Monday, December 28, 2015

The History of Maulidur Rasul Celebrations in Brunei

Nowadays, ladies are not in the open procession anymore.



Bandar Seri Begawan
Sunday, December 27, 2015

HOW LONG has the Maulidur Rasul been celebrated in Brunei? Sadly, we will never know when or how Maulidur Rasul was first celebrated in Brunei.

What is known is that Islam came to Brunei in the 11th or 12th century and was entrenched further when the first Brunei Sultan, Sultan Muhammad Shah converted to Islam when he married a Johore Princess in 1363.

By the time of Sultan Sharif Ali, Alonso Bertran, a Spanish traveller described Brunei’s main mosque in 1578 was as high as five storeys. Islam was already held in high regard then and most likely so was the practise of Maulidur Rasul.

One very early vague account was a description in Peter Blundell’s book “The City of Many Waters” published in 1923 about life in Bunei in the late 1890s to early 1900s, was that during Maulidur Rasul, people in Brunei do not work, “... he was then a happy man, especially if a few Mohammedan saints’ days came along ... and prevented him from working and earning money ...”

Just after the end of the Second World War, like many Muslim countries, Brunei Darussalam held its annual Musabaqah Tilawatil Quran or the Al-Quran Reading Competition with great respect.

The winners have been given the honour to represent Brunei Darussalam in international Musabaqah competitions along with great prizes. This annual Musabaqah competition has been held almost continuously since 1948.

Even before 1948, there must have been other competitions but those were not recorded. The same probably applies to Maulidur Rasul – the annual practice to hold it must have been quite similar to the annual practice of Musabaqah Tilawatil Quran.

So by the 1960s, Maulidur Rasul processions around the towns of Brunei certainly were held without fail.

According to Pengiran Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohammad Pengiran Haji Abd Rahman, the former Minister of Religious Affairs in his book entitled “Islam Di Brunei Darussalam Zaman British (1774-1984)” noted that by the end of 1964, all the religious events were celebrated and organised by the religious authorities.

The Maulidur Rasul processions were not just in the four cities of the four districts but also held in the towns of Seria and Muara. The processions were not the quiet and solemn processions of today.

The whole processions were led by either the Royal Brunei Armed Forces Band or the Royal Brunei Police Force Band. There were a few hadrah teams in the processions as well.

Not only were the bands marching, the participating teams also march rather than just amble along like today’s teams. In fact, many practises were held, weeks before the procession so that the team members could march in unison together.

Some were even known to practise right up to the day of the procession itself which is usually held after the subuh prayers. Though there are people who remembered the processions were held in the afternoon.

The discipline goes to the clothes worn on the day. Even though all would be wearing the traditional baju melayu, but the efforts to ensure differences between other teams were there.

While some of today's teams may be sporting one colour, others do not, in contrast to the past when each team uniformly sported one unique colour. Some would adorn brightly coloured satins to their songkoks. Some teams would even adorn brightly coloured sashes to distinguish themselves from the others.

In the 1950s and 1960s, banners with slogans praising the Prophet, were works of art, made with special ribbons and other embellishments wrapped around a wooden frame. Most teams spent a lot of money in preparing the banners. This took quite some time to make and competitions were held to reward the best banner.

Going back in time, coconut leaves were also used for decoration. By the 1980s wheels were added on. Banners leading every team can become quite elaborate and may require as many as eight men to lift or push.

Today’s banners have gone back to the simplicity of the early days and consist of a piece of cloth with two poles at the end of the cloth to hold the banner together. There would also be a girl guide or a boy scout carrying the number of the team leading every team.

The organising committees would give many prizes to the best dressed team, to the best marching team, to the best banner design, to the best zikir as well as the overall best team. Judges were placed at strategic points throughout the route to ensure fair judgment.

By the 1980s, the discipline started to deteriorate. Schoolchildren taking part in the processions tended to be quite rowdy as well. They were supposed to chant the salawats but sometimes ending it with “oren, oren” (“orange, orange”) at the end of every verse especially when they were getting close to the end of the procession, each looking forward to the bottle of carbonated orange drink that is waiting for them on the field.

