Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.

Co-chairing the first plenary session were Indonesia’s President Dato Laila Utama Joko Widodo and Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe.

His Majesty and other leaders supported the Declaration on Palestine, which is one of the three documents that will be issued at the end of this year’s Asia Africa Conference.

He said the Summit has provided member countries with a unique opportunity to share their noble aspirations for a future that includes the aspirations of their Palestinian brothers and sisters.

“I am pleased to support the Declaration on Palestine,” the monarch told the audience.

His Majesty said that member countries have seen several positive events in recent years, especially the overwhelming recognition of Palestine’s statehood and the elevation of their status in the international arena.

His Majesty hopes that together with all member countries, they will continue to support the Palestinians in their noble struggle to realise their rights to self- determination, dignity and independence.

His Majesty stated that in the years ahead, he would like to see the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP) mature into an exemplary platform for inter-regional cooperation that will strengthen people-to-people connectivity.

He called upon member countries not to lose focus on achieving the goals that were declared at the Millennium Summit in 2000. He was referring to the Summit held in September 2000 when the world leaders came together at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and setting out a series of time-bound targets that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals.

He said that he is also optimistic that the vision back then will be renewed and expanded in the coming Post-2015 Development Agenda.

He said that the Asian-African member countries account for more than half of the UN membership and with a population of over five billion people, a global community that is capable of great good, and that can certainly contribute to the wider objectives of the global development agenda.

The Summit has come a long way since the Bandung Conference of 1955, he added.

Since then, he said, the world has undergone much change and has witnessed the rise and fall of nations, as well as historical events such as the end of the Cold War. “Today, there has been much progress in terms of human development and more people-centred multilateral efforts to promote socio-economic growth around the world,” His Majesty said.

He also expressed his pleasure that the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP) serves as a bridge of goodwill and friendship that covers political solidarity, economic cooperation and socio-cultural relations.

The partnership is about giving the people of member countries a better life. All member countries continue to emphasise areas such as trade, industry, investment and tourism. “At the same time, there is importance in promoting human development through capacity-building and technical cooperation.”

His Majesty stated that while member countries endeavour to pursue the objectives of sustainable development, peace and prosperity, they are also vulnerable to challenges such as pandemic diseases, economic crises, natural disasters, climate change and terrorism.

In this regard, the NAASP provides another multilateral platform to pursue goals as well as address challenges, he said.

In a way, member countries are striving towards realising the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Therefore, the Summit was very timely in strengthening collective actions as they prepare for the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda.

His Majesty was pleased that the aforementioned three outcome documents have reflected the Spirit and Principles of Bandung, which will continue to guide the future work and interaction amongst member countries.

His Majesty stated that when the actions of member countries are driven by principles such as mutual interest and cooperation based on equality and respect for each other, he believes that member countries will achieve the desired goals that they have set.

Member countries, according to him, should nurture their partnerships based on these principles, whether in the context of South-South or North-South Cooperation, as well as in collaborating with development partners and other stakeholders.

His Majesty said that for Brunei Darussalam, its approach is inclusive and the areas of emphasis include education, good governance, disaster management, trade and investment, health and the environment.

“Brunei Darussalam will continue to cooperate with other member countries within its means and capability,” he said.

He also encouraged people-to-people interactions, particularly in the fields of business, education, youth and sports.

“Brunei Darussalam welcomes cooperation among core educational institutions through exchanges between students, academics and researchers.”

In closing the titah, His Majesty praised that Indonesia has always been a great champion for South-South Cooperation and the Strategic Partnership.

On this, he appreciated their valuable efforts and looked forward to the next event which is the 60th Asian African Conference Commemoration in Bandung on Friday to build on the work of the founding fathers for a peaceful and prosperous future together.

The gathering of representatives of over 100 countries from Asia and Africa at the Summit demonstrated continued support of member countries in strengthening South-South Cooperation towards promoting world peace and prosperity.

Prior to the plenary session, each of the leaders was greeted by the Indonesia’s President. It was then followed by a group photo session at the Main Lobby of the Jakarta Convention Center before proceeding to the Plenary Hall for the opening ceremony of the Asian-African Summit 2015. The ceremony also saw Dato Laila Utama Joko Widodo delivering his welcoming address.

