Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Sireh Leaf and Betel Nut Culture in Brunei

File photo of elderly Malay-Dusun community about to enjoy a chewing session as they fill their ‘sireh’ leave with condiments from a ‘celapa’ during a traditional wedding showcase. Picture: BT file

Rozan Yunos
Bandar Seri Begawan
Sunday, March 27, 2016

IT WAS not that long ago that Bruneians’ mouths were red from chewing their ‘sireh pinang’, which a mixture of ‘sireh’ leaf mixed with tobacco, slaked lime and areca nut.

WH Treacher in his book ’British Borneo: Sketches of Brunai, Sarawak, Labuan and North Borneo’ (1891) wrote that in Brunei, “both before, during and after a day’s work, the Malays, man and woman, boy and girl, solace and refresh themselves with tobacco and with the areca-nut, or the betel nut as, for some unexplained reason, it is called in English books, though betel is the name of the pepper leaf in which the areca-nut is wrapped and with which it is masticated.”

It was a common practice, not just among Bruneians, but throughout the region to chew a mixture of pinang or betel nut, lime and gambier wrapped in a ‘sireh’ leaf, a practice that apparently dates back to more than 10,000 years ago.

According to Dawn Rooney, author of the book ‘Betel Chewing Traditions in South-East Asia’ (1993), “the earliest archaeological evidence found so far is at Spirit Cave in north-western Thailand, where remains of Areca catechu (beetle nut or palm), dating from 10,000 BC have been found.”

One usually applies a thin layer of lime paste over a ‘sireh’ leaf together with a slice or a sprinkle of the gambier and thin slices of betel nut or palm or also areca nut. The ‘sireh’ leaf is then folded into a small square and then chewed. Chewing the leaf will give the chewer a slight narcotic effect despite its bitter taste, and stain the mouth red. It was also customary politeness to offer the ‘sireh’ together with the condiments in a ‘tipa’ or the ‘tepak sireh’ or in a ‘celapa’.

Where do the ingredients come from?

The ‘sireh’ leaf, or better known as the betel (Piper betle), is the leaf of a vine belonging to the Piperaceae family, which includes pepper and kava. It is valued both as a mild stimulant and for its medicinal properties.

The betel nut or the areca nut is the seed of the areca palm (Areca catechu), which grows in much of the tropical Pacific, Asia, and parts of east Africa. It is commonly referred to as betel nut because of its use – chewed wrapped in betel leaves. The term areca originated from a South Asian word during the 16th century, when Dutch and Portuguese sailors took the nut to Europe. Treacher (1891) reminded that the nut is the produce of a graceful and slender palm, which flourishes under cultivation in all Malayan countries and is called ‘pinang’ by Malays.

The areca nut is not a true nut. It is commercially available in dried, cured and fresh forms. When the husk of the fresh fruit is green, the nut inside is soft enough to be cut with a typical knife. In the ripe fruit, the husk becomes yellow or orange and, as it dries, the fruit inside hardens to a wood-like consistency. At that stage, the areca nut can only be sliced using a special scissors-like cutter, known as the ‘Kacip’ or ‘Kalakati’ in Brunei. The cutter is called ‘Khilikaati’ in one Indian language, the Odia, which sounds similar to what it is called in Brunei.

The ‘sireh’ leaf and the betel nut are natural ingredients which can be picked from their plants. However, the slaked lime paste has to be made. In Malay, lime is known as ‘kapur’, which is also translated as chalk because of its colour and texture. In this region, the paste is actually made by heating seashells until they turned white, crush them and add a bit of water. Whereas ‘gambir’ is actually made from the gambier resin, which is made from the leaves of a climbing vine plant ‘Uncaria Gambia’.

India was thought to be the source of betel chewing. However Dawn Rooney (1993) noted that it was Thailand that had the earliest archaeological evidence, and even the Philippines has evidence that stretched back as far as 3,000 years ago, where skeletons bearing evidence of betel chewing have been found in the Duyong Caves.

In Brunei, we can infer the ability to do wood and metal craft as the ability to make ‘celapa’ and the like, which points out to the sophisticated use of ‘sireh’ ceremony. According to Dr Siti Nor Khalbi Wahsalfelah in her paper ‘Sejarah Sosio-Budaya Kraftangan di Brunei Darussalam: Barangan Logamdan Kain Tenunan’ (2014) and published in ‘Susurgalur: Jurnal Kajian Sejarah dan Pendidikan Sejarah’, even though it is not known when crafts skills were first used in Brunei, but they have definitely been practised by the 7th century. Many artefacts were found in the Kota Batu area in the 1950s, which when carbon dated go back as far as 800 years ago.

Further evidences were found in 1999, in a small island off Kota Batu, where remnants from metal works were found as well as in Sungai Limau Manis, a city which is said to be fully functional at least 1,000 years ago.

About 500 years ago, during Magellan’s efforts to go round the world, the chronicler on board, Pifagetta(1522), noted that when the Magellan’s crew arrived in Brunei, they were served ‘a painted wooden vessel full of betel leaves and areca’ which meant that serving betel leaves and betelnuts was already established as part of the ceremony to welcome visitors.

The excerpt from Pigafetta’s book as follows: “The king of this island sent us a prahu, which is like a galley, very beautiful, with the bow and stern worked in gold; ….Some people were playing on stringed instruments and drums….. and eight old men among the chieftains came aboard, and sat on a rug in the stern and presented to us a painted wooden vessel full of betel leaves and areca nuts, which is the fruit that they always chew with jasmine and orange blossoms, covered with a cloth of yellow silk, two cages of chickens, a pair of goats, three vessels full of rice wine,… and some bundles of sugar-cane, and, after embracing (the sailors), took their leave.”

According to Khir Johari, in an article entitled ‘A Introduction to the Use of Sirih in Malay Culture’ in Singapore’s Passage Magazine” (2013), the meaning of chewing ‘sireh’ and areca in Malay culture lies in the characteristics of its ingredients.

Thus, “the sirih represents humility and respectfulness, for the betel vine climbs up anything it can cling to and does so without disturbing its host. Since the areca palm is a tall, elegant tree with a straight trunk and promises a profusion of fruits, it epitomises honesty, high moral values and the determination to excel when given a task.

Pure white slaked lime from shells, denotes pure-heartedness and sincerity, but when provoked it can be aggressive for such is the nature of calcium hydroxide – useful in small quantities, but too much is caustic!

To obtain the gambier lozenges, the leaves of the gambier tree are first boiled to extract the resin. After an arduous process of reduction, the paste is made into small medallions that require days of drying. The gambier thus represents perseverance, patience and hard work. Hence, to the Malay forefathers, every quid of sirih was a reminder of what it takes to be a person, to be human”.

In addition, we can also add that the ‘celapa’ as the container or vessel to keep all the ‘sireh’ and its condiments also symbolises Brunei’s tradition and culture.

The Brunei Times

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Brunei Darussalam Focus on Flight

The multi-purpose training centre, a 60:40 joint venture between Montreal-based simulation and training provider CAE and Brunei Darussalam’s Ministry of Finance, represents a significant non-energy investment, valued at just over $100m.

Royal Brunei Airlines historic all-female flight deck from Bandar Seri Begawan to Jeddah

The Oxford Business Group had this report on Brunei:-


Brunei Darussalam Transport
Economic News Update
16 Mar 2016

The aviation industry in Brunei Darussalam is looking to expand its contribution to the economy, with a new code-sharing agreement and ongoing investment in flight training facilities expected to increase passenger figures and stimulate employment.

In mid-February Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) finalised a code-sharing agreement with Turkish Airlines (THY) that is expected to increase passenger demand for flights into the Sultanate.
Network reach

Under the agreement, which came into force on February 22, passengers of the two airlines will be able to make connecting flights between Bandar Seri Begawan and Istanbul via the Middle East hub of Dubai.