This is one of the few occasions that the carbonated drinks which today's children take for granted, were given to those who took part.

When they reached the field, bottle cap removers were unnecessary. The children simply used their teeth to remove the caps. Some sold the empty bottles afterwards for pocket money.

In the 1950s and 1960s, teams of both genders took part together but over time, the two genders were separated with the ladies’ teams going first before them mens’ teams. Nowadays, those invited to the Taman Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien in Bandar Seri Begawan became spectators.

This year, as in keeping with the practice in very recent years, ladies no longer parade around the city centre with Bruneian men and boys.

Those invited to the padang (‘field’) in Bandar Seri Begawan became spectators to the procession by the various male-only teams.

Over the last few years, Her Majesty The Raja Isteri together with the Brunei women folks have a special mass gathering to celebrate the Maulidur Rasul instead of trooping around the various city centres. On the other hand, Maulidur Rasul celebrations are no longer held only during the single one day when the processions took place.

Many organisations and families too organise their own celebrations. The mosques and the Palace hold nightly zikir ceremonies.

However, the spirit of Maulidur Rasul have not changed which is to remember the Prophet SAW, his excellent deeds, teachings, wisdom and immense mercy even toward his most bitter enemies.

The writer of The Golden Legacy column – the longest running column in The Brunei Times – also runs a website about Brunei at

The Brunei Times

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Heritage of Tamu Kianggeh

The Heritage of Tamu Kianggeh

Bandar Seri Begawan
Sunday, December 20, 2015
Tamu Bandar Before Tamu Kianggeh

Tamu Bandar Before Tamu Kianggeh

LAST Monday, a news article on The Brunei Times on the closure of the Tamu Kianggeh caused a furore among vendors as well as regular visitors to the tamu.

Some vendors expressed their grievances on the idea of losing the tamu, which for most of them, have been an integral part of their lives. Some were shocked and some were frustrated as most have inherited their stalls from their parents and grandparents and that it is a part of their heritage.

Although some vendors agreed that even though visitors to the tamu have decreased over the years, they argued that it remains as one of the most visited locations in Brunei.

Another reason for the furore was that the replacement new Tamu Gadong was not suitable for them with some vendors incapable of going to Tamu Gadong and were unwilling to abandon their livelihood at Kianggeh.

It was argued that it was difficult to use boats to go to Gadong as low tides can hinder the boats from reaching the area and that the load of produce that they have to carry day in and day out to Gadong would also prove to be a burden.

Meanwhile a number of commentators also pointed that if Tamu Kianggeh is to be closed down, then the capital will become less lively and that Brunei will lose a big part of its identity. The Tamu is considered as a national heritage and that it has been there for years and that it is one of the oldest market in the country.

While it is true that the people of Brunei have always relied on commercial activities to support their lives, the argument that Tamu Kianggeh has always been there is unfortunately, not accurate. This writer can still clearly remembered the times when Tamu Kianggeh had not yet operated.

In the days when Brunei was not on dry land, its ‘tamu’ functions were carried out on the Brunei River. Antonio Pigafetta, the Italian chronicler of Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet that made a stop in Brunei in July 1521, described scenes with women going around selling their wares on their small boats.

His description about Brunei, “that city is entirely built in salt water, except the houses of the king and certain chiefs. It contains twenty-five thousand hearths. The houses are all constructed of wood and built up from the ground on tall pillars. When the tide is high, women go in boats through the settlement selling articles necessary to maintain life.”

In fact, as late as the early 1980s, every early day along the Brunei River, a visitor to Brunei can see a number of small Brunei sampans called ‘bidars’ rowed by women vendors with their ‘siraung’ or extra large circular hats moving up and down the houses along Kampong Ayer.

Some of them also plied their wares along the jetties near the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. These women vendors were known as ‘Padians’.

In the Syair Awang Semaun, Brunei’s contemporary epic poetic legends, it was said it was Pateh Berbai who initiated the idea of a floating market selling all sorts of foodstuffs, vegetables and commodities.