Accompanying His Majesty were Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abd Rahman Haji Ibrahim, Second Minister of Finance at the Prime Minister’s Office; Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Second Minister of the Foreign Affairs and Trade; and Yang Berhormat Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin Haji Umar, Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Courtesy of The Brunei Times

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Royal Navies of Brunei and Australia Maritime Exercises

Lieutenant Colonel (L) Pengiran Mohammad bin Pengiran Haji Damit, Fleet Commander of the Royal Brunei Navy and RAN Wing Commander Michael Cawley, Deputy Defence Advisor to Singapore and Brunei, exchanging souvenirs

Lieutenant Colonel (L) Pengiran Mohammad bin Pengiran Haji Damit, Fleet Commander of Royal Brunei Navy; Lieutenant Commander Philip Draper, Commander Officer of HMAS Armidale; RAN Wing Com-mander Michael Cawley, Deputy Defence Advisor to Singapore and Brunei Darussalam as well as RBN officials in a group photo

Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN) personnel at the opening ceremony. –
PHOTOS: JAMES KON
Brunei and Australia set to boost military ties
Posted date: April 21, 2015

| James Kon |

MILITARY ties between Brunei Darussalam and Australia are set to be enhanced following the launch of Exercise Penguin 16/15, a bilateral exercise conducted biennially between Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

Lieutenant Colonel (L) Pengiran Mohammad bin Pengiran Haji Damit, Fleet Commander of the Royal Brunei Navy, said the objective of the exercise was to strengthen the relationship between both parties through operational and naval practices.

“I am confident that the exercise will achieve its objectives,” he said during the opening ceremony at the Muara Naval Base, adding that both navies had been working together for the best part of the last decade.

“The exercise has evolved over the years, from practising basic seamanship and communication evolution to multi-dimensional warfare scenarios.

“It has proven valuable for both navies.”

Task Group 632.1 for the exercise is led by Commander Task Group (CTG) Lieutenant Colonel (L) Khairil bin Haji Abdul Rahman, who is Commanding Officer of KDB Daruttaqwa, and Deputy CTG Lieutenant Commander Philip Draper, who is Commander Officer of HMAS Armidale.

The task group consists of HMAS Armidale of RAN while RBN consists of KDB Daruttaqwa and KDB Syafaat.

The exercise will feature both ashore and sea training activities.

The harbour training will cover theoretical subjects and the sharing of knowledge (on aspects such as exercise briefings and boarding demonstrations) among experts.

The sea phase activities aim to develop naval coordination in executing tactical operations including minefield transits, communication drills, surface tracking and maritime interdiction operations.

RAN Wing Commander Michael Cawley, Deputy Defence Advisor to Singapore and Brunei, activated Task Group 632.1 alongside Lt Col (L) Pengiran Mohammad.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Brunei's Banks Weather Oil Price Volatility

The Oxford Business Group on 17 April 2015 reported the following:

+++++

Brunei Darussalam’s banks weather oil price volatility

Brunei Darussalam | Financial Services
Economic News Update
17 Apr 2015

Banks in Brunei Darussalam have so far weathered the impact of falling oil prices, winning plaudits from credit rating agencies for their resilience and stability.

Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) said in early March that the Sultanate’s strong economic base had dampened the effects of the drop in oil prices on the banking sector, echoing the view of the central banking authority, the Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD), earlier in the year.

“In our view, the low loan-to-deposit ratio and strong net external creditor position of the Brunei banking system mitigates [oil price-related] risks,” said S&P. Speaking about oil exporters more broadly, the agency noted the decline in global prices would result in lower government revenues and exports, reducing banking liquidity and potentially slowing sector growth and triggering an increase in non-performing loans. Nevertheless, it said that earnings buffers are sufficient to absorb losses in Brunei, alongside the six GCC member states, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and Nigeria, and it did not expect them to experience losses beyond its normalised estimates.
Strong capital levels

According to the AMBD, bank assets and deposits registered marginal declines of 3.7% and 4.3% respectively year-on-year in 2014, loans rose by 1% to $5.7bn and asset quality continues to improve. “The key financial soundness indicators in the banking sector were maintained at healthy levels [in 2014]. Strong capital and high liquidity levels, together with sustained earnings and improved credit risk management, resulted in maintaining financial system stability,” the AMBD said in a statement.

The positive outlook for banks is an achievement given that oil and gas account for more than half of the Sultanate’s economy and over 90% of exports. Oil revenues have helped foster a strong banking sector; many among the affluent population are able to bank with more than one institution and the government is a significant source of deposits. As S&P noted in March, “The banks are likely to maintain their substantial deposits from a wealthy government and its related entities, and the retail sector.”