The agreement greatly extends the reach of RBA, which operates 10 aircraft on 16 routes, as its new code-sharing partner has undergone its own rapid expansion in recent years: THY now serves 284 destinations with some 300 passenger and cargo aircraft.

For RBA, the THY deal presents an avenue for growth beyond Asia. While the carrier already has a number of codeshare agreements in place, all are with regionally based airlines.

Restructuring to yield dividends

RBA has undergone restructuring in recent years, which saw the carrier cut loss-making routes and add more profitable ones, such as a short-haul flight to Bali. The carrier has trimmed nearly 16% of its destinations since the restructuring process began in 2011.

The airline also replaced some of its larger aircraft with smaller planes that are better suited to the routes on RBA’s regional roster, which has helped to lower operating costs.

At the same time, passenger numbers have risen, as RBA has sought to position itself as a full-service carrier in the South-east Asian market that is increasingly occupied by budget airlines. Passenger load factors now stand above 70% and are continuing to climb, according to airline officials.

As part of this restructuring, RBA is moving ahead with plans to modernise and expand its fleet. France’s Airbus is set to deliver up to 10 A320neo aircraft beginning next year, with a Boeing B787-8 Dreamliner also on order.

Tourist arrivals rose in 2015 – inbound traffic was up 8.6% year-on-year at 218,000 arrivals, according to data from the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism – with the majority of visitors coming from markets served either directly or via code-shares by RBA.

An upgraded fleet and increased passenger figures could allow the carrier to push towards profitability in the coming years. According to RBA’s latest five-year development plan, the carrier aims to break even or achieve profitability by 2021.

Training centre attracts regional clientele

Another aviation industry initiative, with a focus on training, is also gaining pace in the Sultanate.

Brunei Darussalam’s Multi-Purpose Training Centre (MPTC), with its increasing array of flight simulators, provides training for both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, as well as courses in disaster response and emergency management.

The centre, a 60:40 joint venture between Montreal-based simulation and training provider CAE and Brunei Darussalam’s Ministry of Finance, represents a significant non-energy investment, valued at just over $100m.

The MPTC’s top flight simulator is for the Silorsky S-92 medium twin-engine helicopter. The S-92 is one of the helicopter models favoured by the oil and gas industry, including Royal Brunei Shell, with around 100 of the aircraft in service in the region. The centre is also gaining a steady stream of new clients from outside the country, with S-92 operators from Australia, China, Thailand and South Korea signing up trainees.

By October the centre plans to install a new simulator for the S-70i Black Hawk helicopter, which is widely used by security forces in the region, including Brunei Darussalam.

Diversification prospects

The MPTC has strong potential to contribute to the Sultanate’s economy and stimulate employment creation, according to Kevin Speed, CAE’s vice-president of defence and security for Asia and director of the MPTC.

“This multipurpose training centre is a shining example of Brunei investing to diversify and grow knowledge-based industries that provide high-quality job opportunities,” Speed told media in mid-February. “It will also play a key role as a learning and training hub for the wider South-east Asian market.”

The internationally recognised training centre, whose S-92 simulator has been certified by the European Aviation Safety Authority, as well as aviation agencies in Australia and China, is unique in the region, with a focus on providing multi-disciplinary instruction.

The centre will be looking to capitalise on high demand for helicopter pilots in both the energy and defence sectors to fuel enrolment growth in the years ahead.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

ASEAN Economic Community 2015 (AEC 2015): What It Means For Brunei

If Asean were to be considered as a single country, it would be the 7th largest economy in the world, with a population of 622 million people. Brunei Darussalam is at the centre of Asean

The next stage of integration for Asean was agreed last year through the AEC 2025 Blueprint, with the focus for Asean economic integration set out through five key characteristics

Local products have benefitted in terms of product design and packaging techniques from programmes provided for SMEs through the third pillar of AEC. PHOTOS: MOFAT

AEC 2015: What it means for Brunei
on: March 20, 2016

THE Asean Economic Community (AEC) has been formally established by the countries of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on December 31, 2015. But what exactly is the AEC, and what does it mean for Brunei Darussalam?

According to a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MoFAT), the creation of the AEC in 2015 is simply another milestone, albeit an important one, in Asean’s journey of economic cooperation that has been going on for the past 40 years.

What started out as a group of countries in Southeast Asia trying to overcome significant political and security challenges at the time when Asean was created in 1967, has slowly evolved into a movement to transform the region into an economic powerhouse.

Today, if Asean were to be considered as a single country, it would be the 7th largest economy in the world, with a population of 622 million people. Data has also shown that the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) has nearly doubled since 2007.

Brunei Darussalam is at the centre of Asean, and our businesses here in Brunei – especially our small and medium enterprises – is where the opportunities await.

So what is the AEC? To define it, one just needs to simply remember its four important and mutually reinforcing pillars:

Single market and production base

Under the first pillar, Asean has worked hard to improve trade and investment in the region.

The achievement of local Bruneian companies such as Sabli Foods, BMC, KTM, Tri-Sun and Hasmit Roofing are just some of the many success stories made possible through the AEC, where local companies are able to benefit from the lowering of production costs, for example through accumulation and access to cheaper raw materials, and subsequently export their goods more competitively to other Asean countries like Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, and even beyond.

The focus for Asean now is to further improve customs procedures and ensure that all rules and regulations are clearly published so as to make it easier for our private sectors whenever they want to import or export their goods.

Competitive Economic Region

Asean’s efforts under Pillar 2 are aimed at improving the competitiveness not just of each Asean member state, but the region as a whole.

As a direct result of Asean’s targets and commitments under this pillar, Brunei Darussalam introduced several laws, such as the Competition Order 2015 and the Consumer Protection Order 2011.

At the same time, efforts under this pillar have also been focused at developing the capabilities of each Asean member state, including Brunei Darussalam, in other areas that were targeted at improving the region’s attractiveness for trade and investment.

One good example is in the area of intellectual property rights, where Brunei has been able to learn from its Asean counterparts, as well as benefitted from the various technical assistance programmes provided by Asean’s Dialogue Partners especially in making Brunei Darussalam an attractive destination for foreign direct investment.

A region with equitable economic development

Under the third pillar, efforts have been concentrated towards ensuring that the benefits of improved trade and investment in the region would also be equitably shared and enjoyed by the lesser developed economies, as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs), whose active contribution provides for up to 90 per cent of total employment in the region.

Brunei Darussalam has been able to benefit from the many programmes provided for SMEs, and in particular, has relied significantly on the expertise available through the various trade and investment promotion centres, such as the Asean-Japan and the Asean-Korea Centres, based in Tokyo and Seoul respectively.

Because of this, some of our companies such as IBIC Sdn Bhd and Mustaqim Enterprise have benefitted from valuable product design and packaging techniques aimed at giving them an edge in marketing their goods abroad.

A region that is fully integrated into the global economy

The work under the fourth pillar aims to ensure that the AEC will not be isolated, but will instead be a relevant and key player in the global economy.

In order to achieve this objective, Asean established free trade agreements with a number of countries including China, Japan, South Korea, India and Australia and New Zealand.

Because of the achievements Brunei Darussalam has made in opening up markets abroad, Bruneian companies such as Golden Corporation and Brunei Methanol Company have been successful in entering overseas markets such as Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.

Now, efforts are underway to create a single mega trade agreement between Asean member states and these existing FTA partners of Asean, through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

This is expected to potentially lead to the creation of one of the world’s largest free trade areas, establishing an integrated market comprising of over three billion people with a combined GDP of about US$17.23 billion (based on 2010 figures).