By the 1980s, the padians were already a dying breed and today, the padians have become completely extinct. It was the result of government’s policy going as far back as in 1906, when the government opened up dry land and encouraged many Kampong Ayer residents to migrate to the interior parts. The development of the dry land and the capital brought about the existence of markets and ‘tamus’ or smaller markets.

Over time, the padians failed to continue serving as the centre of trade as the markets on dry land developed, as they were were generally small-time vendors making a living from the ‘pengalus’.

Pengalus were middlemen and were generally men who paddled to the interior villages and buying and bringing goods to the market.

However by the turn of the 20th century, many of the suppliers brought their wares directly to the markets without going through the padians or the pengalus.

It is hard to say where the first market on land developed in Brunei. By the turn of the twentieth century, an old photograph depicted a group of padian by the riverbank at the ‘labuhan kapal’ (today it is the site of Bandar Seri Begawan wharf, now known as the Royal Wharf) was probably among the first modern market where customers on dry land can buy their goods from the padians.

The first identifiable modern tamu in the 1950s and 1960s was the triangular area in front of the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Building and behind the building called the ‘Jardine Wharf’ Building. That area also housed a fruit and vegetable market. Many vendors congregate to the area to sell their vegetables, live stocks, fruits and the Brunei traditional cakes and biscuits.

Haji Wahab Tuah remembered how he used to be carried by his father very early in the morning so as to get a place to sell the family’s vegetables and traditional Brunei food. Haji Wahab would find himself waking up amidst the very busy crowd.

It never had a proper name other than being called a ‘tamu’. It is possible that the word ‘tamu’ is derived from the standard Malay word ‘temu’ which means ‘to meet’.

This tamu expanded and by the early 1970s, it had spread out to the area in front of the Jardine Wharf Building which is today’s Taman Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien. In the 1970s, the Taman was only a plain open field with no grandstands. Many vendors set up their stalls along this field.

The area facing the mosque, in front of the police station (now demolished and made into a carpark) specialised in selling clothing articles and also other knick knacks, whereas the area facing the building sells food and related products.

Haji Noorhadi Noorkaseh used to help his parents sell their products in this tamu. According to him, by then the triangular area was no longer used as a tamu.

One also has to remember that the Yayasan Building was only completed in the early 1990s, and before that, the shops and houses of Kampong Sultan Lama was right on the street of Jalan Residency connecting to Jalan Stoney. It was a very busy area and traffic jams were commonplace during Fridays and Sundays.

By the 1980s, preparations were being made for Brunei's Independence which was on the eve of 1 January 1984. Grandstands had to be built. The Brunei Police Station was demolished and was rebuilt at where it is today. The field was cleared and being turned into today’s Taman Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien.

The vendors at the tamu were moved out and were given a temporary space at Batu Satu, JalanTutong. There was an open area near a department store called Klasse Jaya which has now been demolished. In the meantime preparations were being made to turn a small open area across the Kianggeh river into today’s Tamu Kianggeh.

By that time, there were already many sellers along the Kianggeh River selling goods and supplies required by the city’s inhabitants from their boats. It was around the mid 1980s that the Kianggeh Tamu was finally opened.

And what if the Kianggeh Tamu has to close tomorrow? Would Bandar Seri Begawan lose its heritage?

While this writer is a passionate supporter of Brunei’s heritage, this writer believes that wherever the tamu is going to be located, it will bring with it, its characteristics and its attractions. The location at Kianggeh has never been historical given its recent history, and any other location would be just as similar to Kianggeh. The same argument for and against was mooted when the wet market had to be relocated from Bandar to Gadong years ago.

There will obviously be losers such as the vendors who had been there. Visitors to Central Bandar Seri Begawan would lose one more spot to visit. The gain will be for vendors and visitors at Gadong which is still a part of Bandar Seri Begawan.