The rise of Islamic banking in recent years has also helped the sector to flourish. Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) reported solid growth last year with a 7% increase in revenues and a 16% rise in profit, according to a recent statement from the Asian Banker. In February, S&P affirmed its BBB+ long-term rating for Baiduri Bank − the Sultanate’s biggest conventional bank − citing its stability. “We affirmed the ratings to reflect Baiduri’s stable businesses, sound management and strategy, and expected government support tempered by a loan book with high single-name concentration,” said Amit Pandey, S&P credit analyst.
Challenging times ahead

The endorsement is not to say banks will escape the oil price slump unscathed. Credit reform and the government's widening budget deficit are seen as the two main challenges. “A protracted weakness in oil price may enhance the challenges for the banking system. However, that is not our base case view on oil prices as of now,” added Pandey.

Minister of Finance II Pehin Dato Abd Rahman Ibrahim announced a total budget of $6.4bn for the 2015/16 fiscal year in March, with revenues projected at $4.12bn, about $1.5bn lower than last year. This will lead to a budget deficit of $2.28bn, representing about a tenth of GDP, which is among the highest in the ASEAN region.

“What we know for sure, these low oil prices will give significant impact and pressure to the economy of this country, as our private companies in the hydrocarbon sector recorded lower revenue, not to mention lower government revenue from the country’s main source of income,” said the minister.

However, reforms that have already been put in place and debt consolidation achieved through stricter financial measures are helping the banking sector.

Last October, the AMBD deregulated rates on housing loans, revoking regulations on profit rates on residential property financing for Islamic banks as well as interest rates on residential property loans for banks. In March 2013, the AMBD implemented a cap on interest rates or annualised profit rates for residential financing of 4.5%.

Speaking to OBG last year, the managing director of BIBD, Javed Ahmad, said the new regulations had been effective at limiting the amount of personal financing, establishing a fixed-rate pricing framework and setting a minimum deposit rate for investors.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Brunei's Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Centre











REBECCA OI
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Sunday, April 19, 2015

LOCATED at the famed and historical water village of Brunei Darussalam is the Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery.

This unique gallery — with an enclosed area of 565 square metres — was established to provide visitors and locals a glimpse into Kampong Ayer’s celebrated past while preserving part of Brunei’s heritage as well as to assist in rejuvenating the cottage industries in the area and diversify the local economy.

The $3 million centre was inaugurated by His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office in August 2009.

The gallery is built in the style of a grand house and is managed by the Tourism Development Department, Ministry of Industry and Primary Resource.

The historical reminders of Kampong Ayer are exhibited in five mini galleries within the building stretching back to the 10th century and this also includes modern transitions which the Sultanate has experienced over the years.

The galleries showcase history, traditions, society and arts as well as antique handicrafts and relics from the origins of the water village with information in both English and Malay.

Gallery One comprises exhibits of Kampong Ayer from the 10th to 13th century, second gallery is from 14th to 16th century and the third is from the late 19th to early 20th century.

Meanwhile, the fourth gallery houses information regarding contemporary Kg Ayer Economic development and the fifth gallery comprises contemporary Kg Ayer Social development.

Located in the middle of the room is a small stage called the Sunken Gallery where visitors can take a glimpse at live, traditional weaving of the Sultanate’s iconic fabric, Kain Tenunan, along with cultural performances.

Other features include a souvenir shop where traditional handicrafts can be purchased, multimedia display which provides information on various tourists’ sites in Brunei and an AV room where video presentations of archived footage of life in Kampong Ayer are screened.

There is also an observation tower, which gives visitors a panoramic view of the water village and the capital’s skyline. Visitors can also identify famous landmarks and tourist attractions, which are marked on photographs at the tower for easy reference.

Project supervisor of the gallery Mohamad Asulhamhaidi Hj Mohd Ashrane said there has been an increment of tourists especially from China to the gallery since it first opened.

He urged people to visit the gallery as it brings together a mixture of maritime relics and antiques of Kampong Ayer’s past.

To get to the Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery, take a water taxi from the Royal Wharf. The fare only costs 50 cents.

The gallery opens from 9am to 5pm from Monday to Sunday with the exception of Friday, which opens from 9am to 11.30pm and 2.30pm to 5pm.

It is closed on all public holidays and last admission is 30 minutes before closing time.

Courtesy of The Brunei Times

Monday, April 20, 2015

Making Songkok in Brunei














NORLIHA DIN
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Monday, April 20, 2015

“PRACTICE makes perfect”, was an old adage emphasised by Siti Aishah Salleh, 52, the manager of Syarikat Aisma Aishah, when she gave The Brunei Times an insight into the songkok-making craft.