What all this means for our local companies, as well as potential investors, is that doing business in Brunei will not result in dealing primarily with a small domestic market of 400 thousand, but rather having access to a much larger regional and international market.

They can instead look towards capturing the significant opportunities of Brunei being part of an integrated market such as the AEC, and all the benefits it can bring.

AEC 2025

With AEC now established, the next stage of integration for Asean was agreed last year through the AEC 2025 Blueprint.

For the next 10 years, the focus for Asean economic integration is set out through five key characteristics as follows: Integrated and highly cohesive economy; competitive, innovative and dynamic Asean; resilient, inclusive, people-oriented and people-centred Asean; enhanced connectivity and sectoral cooperation; and global Asean.

The MoFAT will be organising an outreach programme on April 2 at the International Convention Centre, to share information on the AEC as well as other key initiatives being undertaken by Brunei.

Interested members of the public are welcome to pre-register via e-mail to by March 29.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Si-Tanggang and The Theory of Human Origins

Brunei's Jong Batu resembled the keel of a ship said to be transformed to rock
because the son was ungrateful to the mother and he was punished

Rozan Yunos
Sunday, March 20, 2016

IN THE book “Malay Magic” (1900) written by Walter William Skeat, there were many descriptions of the Malay world-view and of techniques – Malay magic – for dealing with its uncertainties.

The Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Society of Arts (JMBRAS) which reprinted Skeat’s 1900 book in 2005 commented on his book that in describing the Malay magic, Skeat begins with the Malay traditional picture of the world, the creation of it and man’s place in it. Then comes an account of the supernatural beings with whom the Malay villager, often using the services of the local magician (pawang), had to deal, in order to conciliate or even manipulate them.

After putting Malay village life in this context of tradition and belief, Skeat comes to his main subjects, which take up about three quarters of his main text; describes the rituals for coping with the forces, sometimes anthropomorphic, of nature, and a long description of Malay life from birth to marriage and finally death, with the amusement, sports, warfare and divination that make up its texture. Thus Malay magic extends widely over the Malay way of life as it was in Selangor villages of the 1890s, more than 130 years ago.

One area which Skeat described as a special theory of human origin where the Malays then believe that inanimate or animate objects can be of human origin and had changed or transformed into other forms due to punishment and other factors. He showed an example of how objects can be transformed from human origin in this version of the Si Tanggang tale:

“There was a married Sakai couple living at Ulu Klang, and they had a son called Megat Sajobang. When he grew up he said to his mother, ‘Mother, get me a passage, I want to go and see other countries’.

She did so, and he left Ulu Klang; and 10 or 12 years later, when he had grown rich enough to buy a splendid ship (p’rafat), he returned with his wife, who was with a child, and seven midwives, who were watched over by one of his bodyguards with a drawn sword.

His mother heard the news of his return, and she made ready, roasting a chika (monkey) and lotong (monkey), and went with his father on board their bark canoe to meet their son.

“As they approached they hailed him by his name; but he was ashamed of their humble appearance, and forbade his men to let them on board. Though his wife advised him to acknowledge them, ‘even if they were pigs or dogs’, the unfilial son persisted in turning them away. So they went back to the shore and sat down and wept; and the old mother, laying her hand upon her shrivelled breast, said, ‘If thou art really my son, reared at my breast, mayest thou be changed into stone’.

In response to her prayer, milk came forth from her breast, and as she walked away, the ship and all on board were turned into stone. The mother turned round once more to look at her son, but the father did not, and by the power of God they were both turned into trees of the species pauh (a kind of mango) one leaning seawards and the other towards the land. The fruit of the seaward one is sweet, but that of the landward one is bitter.

The ship has now become a hill, and originally was complete with all its furniture, but the Malays used to borrow the plates and cups, etc, for feast days and did not return them, until at last there were none left.

That ship became the Batu Caves of Selangor. It was said that the inside of the caves look as if it’s the inside of the ship. But the name changed from Megat Sejobang to Si Tanggang when Abdul Samad Ahmad wrote a book entitled, “Nakhoda Tenggang Anak Derhaka: Riwayat Batu Keb” published in 1955. Megat Sejobang and Nakhoda Tenggang were originally a Dayak (Orang Asli Temuan) in Skeat’s and Abdul Samad Ahmad’s book. But with the textbooks and the various movies and televison series over the years since then, Si Tenggang had also changed from being a Temuan Dayak to being a Malay. Even the Batu Caves has changed. The Batu Caves was discovered by an Indian in the early 1800s and by the 1890s, Hindu devotees began making pilgrimages and slowly turning the caves into a huge shrine attracting some 1.5 million Hindus every year.

As most readers will by now be aware, that this legend is not a Peninsula Malaysia’s monopoly. Nakhoda Tenggang, the unfaithful son also appeared in other cultures around the region.

In Sabah, Malaysia, for the villagers of Kampung Malubang and most people in the Pitas District, they may not have the caves but they have the ‘actual’ ship transformed into rock. If one was to visit it, they will be showing the Supirak Island said to be the ship of Nakhoda Supirak. The same legend of Nakhoda Tenggang also applied to the ungrateful Supirak.

In Indonesia, the same story is known as Malin Kundang. While the legend is based on a natural formation in West Sumatra. Air Manis, a beach near Padang, has a rock formation called Batu Malin Kundang that is said to be the remains of his ship which has transformed into rock.

Even Indonesia has two similar legends. Another Indonesian folk story which is similar but takes a different location is the legend of Sampuraga. The legend is based in Central Kalimantan. Belantikan Hulu, a remote area along the river Lamandau, Indonesia, has a rock formation called Bukit Sampuraga which is believed to be the ruins of his ship. However, there is also another version to the Sampuraga legend. The second version, the Legend of the Sampuraga Lake in Mandailing Natal, North Sumatra is said to be better known.

In Brunei, most people will know the story of Nakhoda Manis and its similarity to the Si Tenggang legend. In the Brunei version, Nakhoda Manis’ mother was named Dang Ambun. But his father had died much earlier. They both lived on the Brunei River. Nakhoda Manis was supposed to have travelled to a town named Suluk. The Jong Batu rock formation along the upper side of Brunei River does resemble the keel of a ship;

Just like Indonesia and Malaysia, Brunei also has two Si Tanggang legends. Not surprisingly then, even in Tutong, a similar legend was passed down through the generations. The only difference is that the name of the perpetrator is Si Untak. The ship that was cursed by Si Untak’s mother sank in the Tutong River and up to now, the rock formation known as Batu Ajung Si Untak that resembled the ship is still there near a place called Telting in Pekan Tutong.

The Legend of Si Tanggang used to be among the most popular fairy tales among the Malays. It was told from generation to generation to children because this tale contains the important lessons in the Malay culture – do not be disloyal or be ungrateful to your parents. The natural formations found in their localities that the parents can show their children drives home that lesson. It is not a surprise then to find that a number of this legend appeared in different parts of Southeast Asian nations.

The Brunei Times

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Brunei's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II: On Brunei's Policy

The World Policy Institute posted an interview with YB Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng, Brunei's Minister at the Prime Minister's Office and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II on 16th March 2016. Founded in 1961, the World Policy Institute, a non-partisan source of informed policy leadership for more than four decades, develops and champions innovative policies that require a progressive and global point of view. Here is the published interview:


Brunei, a Southeast Asian nation with a population of only 400,000, ranks among the world’s wealthiest nations per capita due to its extensive oil and gas resources. Situated strategically on the South China Sea and a member both of APEC and ASEAN, it is also a central player in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact now awaiting Congressional action. David A. Andelman, editor emeritus of World Policy Journal, sat down with Yang Berhormat Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng, Brunei’s Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and a close advisor to the His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei, to examine the stakes on both sides of the Pacific and to discuss the country’s domestic politics and relations with its neighbors.