The writer of The Golden Legacy column – the longest running column in The Brunei Times – also runs a website about Brunei at

The Brunei Times

Monday, December 14, 2015

Brunei - Rising from the Ruins of World War II

Brunei Town bombed during World war II

Brunei Town 1950 (Source: Rozan Yunos Collection)

Brunei Town 1950 (source: Rozan Yunos Collection)

Brunei: Rising from the Ruins of World War II

Rozan Yunos
Bandar Seri Begawan
Sunday, December 13, 2015

IT WAS 74 years ago this month that Brunei Darussalam was dragged reluctantly into World War II. On 16 December 1941, 10,000 Japanese troops arrived in Kuala Belait. Within a week, they occupied the entire country. They did not face any opposition as the British, despite the treaty between them and Brunei, left only a tiny detachment of a Punjabi Regiment in Kuching, Sarawak to protect the three territories of British Borneo of Brunei, Sarawak and then North Borneo.

At first, the Japanese, despite being occupiers, were not “too much hated” by the people though it was “very dangerous if one did not toe their line”. The Japanese were seen as “harsh” and “drove the workers hard”, and during the early stages of the occupation, the Kempetai (Japanese Military Police) did not execute anyone but they were greatly feared.

Towards the end of the war, the former benevolent Japanese governor was replaced. The Japanese became increasingly paranoid and life for many Bruneians became harder and many chose to flee into the jungle.

On June 10, 1945, the Australians landed at Muara under ‘Operation Oboe’ to recapture Brunei. They were supported by American air and naval units. Brunei Town was captured in three days after a heavy bombing campaign by the Allied Forces which virtually destroyed and flattened the city including the Mosque.

The forces advanced from Muara into Brunei Town against little resistance from the Japanese, most of whom had fled to Limbang, Terusan, Tutong and Kuala Belait.

The Allied soldiers saw for themselves the extensive damage done by the Japanese during the occupation, which had been made even worse by the Allied Forces' bombing operations. Brunei was then placed temporarily under the British Military Administration (BMA).

One of the best accounts of Brunei during the aftermath of World War II was written by Captain TS Monks (1992) of the Allied Forces. His initial description of Brunei Town was quite sad. “There was hardly a building left standing. The main street (Jalan Sultan) was a mess of bomb craters and fallen telegraph poles. There was not a soul in sight anywhere. It was a shattered ghost town.”

All the main buildings had been demolished or were far beyond repair. The Government Office was leaning to the point of collapse. The State Council building had only its front facade left. The hospital had been reduced to rubble, and so had every single shop.

The BMA’s immediate actions were to restore peace and to regain the people’s confidence in British administration. Thus the years 1945 to 1946 saw efforts being made by the British to rebuild Brunei and to revive its economy.

Reviving Brunei’s economy included reopening Seria’s oilfields, which the Japanese had set on fire. It was not until September 1945 that the fires were under control. However, by 1946, the British Malayan Petroleum Company was able to restore 113 wells and drilled 17 new wells.

A new temporary hospital in Brunei Town was built. Dispensaries were provided in the other districts and a maternity service was set up. A police force was re-established and shophouses, schools and government buildings in the towns were soon repaired and reconstructed. At the same time, new policies were formulated by the British to strengthen the security of the Malaya-Borneo territories as well as introduce a systematic administration.

Conditions in Brunei improved much faster than thought possible. By July 6, 1945, the BMA had handed over the administration of Brunei to the civil administration and WJ Peel was appointed the first post-war Resident. The Brunei State Council was also revived that same year.

The first post war official annual report of Brunei was issued for the year 1947 by LHN Davis, the British Resident in March 1948. Davis described that the year 1947 saw considerable progress in rehabilitation and improvement in the standard of living of the peoples of Brunei.

Supplies of food and consumer goods have improved considerably. Rice was still in short supply but not as acute as in 1946. Roads have been repaired and reopened. More temporary shop houses have been built. The population of Brunei was just over 40,000.

Davis also described the annual regatta on the Brunei River which was held on the second day of Hari Raya Puasa holiday in August. The increased number of entries reflected the returning peace and prosperity in Brunei.In schools, 1,892 students were enrolled in government Malay schools whilst there were 947 students were in role in Chinese schools

In terms of revenue, the government collected a total of $4,389,974 much higher than the $3,452,280 estimates and the government spent $1,797,597. The previous year, the government only collected $774,145 and before the war, the highest revenue collection was $1,556,354 in 1940.