Songkok is a traditional headgear worn by males, primarily in Malay community, to complete a customary attire, especially during formal occasion or any religious events. The headgear is also part of the school uniform worn by male students.

Siti Aishah, who was the overall winner in the Compulsory Sinjang (traditional woven cloth worn around the waist for males) and Creative Sinjang Category at the Making and Wearing of Dastarand Sinjang National Competition last year, saw a niche in the local market that was worth investing for its uniqueness.

According to her, she was inspired to learn the craft by her cousin, who she spent some time observing making the songkok, when she was young.

However, the idea to turn this into a business came later in life, after she and her former husband separated; she was left pondering on the means to support her children — five sons and a daughter.

“I have no opportunity to continue my studies to secondary hence it was difficult for me to find a secure job, however, it does not mean I cannot find my own income,” Siti Aishah.

She grabbed the opportunity to learn at Advanced Education Section (BPL) in Gadong, where she learned various skills and craftmanship namely, cooking, flower decoration, sewing, dressmaking and saloon course at the Youth Centre, to name a few.

During the course of studies, she promoted a few of the songkok pieces that she had made to the male teachers, and this was received well.

Seeing that Siti Aishah had potential in the business, she was recommended to become a participant for the business incubator programme under the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources’s Entreprenurial Development Centre in 2005. She used this time to focus on establishing herself in the market while learning the essentials of becoming a entrepreneur ranging from acccounting, promoting, selling her products.

The first few years of her journey were among the hardest, she said, and will be forever etched in her mind, but she perservered. She knew that it would take constant practice and intricate observation to make one of the most well-known traditional apparel for the Malay community.

The structure of a songkok is made up of two components: atap (roof or the top) and dinding (wall or the sides). The first step of making a songkok is to first create its inner frame using newspapers. One will be cut into an oval shape according to the customer’s head in diameter for the atap, and the other into a long rectangular piece for the dinding.

Siti Aishah will sew the edges of the rectangular piece together to form the dinding (the main body of the songkok) before attaching the atap. A black cloth is further sewn along the bottom half of the dinding to cover the newspapers.

At this point, she will use a small hammer to knock on the edges to flatten and soften it to shape. She then cuts a velvet fabric into the shape of the atap, giving an additional allowance of a few inches, to sew over the (newspaper) atap.

The leftover fabric is later used to cover the dinding. She reinforces the frame by sewing on a piece of manila card — cut according to size — before slipping the velvet fabric over it. Siti Aishah will stretch the fabric over the frame before stitching everything into place by hand.

On average, it only takes her less than an hour to produce one songkok, and in a day, she can assemble 30 pieces, providing the atap and dinding were prepared in advance.

“It needs a lot patience. There are timed when the demands were quite low back in the day, but it never deterred my goal to stock up until that very one day, one of the government uniform officers requested 500 (pieces) within a duration of six months, and then another for 300 items within three months, which was not a hassle for me as I already had a lot in stock.”

From there, she gained a profit of around $10,000, and she used this as funding to buy sewing machines, shelves, and other equipments needed to establish the business which is now based in Beribi Industrial Complex.

When asked about recruiting workers to assist her, she shared a valuable advice for all business entrepreneurs: “In order to be successful, an owner needs to have the initial specialised skills in making the product before the workers. It’s better to learn by ourselves from all aspects, so we know how to manage the finance and administration, queries and so forth.”

Her workers were mainly employed on a part-time basis, to assist her in completing the tender requests.

She welcomes those who are willing to work part-time at her boutique, and also students who are interested in conducting their industrial attachment in learning the fundamentals of making songkok.

She explained that there are two types of songkok made by her namely Gunung (slightly curved outward) or Rata (flat); both ranging from $25 to $35, depending on the request and type of fabric used.

At the same time, she also produces a variety of unique songkok covered in various colourful patterns and thick fabrics as well ornaments, to decorate the head gear which would mainly be used for showcasing in exhibitions.

“The profit is nonetheless seasonal, however, I’m blessed that the request is still there, especially from those who want a uniformed headgear for weddings, formal occasions, as well before school term starts,” Siti Aishah said.

Despite the limitation in selling to a wider sphere of customers as it only caters to the male population, Siti Aishah is determined to market her product, and is now updating her Facebook page under ‘Aisma Salleh’. The response has been encouraging as word of her quality songkok has reached customers all the way up to Belait district.