DAVID A. ANDELMAN: Here we are in 2016 in very difficult times. Where do you see Brunei? What do you think is its place in the region right now?

YB PEHIN DATO LIM JOCK SENG: Brunei is a small country, with a population of about 400,000. We are the smallest member of ASEAN. And our role will be actually very minimal in any organization, being that size. So this is why ASEAN is so important to us, because this is one organization where we feel we can contribute to ASEAN, to the region, and internationally. If we're doing it alone, it would be impossible. Nobody cares.

DA: You're the wealthiest country in the region, along with Singapore, by far. You have great resources. You have a strong central government. You're a peaceful country. You should be one of the great forces in the region. Do you have that confidence to do that?

PDLJS: Yes, we are blessed with oil and gas, and when the prices fall and gas is high, we were able over the last 10-15 years to put all that extra money into reserve, and invest it to the States, Europe, and everywhere. So from these reserves, we have the financial backing, but some of the major players in the region are China, Japan, and India. Within ASEAN, we try to play our part. We feel that in diplomacy, the best way to do anything is to trust each other. I realized from my 30-plus years of experience that if you don't have the trust, however brilliant you are, you will never get anything done. We have friends, and the natural way for us in Brunei really is that we are very friendly—we like to be friends and trust is the main thing.

DA: Who do you think does not trust you in the region?

PDLJS: I think, generally, they see us as a small country of no significance, but they like us because we never trouble them, we never criticize them, and we are one of those who think, "fine, if that's alright with you, we'll come along."

DA: Does that include China?

PDLJS: That includes China. Both China and America are two major powers and we are friends with both. We tell our American friends that we're friendly with China, we're friendly with you, but it would be good if you could use us as a channel, because what I do is, every time I would see the Chinese, I would tell them, "have you ever thought properly what it is that the Americans really want? I would tell you exactly what it is." And then I will convey to them what the Chinese think, because the Chinese, when we talk about the South China Sea, were telling me, "look, here is China. We are surrounded by Korea, Japan ... and then you have Australia, you have Thailand, you have everybody around here. All have military relations with the United States. And the moment that Australia and New Zealand come in, we feel surrounded." So that's basically how we see our role.

DA: The Trans-Pacific Partnership is something that's of great interest now in America, and I'm sure here. Do you see TPP—since TPP has excluded China—as yet another threat to China? And since you are participating in that, do you see that you effectively are, too?

PDLJS: No, because TPP is an open association. Everybody can come in. And we've told the Chinese, "come." We've invited everybody and now they have some who are seriously thinking of coming in. And, I think the TPP is good in a sense that it is now moving the RCEP [Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership] we are doing with the Chinese and the Indians. That's 18 of us in total, without the United States. And now the pace is getting faster because they realize TPP is now on. And we told the Chinese we supported them, we want them to come in, the U.S. wants them to come in. I think the Chinese are thinking seriously now about it—they are getting interested in coming, and they're not as opposed to it.

DA: But aren't you afraid that the American government—depending on what administration we have after November—and Congress might say, "Oh, this is just another Trojan horse to get China more weight in the region?"

PDLJS: I think we have more confidence than you on this. In our last meeting, Obama was telling us that he feels that we'll be able to pull it off. And we were talking to Alex Feldman, with the ASEAN U.S. Business Council. Now, if you look at TPP and what they're doing, it would be silly of us not to proceed with it. And I'm sure there have been a lot of business sectors saying, “forget about politics.”

DA: What if the United States Congress said we're not going to ratify this now? Would you go ahead with it without the United States?

PDLJS: I'm not sure of that. We have to change some of the legislation, labor and all that, to accommodate, which will take about 18 months. Then we're ready to ratify.

DA: Do you sense that the aggressive role of China, in the South China Sea particularly, as well as its defensiveness against the TPP, would shift the power balance in this part of the world?

PDLJS: Economically, with the facts and figures, China is becoming a very important player. It is already the second largest economy in the world. Will it take over? It may, it may not. But at the same time, the U.S.—there is no country in the world that I've seen with the same amount of talent, research, and innovation. I was in California’s Silicon Valley. It’s fantastic! There I see Syrians, Sri Lankans, Vietnamese—all the best brains you have. There is nowhere else in the world like it, and that's why your American spirit, your American dream is important—although the Chinese are trying to get the Chinese dream. But, as long as you pursue this, I don't think anybody really has the environment to encourage that kind of innovation, and that's something that America has done very well.

DA: Can Brunei maintain its voice in the region with these levels of oil prices, or do you need to have a higher price of oil?

PDLJS: I think we need some sense so that both the consumer and the producer gain from it. There's no point in us getting $140 and have some people suffering somewhere. So what we need to get rid of is the volatility. I think Brunei's role and influence comes from having resources. And, in that sense, a fairly stable middle of the price of oil in the $60s to $70s range [would be good]. We're fine because constant production is very low.

DA: Now, what I find interesting is the lessons that Brunei could teach other smaller countries that have resources. Indonesia, for instance, has resources. Malaysia has resources. You have the fourth highest GDP-PPP in the world. You must be able to teach other countries something. What kinds of lessons can you teach them?

PDLJS: I’m going to explain to you the policy His Majesty has been following. I once told him, "We have spent a lot of money on welfare. We have spent a lot of money on education." His emphasis is: "I want education. I don't care what you all do, ministers. I want everyone to be educated from A to Z. I want everyone to have access to medical care. If you can't get it in Brunei, we'll fly the patients out. I want everybody to have housing—cheap housing, or free housing. In fact, in the end, it's all free housing." So I said, "You can't sustain it!" He said, "All the money that comes from oil and gas and everything to the government—it's for the people. So spend it on the people."

DA: I hope you won't take this the wrong way, but His Majesty lives very well. And his family lives very well. Do people resent this at all?

PDLJS: As far as I can gather, because he's trying to give all that money to the people, education and all that, people are quite comfortable. And then the social safety net—when you retire, when you're older, you still have the pension scheme, which is non-contributory, so you get it anyway. In that case, I think he has won half of the battle in the sense that he has given them the basics plus this social safety net.

DA: I knew Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew a bit. He was a tough man, very smart and very for the people. Did you ever contemplate how Brunei might have been different if you have followed more of a Lee Kwan Yew model? You had resources that they never had in terms of oil and so on, and natural gas.

PDLJS: I think with the kind of society we have, it would be difficult. Brunei's society is completely different from that of Singapore.

DA: How would you describe Brunei society in that respect?

PDLJS: I would say we are still family-oriented. Because of our small size, we all know each other, we're all related to each other. And this is why when you talk about corruption and all that, it is so difficult. I'll give you an example. I did my research in a fishing village for a year, and stayed with a family there. So when I came up, the family would say, "Look, my son hasn't got a job. Can you please help me?" And the expectation is that you must help him. Now half of me says no, half of me says you have to help him. So I'm caught in a dilemma between the Western and the Eastern world. Eventually, I said, "Send the application. If he's qualified, he'll get it."

DA: That's more of the Singapore model, isn't it? That's what we would say. I think one of the things you do share with Singapore is no corruption here, right?

PDLJS: We're trying to reduce it. We're conscious that we haven't succeeded.

DA: I don't think of Brunei as a corrupt society, certainly nothing like a lot of the Middle Eastern countries, or certainly most of the African nations. You're very high on the transparency international list, so that's good.

PDLJS: So we're hoping the TPP will help us because the TPP addresses the question of transparency. We need to make some of the rules very clear. That's one way of ruling out corruption. So in this sense, TPP is helping us to really move up.