In 1948, EEF Pretty, the British Resident reported that the process of rehabilitation has continued but progress has been painfully slow due to the shortage of trained staff and the difficulty in getting essential materials. Despite the excess revenue, the absence of contracting firms with adequate capital has made it impossible for half of the new public works to be carried out.

But in the Belait District, the British Malayan Petroleum Company has succeeded in rehabilitation work that the oilfield of Seria was then the largest producing field in the British Commonwealth with 60,000 barrels per day.

By 1948, there was no longer any shortage of food. Total government revenues were now higher than the previous year at $6,586,299 but expenditure has also increased to $3,740,254. The increase in revenue was due to increasing income from oil which is around $4,239,287. The number of students in government schools have increased to 2,029 whilst those in English mission schools were 471 and 984 in Chinese schools. There remained difficulties in getting teachers.

By 1950, Pretty continued the good news in his annual report that the work of rehabilitation proceeded as smoothly and rapidly despite the continued dearth of technicians with three major projects, the new Government Hospital, the new palace for the Sultan as well as the new Malay school.

Oil continued to be produced and has rose to 100,000 barrels per day. The government’s revenue for 1950 was $17,302,862 with an expenditure of $7,112,499 compared to 1949’s figure of $8,736,148 revenue and $4,228,459 expenditure.

The Year of 1950 also marked the turning point for Brunei Darussalam. His Royal Highness Sultan Haji Ahmad Tajuddin died in Singapore on June 4, 1950 while on his way to United Kingdom for an official visit.

His brother, His Royal Highness Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien was proclaimed the 28th Sultan on June 6, 1950. Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien led the country to greater heights and was later described as the “Architect of Modern Brunei”.

The writer of The Golden Legacy column – the longest running column in The Brunei Times – also runs a website about Brunei at

The Brunei Times

Monday, December 07, 2015

Kampong Ayer Past and Present

Kampong Ayer in the 1950s. Source (Rozan Yunos Collection)

Kampong Ayer - Past and Present

Bandar Seri Begawan
Sunday, December 6, 2015

IF YOU are a Kampong Ayer aficionado or a former resident, the destruction of all the old houses by the Brunei River bank, will surely bring back memories. Over the years, many villages in Kampong Ayer have disappeared and many familiar villages names remain only in memories.

These names include Sultan Lama, Khatib Sulaiman, Ujong Pemukat, Bakut China, Menjalin, Sungai Panga, Bakut Berumput, Sungai Kuyuk, Kuala Peminyak, Pandai Amas, Sungai Siamas, Sumbiling, Sumbiling Baru, Sungai Kedayan, Ujung Tanjung, Pemancha Lama and Bukit Salat.

If we want to compare the changes with what Brunei used to have in Brunei’s Water Village of the past, the one book which must be read is the book written by Sir Spenser Buckingham St John entitled “Life in the Forests of the Far East” first published in 1862 in two volumes by Smith, Elder and Co in London.

In an introduction to a 1986 reprint of the book, Tom Harrison, a former curator of the Brunei Museum noted that St John enjoyed an unusual position in the history of Borneo as “he was trusted by both the Brookes and the Bruneis; and at the same time, by HM Government in London.” He was able to remain balanced and wrote at what Harisson described as “one of the most formative, volatile times: when much of what is present day Borneo life was being politically and economically initiated, with far-reaching consequences.”

St John spent 13 years in north and west Borneo and he was appointed as the British Consul in Brunei during 1856 to 1858. He was Rajah Brooke’s private secretary when his father introduced him to James Brooke. He actually climbed up the Mount Kinabalu and had one of the mountain’s peak (St John’s Peak) named after him. After Borneo, He went to the Carribean Islands and South America before retiring in 1896.

In the one and only chapter that St John wrote about Brunei entitled “The Kingdom of Borneo Proper”, St John thought that Brunei’s population which was estimated to be around 25,000 inhabitants maybe an under estimate.

