Learning through the lessons of history (MIB Series)

Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin and the delegation arriving at Bandar Brunei (Kampong Ayer) from Tantaya, Limbang Territory, after the end of World War II.

Ibrahim Mohd Jaafar and family in a photo with the family of the British Resident, Sir John Peel. – PHOTOS: MIB SUPREME COUNCIL

Learning through the lessons of history
on: December 19, 2016
| Dr Muhammad Hadi bin Muhammad Melayong,
Senior Special Duties Officer, Secretariat Office, MIB Supreme Council |

THE Japanese Occupation of 1941-1945 was a major blow to Brunei’s sovereignty as a Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB). Under the occupation acts of injustice towards the local populace caused deep resentment that eventually grew into hatred, particularly among Bruneian nationalists.

The occupation also led to the reclaiming of Brunei’s sovereignty led by the Youth Front (BARIP). The movement was supported by Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin and his brother Pengiran Bendahara Pemaisura (later Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam).

Before the Japanese Occupation, Brunei was heavily controlled by the British, in which the power of the Sultan was limited only to matters on local customs and religion. Colonialism left Brunei politically weak, as evident from a document found in the National Archives at Kew Gardens in London, which stated that Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin had no power as a Sultan, and that the same constraints were imposed on his privileges, position and monthly royal allowance.

This poor treatment from the British prompted the Sultan to initiate talks on Brunei’s political stance and the monarchial system. This was the first political discourse between a Brunei Sultan and a British Resident, but the discussions came to a premature end when Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin died while en route to London on June 3, 1950.

During the residential era, Brunei was politically instable, with her administration in both internal and external affairs under British administration. In an interview with former British Resident Sir John Peel, in August 1995, he said:

“Brunei was a protected state and the treaty provided that he (the Sultan) should accept a British Resident and his advice on all subjects other than the Mohammedan religion and Malay customs. So the Sultan had to accept my advice on all other subjects and that was just how it was before the war. So I had very wide powers indeed. I was really responsible for the general affairs of the state. In the State Council which was presided over by the Sultan, I was sitting next to him to advise him, because actually I did the paper work of the meeting. Absolutely, I ran the government.”

During and after World War II, Brunei was still a British protectorate. The flames of nationalism were rising across the region, particularly in Malaya and Indonesia. Their fight for political freedom inspired Brunei’s own nationalist movement in the form of BARIP, which led the struggle for Brunei’s independence and sovereignty.

In a previous article, it was mentioned how H M Salleh and his faithful BARIP followers threatened business owners in the capital of Bandar Brunei, over their refusal to lower the Brunei flag to half-mast following the death of His Majesty Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin’s mother in 1947. Fortunately, the business owners agreed with their demands and averted potential riots in the capital.

Another act of patriotism occurred when Ibrahim bin Mohd Jaafar (Pehin Datu Perdana Menteri Dato Laila Utama Haji Ibrahim bin Mohd Jaafar) risked his own life in preserving several government documents during the Japanese Occupation, in 1941. Without those documents, it would have been difficult to rebuild Brunei after the war.

Like his late brother, Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien believed that diplomacy was the best solution in engaging with the British, and that aggression was not an option. The road towards the Brunei Constitution is ample proof of the excellent diplomacy between Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien and the British. In ‘Syair Perlembagaan’, a literary work by Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien, he described how Brunei regained her independence through diplomacy and soft negotiations.

Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien continued his brother’s final wish for independence, and reclaimed Brunei’s political rights and sovereignty based on the principles of Malay Islamic Monarchy (these components are upheld in the Brunei Constitution). The declaration of Brunei’s independence in 1984 marked Brunei’s political success in both its internal and external affairs.

Every year, Brunei observes National Day to mark Brunei’s independence. Bruneians, both young and old, gather in a show of patriotism in Bandar Seri Begawan before the monarch, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, to show gratitude towards Allah the Almighty for Brunei’s independence. But how many of us can recall the road to our country’s independence? The story of our national heroes and their fight for independence should be more widely known – a story that we can share with the younger generation. It’s the story of the Brunei patriots who fought to preserve our sovereignty, religion and nation.

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam highlighted the importance of history as a guide to nation-building and national expansion in the following speech:

“History is the voice of truth, and a most eloquent one. We should not silence this voice, but let it continue to speak more fluently and clearly. History should not be silenced. A country that seeks to hide its history is afraid of its past. We need to have courage – the courage to ask questions and look inside ourselves.

“That is how we can learn from history. A nation that learns from its own past is a great one indeed. It is through history that we can trace our own beginnings and carve out our own name. That’s how wonderful history is.

“The history of Brunei Darussalam carries a most unique aspect: The Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB). It was handed down to us not by human artifice but as a gift from Allah the Almighty. As a divine gift, its true worth is immeasurable. It also demands great responsibility, and that responsibility is known by another name – trust.

“So who carries this responsibility? The answer is: all of us, as citizens of this country. We will carry this trust, we will guard it, we will apply its principles, and we will continue to nurture it as our cultural pride.

“We should never allow it to be diminished by outside forces, whether it be an ideology or system which is incompatible with MIB.

“MIB is the life and soul of Brunei. It cannot be seen with the naked eye, but through wisdom and understanding. Everyone needs to understand that MIB is not a ‘narrow lane’ but a broad highway that leads to the comfort and happiness for all.”

These articles have been written to serve as a reminder and guide towards Brunei’s goals of Vision 2035. His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has already stated that he will carry on the legacy of his late father Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien, in order to preserve the peace and stability of Brunei Darussalam based on MIB.

Alhamdulillah, with the blessing of Allah the Almighty, the combined strong leadership of Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin, Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien and His Majesty restored our country to her former state of sovereignty and independence on January 1, 1984.

To prevent history from repeating itself, we should embrace what has been entrusted onto us as Bruneians, to preserve the country’s identity and her national philosophy. Our country should not have to undergo another adversity for us to truly appreciate her sovereignty and identity. We should learn by reflecting on the lessons of history, and the fight by our national heroes to protect Brunei’s cultural heritage.

Courtesy of the Borneo Bulletin

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