DA: What would you say if the U.S. Congress rejected it? What would the consequences be for Brunei, and for the region?

PDLJS: Well, TPP is something that will provide us with a market of 800 million people. It provides us with capacity building—we are trying to build all our businesspeople, our rules, our regulations, so that it's on par with everyone. In this way, we are bringing Brunei into the international forum. So that's one aspect of it, apart from creating more jobs. But we also have many other free trade agreements with nations like Australia and New Zealand. There is also RCEP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Now this one is with India, China—but not the U.S. If TPP fails, some of these countries will come in.

DA: So basically, it'll be worse for America if it fails than it'll be for Brunei and the region.


DA: That's a very interesting perspective.

PDLJS: But if you see the World Bank's report, we are number three getting benefits out of it. But we wouldn't get any benefits until we move up.

DA: Move up what?

PDLJS: In the sense of some of the rules, the regulations. If I want to attract American investors, my rules and my judiciary must be very clear. Some of the rules are not very clear, like labor. That's in the process of being done.

DA: But you don't need TPP for that. You realize that, right?

PDLJS: No, but TPP provides us this motivation.

DA: That's very interesting. So what else would you want from America?

PDLJS: I think, as I said, America is a very good friend of ours. One of the major powers, if not the major power. It has contributed a lot to the peace and stability of this region. China of course is the up-and-coming one, but we want them to play a positive role—the both of them.

DA: They seem to want to encroach on your oil lands and your oil fields in the South China Sea, and it seems they want to make life difficult for you.

PDLJS: At the end of the day, I think that China and the U.S. cannot afford to fight. The reality is that we need each other, and you can't do that. I don't think for a moment that the Chinese would be mad enough to do some thing, and I'm sure the Chinese have a long-term view of things.

DA: So you're not concerned then about these things that are happening in the South China Sea?

PDLJS: If it is the nine-dash line, it is part of it, but we're saying this is ours, and this is yours - but it's not going to come to any blows.

DA: I’m also interested in the legislative part of the government, and wanted to see how that worked in Brunei.

PDLJS: The composition of the legislative council, which was introduced in 2004, is that a quarter of those people are actually elected as head men of villages. From these 50-60 head men, 15 out of them get to represent in parliament. They were chosen by the people, through elections. And then His Majesty adds about five people who represent some ethnic communities and groups, and another five people who represent the interests from the private sector, people with contributions.

DA: So the idea as I understand it is that the legislative council—people come in, and tell the problems they have to the ministers. You're one of the ministers—you'll be up there?


DA: If something does not go their way, they can't protest. There isn't that avenue. So does it still function as a safety valve in the communities, or does it not act as a source of frustration?

PDLJS: Our parliament is designed slightly differently. The parliament is trying to have the concept of a discussion, and trying to get a consensus; there is no such thing as opposition. And if you see the design of the sitting arrangement, it's different.

DA: Have they ever gotten what they wanted?

PDLJS: Some of them do, some don't, but some questions come up again and again. So the idea is, how do you find a consensus?

DA: But is it really a consensus? It's really not a true democracy, with all due respect. The head of state and head of government has been in power for over 40 years. But do people still feel a participation in the Brunei miracle, if you will?

PDLJS: There is access to His Majesty. He's there every Friday, and they will see him and pass on letters to him. So every time he comes back with letters complaining about the ministers not doing anything, and the next day all the ministers will have to answer all of the questions.

DA: Does he ever do anything for the people?

PDLJS: Oh, yes. One example is of a market that is operating and the ministers were saying that they wanted to move the vendors to a better place. But the vendors were saying, we've been here for generations, and we want to stay here because this is our place and history and people. So His Majesty came down and talked to them, and they told His Majesty they want to stay. And I think His Majesty took their word and said, “Alright.” They have access to him; they write letters to the palace with requests. The ministers are reminded again and again that everything is for the people, not for themselves. But this message is not well publicized. So His Majesty is always being portrayed as this and that, so he said, “I live with it.”


This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Kunyit 7 Lodge - Homestay on Kampong Ayer

Azli Azney
Sunday, August 30, 2015

IT WAS a desire to share her beloved childhood and heritage that drove Dk Kemariah Pg Hj Duraman to open up her grandfather’s house and convert it into a cosy bed and breakfast for locals and tourists alike.

Hearing about it from a friend, I decided to pay Kunyit 7 Lodge a visit by making a short boat trip to the house, less than one minute from the Yayasan jetty in Bandar, where I met the gregarious owner of the lodge, who is also known as Kem for short.

The house, located right behind the No 2 jetty of Kampung Bakut Berumput at Kampong Ayer, has a mixture of classical Bruneian architecture – there since the 1920s and was last rebuilt in 1988 – and modern with the recycled wooden furniture, the decking and the French doors.

Named after her late grandfather, Pg Tujoh, which means seven in English, and the fact that he loves the spice Kunyit, or turmeric, the lodge is both a homage to her late grandfather as well as a way to keep his memory, and the memory of her childhood, alive.

Dk Kemariah took over the house in 2014 from her uncle. Since leaving the corporate world, she decided to combine her love of meeting people with her intention of renovating the house.

To that end, she made some changes to the floor plan, rebuilding the deck, or pantaran in Malay, where people can sit and chat while admiring the view of the capital, soothed by the sounds of the lapping waters on the poles of the house and punctuated by the sounds of speedboats carrying their fares, to taking down a few walls to create a larger and airier space.

However, Kem has made sure that the house still retains the warmth of a home, with knick-knacks picked up from her various travels artfully arranged around the house, to making sure that there is enough wood and light in the house.

When I arrived there, Kem was entertaining a vacationing couple – Francis from Spain and Yana from France – recounting stories of her childhood vacation days at her grandfather’s house.

“I used to help my grandparents when I stayed here during vacations because my grandfather was blind while my grandmother was deaf,” she told me.

“I have a lot of fond memories growing up here,” she added. The host also explained the various uses of the sarong, among other stories.

“It is a truly multi-purpose tool. You can use it to discreetly change your clothes, cover your head, carry your baby, and so many other uses,” she said, recounting how she would always bring one or two whenever she travelled, thanks to her growing up with one.

This is what she does with many of the tourists that stay at her bed and breakfast. She would talk to them, get to know each other and then share stories of living in Kampong Ayer, and share the local culture – Bruneian hospitality at its finest.

Showing me around the house, I was delighted to see that many of the original furniture and fixtures of the house remained from her late grandfather’s time, as far back as 1961. The floor is the original wood, with tiny spacing in between that lets in cold air from the bottom. The high ceiling and the vents near the ceiling allows hot air to escape, so even without the use of an air conditioner, the house is cool all the time, especially with the windows and French doors open.

Kem has certainly worked hard to keep the character of the house intact, only making concessions for modern plumbing and electrical appliances.

She still uses family heirlooms that were used in the olden days, such as a spice jar to keep her frequently used spices, to crockery from her youth.

It’s not just the simple, nostalgic, warm and homey space that makes staying at the lodge such a unique experience. It’s also the warmth of the people around the village as Kem took me for a walk around her village, sharing the history of the place and her memories, even going as far as visiting her relatives that still live around the area.

“Another reason for opening the lodge is because I want to help the cottage industry of the village,” remarking that there are various industries such as the prawn cracker maker that lives not far from her house.

All in all, the lodge is a great bridge between the past and the culture of Kampong Ayer with the way it is now, giving tourists and locals alike, an up close and personal history of the country that many do not know of, from the perspective of one middle-aged resident.