According to him, the under estimate occurred because of the assumption that each household in Brunei averaged around five people. However, he had made more than a hundred inquiries of different men as to the number of inhabitants in each of their houses, and he found that the highest was the Sultan with seventy in his palace and the lowest was seven in a small fisherman’s hut. Based on that poll, he placed the average at fifteen per household and he estimated therefore that the Brunei population to exceed forty thousand(40,000) which is a fairly large number as this was in the mid-18th century.

Even though the central authority at that time was relatively weak, St John noted that the country was “kept together by the sort of local self-government which obtains in all the kampongs of the city, and by the strong feelings which unites all the branches of a family.”

Most importantly, St John was the first person to ever describe the names of the villages in Kampong Ayer. It is from his description that studies of the water village today can be compared with what it looked like more than 165 years ago.

The first village he described was reached by ascending the left side of the river and entering the city, was known as ‘Pablat’. This name is no longer in use today and the village according to those who studied Kampong Ayer history is now known as Kampong Saba.

However then, it was a village, as described by St John, “residence of some of the most sturdy of inhabitants”. They were mostly fishermen, who have their fixed nets on the banks of the rivers and on the extensive sandbanks which stretched across the bay, inside Muara Island.

Pablat refers to the men who used the ‘balat’ instrument which the fishermen used to catch their fish. Their nets were made of split bamboo, and were of various heights. The lower ones were fixed near the bank. The longer ones were added on as they enter into deeper water so that the summits were of uniform heights. The fish swimming upstream or downstream the river, on meeting this obstruction, simply follow it to the end and enter a very simple trap. The fish were then placed into baskets by the fishermen.

The next village was known is ‘Perambat’. The name Perambat was again derived from another method to catch fish which was using a rambat or a casting net. According to St John, the fishermen using the net can cast a thirty feet spread net and would be able to catch a large amount of fish and prawns.

The next village after Perambat was known as ‘Membakut Pangeran Mohamed’ which then contained the houses of many of the principal nobles as well as the residence of the late sultan’s widow.

Above and at the back of Membakut Pangeran Mohamed was another village called ‘Pemproanan’, which was a village of blacksmiths and kris makers.

Next was a village called simply ‘Membakut’ which was built on firm ground which had a few Chinese and Indian houses. The next village was ‘Saudagar’ was where the merchants used to stay. It was said that a Portuguese trader from Makau used to reside there.

Other villages include ‘Padaun’, derived from ‘daun’, a leaf used in converting the leaf of the nipah palm into roofing mats; ‘Pasir’ made of rice cleaners and makers of rice mortars; ‘Sungai Kuyuk’ made up of wood workers and prawn fishers; and ‘Pemriuk’ were for workers in brass and the name came from periuk or a brass cooking pot.

Two more villages again referred to the method of catching fish are called ‘Menjaling’ and ‘Pemukat’ and; finally ‘Burong Pinge’ inhabited by the principal traders and the wealthiest men in town.

In ascending the river from the right, St John described the first village as ‘Terkoyong’ which was derived from the word koyong or shell. The villagers collected pearl oysters as well as collected the contents of the oyster for food.

The next village was the ‘Labuan Kapal’, or the ships’ anchorage. The water up to the wharves was deep so that ships could load without using boats. The villagers themselves made kajangs or mats used to cover boats and walls of houses.

Other kampungs were known as ‘Jawatan Jeludin’ and ‘Khatib Bakir’ made up of traders and blacksmiths; ‘Peminiak’, from minyak or oil; ‘Pengiran Ajak’ and ‘Ujong Tajong’ were made up of general traders. Sungei Kedayan was the residence of the Temenggong and Pemancha and various other government officers and the villagers themselves cast brass guns, goldsmiths and the women made gold brocades (jongsarat). Two mosques were built here.

The palace was next to the village together with houses for the attendants, the Bendahara and his people and another village just after this, called ‘Pasar’.

Other kampungs were small then namely ‘Tamui’, ‘Panchur Brasur’, ‘Kandang Batu’ or ‘Prandang’, ‘Alaugan’, ‘Blanak’ and ‘Tamasik’ made up of traders, gardeners and a few blacksmiths with the exception of ‘Pangeran Daud’ which was made up of villagers engaged in making mats.