To know more about the selections of songkok available at Syarikat Aisma Aishah, contact Siti Aishah at 8884600 or email at aismasalleh@yahoo.com. Alternatively, you can visit her shop located at Block C, No 8 at Beribi Industrial Complex, which opens from 9am to 9pm daily.

Courtesy of The Brunei Times

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Brunei Halal Industry Targets British Midland Business

The Birmingham Post, UK reported on 13 April 2015:

+++++

Brunei's halal industry centre targets Midland businesses

05:45, 13 April 2015
By Enda Mullen

The Asian nation, which is located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, is creating what is set to be the largest concentration of firms producing halal products in the world through its Brunei BioInnovation Corridor


Sabri MD Taha, head of the Halal Industry Innovation Centre, Hajah Normah SH Jamil, permanent secretary Brunei Darussalam's Ministry of Industry & Primary Resources and Gary Ho, MD of SQW China


Midland businesses in the food, pharmaceutical and fast-growing biotech sectors are being urged to explore opportunities in Brunei as the country seeks to position itself it the centre of the halal products industry.

The Asian nation, which is located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, is creating what is set to be the largest concentration of firms producing halal products in the world through its Brunei BioInnovation Corridor.

The corridor has been established to promote the development of halal-certified industries in Brunei and is focusing on halal food products, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and logistics.

A massive investment, it is part of a drive by the oil-rich Asian country to diversify its economy away from a reliance on oil and gas.

The Brunei government wants to place itself at the epicentre of the fast-growing halal products industry, which is currently estimated to be worth more than $1 trillion a year.

The BioInnovation Corridor, being spearheaded by Brunei’s Halal Industry Innovation Centre, is to be created in three phases and will ultimately cover an area of 6 sq km.

To promote the venture a delegation from Brunei recently visited Birmingham in a bid to highlight the opportunities on offer.

The visit coincided with meetings with Midland universities and companies interested up operations in Brunei.

Gary Ho, managing director of consultancy SQW China, which is advising the Brunei government on the project, said: “The BioInnovation Corridor is an industrial and technological park dedicated to halal products designed to diversify the Brunei economy.

“We are looking for international collaborators, in terms of R&D, co-investment and technology transfer.”

Mr Ho said SQW and the Brunei government were currently targeting businesses globally with a view of helping the BioInnovation Corridor to grow.

He added: “We are talking to many countries including China, Hong Kong, the US, Australia and New Zealand, as well as countries in Latin America and Europe.

“That is why we are here in the UK - in London and Birmingham.

“I myself know the West Midlands quite well, we have a lot of projects here in Coventry, Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

“Our company SQW is working with different science parks and we have working relationship with Warwick and Aston universities.”

Mr Ho said Birmingham and the wider Midlands were seen as an area that could deliver prospective partners in the scheme given its industrial strengths and the fact it is home to a significant proportion of the UK’s Asian population.

Normah Jamil, permanent secretary at Brunei’s ministry of industry and primary resources, who was part of the delegation visiting Birmingham, said: “We are using this as a tool to diversify our economy.

“This initiative is aimed at the halal industry, which is not well-served.

“There are1.8 billion Muslims globally and that number is increasing. The halal food industry alone is worth an estimated $634 billion.

“But halal is not just food but the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and high value biotech sectors.

“It offers very good potential for companies, particularly if they are interested in expanding their business into a niche product that is actually a trillion dollar business.

“By definition it is the fastest growing product in the world.”

She added: “What we are looking at is a very big picture. One of the reasons we came to Birmingham is because we feel there are a huge amount of companies we can work with and we are very keen to do so.”

Businesses interested in finding out more about halal industry opportunities in Brunei are also being wooed with a number of other incentives.

They include low taxes and trade tariffs, or in some cases none at all, as well as access to China, other Far Eastern countries and their large Moslem populations.

A trade agreement has already been formalised with China’s Guangxi region, offering a route to many of China’s Muslims.

Being a member of ASEAN (the Association of South East Asia Nations), Brunei also has free trade agreements with Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan and Korea.

Ms Jamil said: “There are zero tariffs to ship out - including China. For companies who want to expand into the region Brunei would be a very good choice.

“We can offer both a good operational environment and a friendly diplomatic environment.”

Mr Ho added: “The halal products industry is under-served but because it is under-served it means the market will grow.

“A well-served market will be substantially bigger so there is very good potential for business development.

“The Brunei government is very interested in manufacturers going there and they can do sole investment or co-investment.”