The simplicity and authenticity, its location and owner makes this lodge something truly unique and those looking to stay at the lodge or have any inquiries can contact Kem through gmail at

The Brunei Times


Bong S Sarmiento

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

FOR over a year now, Dk Kemariah Pg Hj Duraman is enjoying her Bruneian heritage with a gorgeous view of the buzzling capital from her living room in Kampong Ayer. Some nights she steps out into her patio to bask in the glow of millions of stars. She doesn’t need an airconditioning system; there’s the sea breeze and the waves providing a soothing sound to calm the nerves.

All these and more she gets to enjoy after the 28 years she spent in the corporate world.

Two years ago, she gave up a well-paying job in a multinational to brave a new path and pursue a dream driven not only by her love for nature and the outdoors but also for her passion to promote Brunei’s rich cultural heritage. She put up her homestay venture Kunyit 7 Lodge.

Living in Kampong Ayer now is a sweet homecoming for her. She was born in the nation’s iconic water village. As a child, she spent most of her school holidays in one of the sultanate’s best spots to view spectacular sights of sunrise and sunset.

Kem, as she is fondly called, established her homestay in May 2015 as a window for tourists to experience Bruneian lifestyle at a fraction of the cost of a hotel stay.

It was not easy for this budding entrepreneur to hit the ground running.

The house, originally owned by her grandfather and handed to her uncle in late 2014, had at least 21 holes in its roof. It had been abandoned for two years before Kem spent a handsome amount to get it back in shape. She had to renovate 70 per cent of the house which now brims with life, with every corner showcasing a fusion of past and contemporary.

Foreign tourists speak for the success of Kem’s bed-and-breakfast lodge with return visits. Many of them willingly do the marketing for her, with rave recommendations on popular travel websites. The homestay has logged about 500 local and foreign tourists in less than a year of operation.

It is safe to credit the success to her work experience in the corporate world, including years as a flight stewardess and in the hotel industry. Kem’s travels to more than a dozen countries over the years also taught her how to manage the venture.

But when she ponders the question on what brings about this success, two things emerge: independence and skill set.

She developed her sense of independence early on in life, shaped by the father who was devoted to the nation’s military service. His work often took him away from the household, and his absence taught Kem to become self-reliant. She recalls those days riding the military school transport.

“My father has been my ‘guiding principle’ in a lot of things over those growing up years.”

In many ways, those childhood experiences, as well as those in her early adult years, instilled in her the value of integrity, leadership and of setting goals.

Kem stresses on the need to have a skill and to always improve it.

“Skills are very important to get your way through (success). A college degree would help but if you don’t have the skills, it will take you more time to get there,” says Kem who completed Year 11 or O-level.

What gives her satisfaction from running a successful homestay is not the financial returns. She beams when she talks about how it gives her an outlet to highlight the beauty of Brunei’s heritage in the eyes of foreign tourists who come wishing to learn about the sultanate.

Kem gives her guests a free walking tour of the neighbourhood so they can get a glimpse of life in the village. Along the way she talks to them about snippets of Brunei culture. The guided walking tour is not as physically demanding for this Bruneian who keeps herself fit by sailing, trekking to forests and climbing mountains. But it has become her fitness routine for about a year now.

Running the homestay provides the chance to meet people from other countries and this enriches her knowledge and understanding of other people’s cultures.

Looking back, 48-year-old Kem says she has no regrets leaving the corporate world to follow her dream.

“I always believe that life is a blessing. Through hard work you will achieve what you want and your dreams. If you don’t have a dream, you’ll never get to do what you want to do. Your dream becomes your guiding vision.”

The Brunei Times

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Missing Kingdoms of Borneo

Rozan Yunos
Sunday, March 13, 2016

IN most history text books, one will find that many areas around the Borneo Island to be littered with ancient kingdoms and sultanates. Most of the well-known ones obviously are Brunei or Bo-ni or Po-ni or the various ancient names of Brunei; Kutei, Bolongan, Pasir, Banjarmasin, Sukadana, Pontianak, Mempawah, Landak and Sambas.

Other than Brunei, most of these kingdoms were found in the southern and western parts of the Borneo Island.

However, in the north and north east, other than Brunei, there are no ancient states or kingdoms stated. Sarawak and North Borneo as separate states were in the maps only towards the end of the nineteenth century.

One answer could be is that the Brunei Kingdom had been in control of these areas for so long that in most maps, only the Brunei kingdom was ever known.

However if we go deeper, we will find that there are other kingdoms or states which existed in these areas in the past which had been published in major writings.

Two major resources that we can refer to are the Salasilah Raja-Raja Brunei (Brunei Royal Genealogical Table) and the other is a book written during the Majapahit Empire called the Nagarakertagama believed to be written in 1365.

There are actually several versions of the Salasilah Raja-Raja Brunei and they do contain variations and differences in their write ups. However the one that is mostly referred to is the one used by Amin Sweeney which is printed in the Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Arts Society (1968).

In the Salasilah Raja-Raja Brunei, it is stated:

“Shahadan tersebut pula negeri Johor. Ada pun mula2 pada zaman itu Sultan Bahteri naik kerajaan didalam negeri Johor, maka zamannya itu dipanggilannyalah Awang Khalak Betatar dan Pateh Merbai didalam negeri Berunai ke Johor. Maka apabila sudah sampai dinegeri Johor, Awang Khalak Betatar itu Sultan Muhammad ialah jadi raja yang pertama dalam Berunai, dan pateh itu digelarnya jadi Pengeran Bendahara Seri Maharaja. Maka sultan itu dianugerahkan oleh Yang Di Pertuan Johor nobat negara dan genta alamat dan negeri lima buah iaitu negeri Kalaka, dan negeri Saribas dan negeri Semarahan dan negeri Serawak dan Mukah.”

When the first Brunei Sultan, Sultan Muhammad, was appointed, Sultan Johor awarded a few items and also several states which included Kalaka, Saribas, Semarahan, Serawak and Mukah.

In the Nagarakertagama, published by Slamet Muljana in his book ‘Tafsir Sejarah: Nagarakertagama’ (2006), it was stated in the 14th chapter the following kingdoms which were said to be part of the Majapahit domain:

“Pupuh 14 – Kandandangan, Landa, Samadong dan Tirem tak terlupakan Sedu, Barune(ng), Kalka, Saludong, Solot dan juga Pasir, Barito, Sawaku, Tabalung, ikut juga Tanjung Kutei Malano tetap yang terpenting di Pulau Tanjungpura.”

From the names, it can be deduced that Barune(ng) is Brunei, Sawaku is Sarawak, Kalka is Kalaka, Malano is Melanau and Samadong is Sadong (Semarahan).

So, based on these two major primary sources, it can be almost certain that these five kingdoms existed in the past on the north and north-eastern part of Borneo.

In a paper entitled ‘Sejarah Awal Barat Laut Borneo’ presented by Sanib Said in the third Borneo History Conference (2003), there are a number of archaeological artefacts found in the said areas which can support the claims of the existence of these five kingdoms.

Sarawak’s claim can be traced to Santubong, which is at the mouth of the Sarawak River. A number of gold artefacts had been found in the area.

This can be taken to prove that with the existence of these gold artefacts, that the area attracted many traders and travellers in the past especially traders from India in the earlier stages.

It is also possible that the existence of these gold artefacts may lead to Santubong/Sarawak to be connected with place name of Survanabhumi (Golden State) by the Indians or Iabadiou by Ptolemy in 150 AD.

In 1949, Tom Harrison of the Sarawak Museum did an archaeology study around the area and found many Chinese pots.

Based on the evidence of these pots and the shards, the area had a permanent settlement as far back as the 7th century and until the 10th or 14th century.

At the same time, more than 40,000 tons of iron-slags were also found in the same area. The existence of these iron-slags mean that the shipping industry then was a major industry around the area.