With his description, we were able to peek a glimpse into what Kampong Ayer used to look like in the past.

The writer of The Golden Legacy column – the longest running column in The Brunei Times – also runs a website about Brunei at

The Brunei Times

Friday, December 04, 2015

Fisheries Expansion Goes Onshore in Brunei

Fisheries Expansion Goes Onshore in Brunei
Oxford Business Group 26.11.2015

Onshore developments, including aquaculture and processing facilities, could help Brunei Darussalam unlock the potential of its burgeoning fisheries industry.

The Sultanate is keen to overcome supply gaps and boost the sector’s contribution to GDP, particularly in the value-added segment, as part of a national drive to diversify the economy away from oil and gas.

Maritime legacy

A one-time maritime hub, Brunei Darussalam’s natural resources – which include 161 km of coastline and an extensive, 36,600-sq-km exclusive economic zone – should support the country’s efforts to expand fisheries revenues.

The sector’s current share of economic output remains low, at just short of 1% of GDP when combined with both forestry and agriculture as of the second quarter of 2015, according to the Department of Statistics. However, the fisheries segment in particular has recorded substantial growth over the last year, expanding by 29.8% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2015.

While the government sees fisheries and aquaculture as potential providers of jobs and private sector investment, it also recognises the need to address the current supply gap.

Local demand remains especially high in the Sultanate, which has one of the highest rates of per capita seafood consumption in South-east Asia, at 47 kg per annum in 2013.
Supply & sustainability

Brunei Darussalam has imposed limits in recent years to preserve local fish stocks and protect delicate coral reefs, which are major breeding grounds for fish. Promoting more sustainable fishing practices also ranks high on the Sultanate’s fisheries agenda.

The country recently renewed a moratorium on new fishing licences, originally implemented in 2008, while also extending the coastal Zone 1 fishing area, where some trawling is banned, from three nautical miles offshore to seven.

While such measures are expected to help restore depleted fish stocks, they have driven down local supply in the interim. Fish processing businesses report having to import catches from outside of Brunei Darussalam in order to maintain their operations – largely from Malaysia (Sarawak and Sabah) – and are still running below capacity.

Richard Chuang, managing director of integrated seafood producer Golden Corporation, highlighted the impact that raw material shortages were having on operations. “It is the most important issue that we are facing at the moment,” he told local media in October, citing production levels of around 20-30% of operational capacity.

While the value of fish and seafood imports has eased slightly in recent years, according to data from the Department of Fisheries, falling from BN$10.3m ($7.3m) in 2009 to BN$5.9m ($4.2m) in 2012, the country continues to rely on imports for roughly half of local consumption.

Supply shortages have also driven up the price of fish. As of the first quarter of 2015, red snapper was trading at around BN$5.70-7.60 ($4-5.40) per kg in Malaysia, compared to BN$18 ($12.75) per kg in Brunei, according to local media reports.
Farming for the future

Efforts to boost supply have largely centred on onshore production, with a focus on developing fish and seafood farms.

The outlook for the aquaculture segment looks promising, with its contribution to the national economy expected to reach BN$200m ($141.4m) by 2023, according to the Department of Fisheries, equivalent to around half of the overall industry.

Boosting aquaculture output would also allow the country to expand its seafood processing and export businesses, which currently account for a relatively small share of the sector’s total value.

Golden Corporation, which breeds and processes organic blue prawns, has acquired 200 ha of new land for aquaculture in a bid to triple production to 3000 tonnes per annum by 2017. The company currently exports roughly 60 tonnes of shrimp per month to China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

Brunei Darussalam has also taken steps to make better use of bycatch. A long-running lack of local demand for certain types of fish has led to high discard rates. Before the country developed a domestic value-added processing industry, reports suggested that as much as 90% of each catch was discarded.

In recent years, efforts in have focused on identifying applications for less marketable fish. Processing plants that turn low-quality catches into commercially viable products, such as surimi and fish oil and pastes, have proven to be successful growth avenues for the industry.

Inspirational Quotes