The BioInnovation Corridor is located in the Brunei-Muara District, just minutes from Brunei International Airport and the Muara Container Port is around half-an-hour away.

A two-day International Food and Bio-Industry Investment Conference is being held in Brunei in May for companies who are interested in setting up operations there.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Brunei Royal Wedding 2015: Royal Wedding Banquet

Royals & heads of states attend ‘Istiadat Persantapan Pengantin Diraja’
Posted date: April 13, 2015

| Azaraimy HH |

THE week-long glittering celebration of the royal wedding ceremony between His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Malik and YAM Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Raabi’atul ‘Adawiyyah binti Pengiran Haji Bolkiah concluded last night with a dazzling royal banquet (‘Istiadat Persantapan Pengantin Diraja’) ceremony at the Istana Nurul Iman.

Gracing the event were His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha.

Also gracing the event were His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, and Her Royal Highness Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah; His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Her Royal Highness Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Zariah; His Royal Highness Prince Haji Sufri Bolkiah and YAM Pengiran Bini Hajah Faizah binti Dato Haji Nasir; His Royal Highness Prince Haji Jefri Bolkiah and YAM Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Norhayati binti Pengiran Jaya Negara Pengiran Haji Abdul Rahman; His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Mateen; His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Wakeel and other members of the royal family.

Last night’s banquet also had an extensive list of royals and heads of states from Malaysia as well as other esteemed international guests.

Arrival of the royal couple, His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Malik and YAM Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengi-ran Raabi’atul ‘Adawiyyah

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha, His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Malik and YAM Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Raabi’atul ‘Adawiyyah binti Pengiran Haji Bolkiah during the ‘Istiadat Persantapan Pengantin Diraja’ ceremony

His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, and Her Royal Highness Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah at the Istana Nurul Iman

His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Her Royal Highness Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Zariah with Tun Dato Laila Utama Pehin Sri Dr Haji Abdul Taib bin Mahmud, the Yang Di-Pertua Negeri of Sarawak, and Toh Puan Datin Ragad Kurdi Taib

KDYMM Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah of Pahang Darul Makmur and DYMM Sultanah Pahang

DYMM Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin of Perlis Indera Kayangan and DYMM Raja Perempuan Perlis

KDYMM Al-Wathiqu Billah Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin of Terengganu Darul Iman and KDYMM Sul-tanah Terengganu

YAM Pengiran Muda Abdul Qawi and YAM Tengku Amalin A’Ishah Putri with YAM Pengiran Muda Ab-dul Mu’min

Some of the banquet’s attendees last night. 
PHOTOS: AZROL AZMI, BAHYIAH BAKIR & DEAN KASSIM


Royal guests included KDYMM Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah of Pahang Darul Makmur; KDYMM Al-Wathiqu Billah Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin of Terengganu Darul Iman; DYMM Sultan Ibrahim of Johor Darul Takzim; DYMM Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin of Perlis Indera Kayangan; DYMM Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Al-Haj of Selangor Darul Ehsan; DYMM Tuanku Muhriz of Negeri Sembilan Darul Khusus and DYMM Paduka Seri Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah of Perak Darul Ridzuan.

Also in attendance were state dignitaries, cabinet ministers, foreign diplomats and others, including Tun Dato Laila Utama Pehin Sri Dr Haji Abdul Taib bin Mahmud, the Yang Di-Pertua Negeri of Sarawak.

Prior to the banquet, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha consented to hold an audience with the Malaysian royalties and heads of states.

The royal wedding began on Sunday last week with the ‘Istiadat Bersuruh Diraja’ (Proposal of marriage) ceremony at Istana Nurul Iman’s Balai Persantapan Diraja.

It then continued last Monday with the ‘Istiadat Membuka Gendang Jaga-Jaga’ ceremony, followed by the ‘Istiadat Menghantar Tanda Diraja Dan Pertunangan Diraja’ (royal engagement) on Tuesday.

Wednesday evening saw the ‘Istiadat Berbedak Pengantin Diraja’ (royal powdering) ceremony, followed by the ‘Istiadat Akad Nikah Pengantin Diraja’ (royal solemnisation) at the Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Mosque on Thursday.

Then on Saturday, a ceremony called the ‘Istiadat Berinai Pengantin Diraja’ was observed.

The ‘Istiadat Bersanding Pengantin Diraja’ yesterday morning was the highly anticipated culmination of the week-long celebration, also attended by royalties and heads of states, which was telecast live on Radio Televisyen Brunei and the Web.

Inspirational Quotes