This proved that the Santubong area was a very well known port in those days. In fact one historian, Jan Wisseman Christie in an article in the Sarawak Museum Journal entitled ‘The Santubong Sites of Sarawak’ (1985) theorised that the Santubong area was the port-capital of Puni:

“It is undoubtedly the remains of the port-capital of the state of Po-ni…”

As for Samarahan and Sadong, the archaeological evidence was similar to the evidence in Santubong.

Many shards were found in Gedong, in the valleys of the Sadong River. Almost 80,000 pieces together with hundreds of other artefacts such as beads, coins and gold pieces.

This shows that the whole place had been in continuously in existence. This is actually supported that in the 1850s, James Brooke together with Spenser St John travel to this area and had actually found a Hindu Religion artefact.

Spenser St John wrote in his book ‘Life in the Forests of the Far East’ that what he found was “one more known material remnant of Hindu worship in these countries: it is a stone bull – an exact facsimile of those found in India.”

Pottery pieces were also found in the Kalaka area. In Nanga Kalaka, more than 9,469 shards were found whereas in Tebing Tinggi, more than 41,762 shards were found.

These shards however pointed out to a much younger place compared to Samarahan.

These shards were from potteries in the 16th and 17th centuries. However it does prove that the Kalaka area was also constantly inhabited.

The case for Saribas was not as straight forward. Saribas claim came about from a poem found in 2002 entitled ‘Syair Tarsilah Cetera Abang Godam dan Temenggong Qadir Negeri Saribas’ where the poem recounted how Saribas was founded.

The case for Melanau is similar to Saribas. So far there is no archaeological evidence and the claim for statehood rely mainly on writings of historian such as JL Moens.

Much more archaeological work needed to be done in the latter two areas so that their claims for ancient statehoods can be entertained.

The Brunei Times

Friday, March 11, 2016

Competition heats up in Brunei Darussalam’s telecoms industry

From Oxford Business Group on 29 February 2016:


Competition heats up in Brunei Darussalam’s telecoms industry

Brunei DarussalamICT
Economic News Update
29 Feb 2016

Faced with an increasingly competitive marketplace, Brunei Darussalam’s telecoms operators are working to broaden their services as they look to attract new customers and gain market share.

The coming months are expected to bring significant developments across the Sultanate’s telecoms industry, in the form of infrastructure advances and a regulatory overhaul.

Expansion strategies, which include overseas link-ups and the rollout of competing 4G coverage, should improve service and speed, and generate cost benefits for mobile customers.

Market foundations

Although a relatively small market, Brunei Darussalam benefits from substantial telecoms penetration; the country reached 100% digitalisation of the phone network in 1995, while mobile penetration surpassed the 100% mark in 2008.

According to the latest data from the sector regulator, the Authority for Info-Communications Technology Industry (AITI), mobile penetration stood at around 110% at the end of 2014.

Telekom Brunei (TelBru), the incumbent operator, remains the Sultanate’s largest fixed line and internet broadband provider, while two other firms – Progresif Cellular and DST – vie for market share in the mobile segment.

After TelBru’s offshoot B-Mobile was acquired by Darussalam Assets, an investment holding company for government-linked entities, in mid-2014, the operator was relaunched under the Progresif Cellular brand.

DST remains the dominant mobile player, with around 78% market share, according to Sweden’s Ericsson, which partnered with DST to build the operator’s 4G network in 2013.

New strategies

In recent months, industry players have taken strides to expand their services. In late 2015 TelBru announced it was setting up an IP point-of-presence in both Hong Kong and Singapore by joining the Equinix Internet Exchange.

The arrangement should support TelBru’s efforts to establish peering relationships with other telecos around the world, while also improving the quality of its local internet services.

In a separate development, Progresif Cellular announced plans in early February to launch 4G LTE services towards the middle of the year. The firm said it expected a positive outcome after lodging its 4G application with the AITI in late January.

According to Paul Hyde, CEO of Progresif Cellular, the company plans to pursue a low-cost alternative to traditional 4G rollouts. Hyde told media he expects minimal investment will be required, as the telco’s core systems and base stations are already 4G capable.

The company also aims to expand its mobile coverage around the Sultanate, with 82 new base stations planned. According to Hyde, this should increase overall coverage by 25% by the end of the year.

Regulatory consolidation

For its part, the AITI is undergoing a significant reorganisation, in a move aimed at boosting efficiency and streamlining the sector’s governing regulatory regimes.

Following in the steps of other regulators, such as Ofcom in the UK and the soon-to-be-launched Info-Communications Media Development Authority of Singapore, the AITI is looking to bring the regulatory frameworks for both broadcasting and telecommunications under a single umbrella.

New hard infrastructure and a converged regulatory regime should go some way towards supporting operators’ plans to improve services and speeds.

The rollout of 4G, in particular, is expected to level the playing field for Brunei Darussalam’s mobile operators, giving Progresif an opportunity to grow its market share. According to Hyde, the company is eyeing a 50% market share by 2017.

Consumers to benefit

The positive ripple effects of a more competitive mobile marketplace are likely to be welcomed by Bruneians, who are feeling the knock-on effect of falling oil and gas prices.

In March 2015, the AITI, which has the authority to intervene on matters relating to mobile tariffs, moved to eliminate incoming call charges and mobile termination fees.

The elimination of incoming call charges is also expected to limit the attractiveness of over-the-top services like WhatsApp or Skype, which have negatively impacted revenues for telecoms operators in many other markets.

In addition to levelling the mobile playing field, the move – along with an initiative in late 2014 to reduce roaming charges in nearby Singapore – is helping to rationalise costs for mobile customers.

According to the AITI, Bruneian telco customers are poised to be the ultimate beneficiaries of growing competition between Progresif and DST.

“We want them to compete and find the initiative to innovate other services, which ultimately benefits the consumers,” Melissa Tithymirda Nikman, manager for interconnection, tariffs and consumer complaints at the AITI, told local media in August.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

HM Sultan Brunei Newest Granddaughter (2016)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

By the command of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, the Office of His Majesty yesterday announced that the monarch’s newborn granddaughter has been named Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Anak Muthee’ah Raayatul Bolqiah.

His Majesty’s granddaughter was born at 1.09pm on March 2, 2016 to His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Malik and Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Raabi’atul ‘Adawiyyah. Their royal wedding was in April 2015, 11 months ago.

His Majesty and Her Majesty Duli Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha expressed their gratitude to all those involved during the delivery of the monarch’s granddaughter, and for the messages of congratulations received following the royal birth.

Picture: Infofoto

The Brunei Times

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Closing the Gender Gap in Brunei

Quratul-Ain Bandial
Tuesday, March 8, 2016

WOMEN all over the world continue to contribute to economic, social, cultural and political growth.

But based on the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report 2015, today’s observance of International Women’s Day is dimmed by the fact that progress towards gender parity has slowed in so many places.

While Brunei has made remarkable strides in achieving gender equity, it has only managed to close the gender gap by 4.5 per cent in the past eight years, according to the WEF’s latest report.

In the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2015 – which measures the level of disparity between men and women – the sultanate ranks 88 out of 145 countries, moving up 10 places due to more female legislators, senior officials and managers, as well as professional and technical workers.

Brunei has a near perfect score for gender parity in education and health, and also ranks highly in women’s participation in the economy, but has a score of zero for political empowerment, owing to the absence of female ministers in the Cabinet.

Women in decision-making

While women make up the majority of university graduates and government scholarship recipients in Brunei, this has not translated into more women in leadership positions across the public and private sector, said Datin Paduka Hjh Adina Othman, the former deputy minister of culture, youth and sports.

Sixty-one per cent of tertiary graduates are female, while 62 per cent of government scholarships (including in-service) are awarded to women, she told The Brunei Times in an interview last year, yet only 36 per cent of senior managerial positions are held by women. The highest posts attained by women in government include deputy minister, attorney general and ambassador-at-large (which are both equivalent to a ministerial rank).

Three of four local universities are headed by women, while there are only two women out of the 32 members of the Legislative Council.

Datin Hjh Adina added that more than half or 57 per cent of female workers are professionals, but hardly any female CEOs in the country. “Although women in Brunei have the same access to education and opportunities– and we have been giving equal opportunity in scholarships and training for quite some time now – gender issues and addressing gender imbalance is really something that has only come to the fore in the past decade,” she explained.

The path forward

So while remarkable progress has been made towards gender equality and women’s empowerment in Brunei still the question of how to address the gaps and challenges remains.

In a 2014 report reviewing women’s rights in Brunei, the United Nations suggested a system of quotas should be adopted aimed at accelerating equality between men and women.

Quotas should be directed towards “women and men in all areas where women are underrepresented or disadvantaged, including in political and public life and decision-making”, said the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

The committee also highlighted Brunei’s “lack of updated statistical data, disaggregated by sex, age, ethnicity, geographical location, socioeconomic background, which is necessary for accurately assessing the situation of women”.

Accurate and detailed data is needed for targeted policy-making and monitoring the progress made towards the realisation of women’s substantive equality. The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports did acknowledge these concerns, saying there needs to be more capacity building for policy-makers, gender-responsive budgeting, and research assessing the different implications for women and men with regards to public policy.

Datin Hjh Adina said that many ASEAN countries are now highlighting the gender gap and pushing women’s empowerment into the spotlight.

“Half of the population in Brunei is women, you can make them produce for the economy, or depend on the economy for help. It’s up to us; do we want half of the population to depend on handouts? If you don’t take us on board, you will get left behind.”

The Brunei Times

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

His Majesty Sultan Brunei and Her Majesty Attend Chinese Lunar New Year Celebrations 2016

Julius Hong and Rachel Thien
Tuesday, March 8, 2016

THE Tiong Hwa community treated His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, to a magic show and acrobatic performances during the Lunar New Year celebration at the International Convention Centre.

More than 1,000 people came together for the Lunar New Year celebration, the 10th year since His Majesty attended the first gathering that showcases Chinese culture and to promote cordial relations in the country.

Accompanying the monarch were Her Majesty Duli Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, Her Royal Highness Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah and other royal family members.

The royal family was welcomed by Yang Berhormat Pehin Kapitan Lela Diraja Dato Paduka Goh King Chin, and chairman of the Lunar New Year celebration organising committee Lau Shiew Yuen at the ICC entrance, which was adorned with traditional red Chinese lanterns, flowers and artificial bamboo plants.

YB Pehin Dato Goh said the Tiong Hwa community was grateful to be living in a harmonious environment due to His Majesty’s leadership.

“This is the 10th year His Majesty and the royal family have been attending our Chinese New Year celebrations, and this reflects the unity of our people and country,” he added.

The Tiong Hwa community also presented a pesambah to His Majesty, a crystal that signifies continuous prosperity for Brunei.

The audience were enthralled with the performances including dances from Kuala Belait’s Chung Hua Middle School, a magic show by a Malaysian and an acrobatic troupe from China.

The Chung Hua Middle School students began the opening act with a dance performance using swords and fans as props.

The music then shifted from a graceful tune to the rhythmic beat of drums as the acrobatic troupe from China’s Jiangsu province juggled and passed large drums among one another with only their feet.

The performers also showed their skills in a multiple plate balancing act.

Organisers saved the best for the last when Malaysian magician Kevin Lee wowed with his magic tricks.

He managed to switch places with his assistant in an instant even after placing her in a locked box.

The Brunei Times

Monday, March 07, 2016

The Relationship Between Brunei and Minangkabau

A replica of the Istano Basa Pagaruyung or Pagaruyung Grand Palace seen during the night. The original building was burnt down by the Dutch in 1804 and it was later rebuilt in 1976. The Bagonjong roof is used on most of houses and government buildings in West Sumatra. Picture: Courtesy of Rozan Yunos Collection,

Sunday, March 6, 201

BRUNEI Darussalam is associated with some of the former sultanates in Indonesia. Two in particular was the Sultanate of Sambas and the Sultanate of Matan.

The Sultanate of Sambas connection can be attributed to Sultan Tengah, the first Sultan of Sarawak and the younger brother of Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar, the 10th Sultan of Brunei who married the sister of Sultan Muhammad Safiuddin, the Sultan of Sukadana.

After Sultan Tengah left Sukadana to go to Matan, his eldest son, Radin Sulaiman carried on his father’s work in propagating Islam, and eventually moved to Sambas. In Sambas, Radin Sulaiman was crowned as the first Sultan of Sambas – Sultan Muhammad Safiuddin I in 1584. Before he was coronated, he sent a message to his uncle, Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar in Brunei that he wanted to use the title “Sultan”. His uncle granted him use of the title on the condition that they must pay Brunei a visit prior to the coronation of any of his descendants.

Sultan Muhammad Safiuddin I started the Sambas Sultanate lineage.

Meanwhile, after leaving Sukadana to go to Matan, Sultan Tengah married one of the Matan Princesses, who eventually gave birth to a son named Pengiran Mangku Negara. It was PengiranMangku Negara who later became the Sultan of Matan.

Another historical relationship that Brunei Darussalam has with Indonesia is with the Minangkabau. This was stated by Dra Zusneli Zubir M Hum, an Indonesian historian in a paper presented in the Third History Seminar organised by the Brunei History Centre in 2013. The seminar discussed the relationship of the regional Malay Governments with Brunei Darussalam. His paper was entitled “Hubungan KerajaanMelayu Minangkabau Dengan Brunei: Sebuah Tinjauan Sejarahdan Budaya” (The Relationship of the Malay Minangkabau Government with Brunei: A Review of its History and Culture).

Who are the Minangkabau people? They belong to an ethnic group of Indonesian tribe who live on the highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia and are usually called Orang Padang. Minangkabau is always known as the largest matrilineal society in the world as they are formed under matrilineal in terms of marriage, inheritance and their way of life. However, the name itself is not as old as Brunei. The first mention of the name Minangkabau was as Minangkabwa, in the 1365 Majapahit’s court poem, the Desawarnana or Nagarakrtagama.

The word Minangkabau is thought to be made up of the words ‘minang’ which means ‘victorious’ and ‘kabau’ which means ‘buffalo’. According to legends, Minangkabau wanted to avoid a war with a neighbouring kingdom. They agreed to use buffaloes to settle their disagreement instead. The other side set forward the largest and most aggressive buffalo, but the locals sent a hungry baby buffalo with its small horns that had been grounded to become as sharp as knives. When the baby ran towards the big buffalo hoping for milk, the adult buffalo did not sense any threat. But when the baby thrusted his head under the big bull’s belly, looking for an udder, the sharpened horns punctured and killed the bull.

Buffaloes as cultural symbols can also be found in other Austronesian tradition. The horns are an important cultural symbol for the Minangkabau. The roofline of the Minangkabau houses (Rumah Gading) curve upward from the middle and end in points, imitating a buffalo’s horns. Similarly, the fabrics of the headdress of its women were also folded and formed to imitate the horns.

How is this rather eclectic race in West Sumatra connected with Brunei?

According to Dra Zusneli Zubir, Minangkabau had connections with Brunei in the past. The first connection according to the Indonesian historian, was through the propagation of Islam.

Islam spread to Minangkabau around the 14th and 15th centuries. It was not until the end of the reign of King Adityawarman at the end of the 14th century, that the influence of Hindu-Buddha ended in Minangkabau. By the mid 16th century, Sultan Alif converted to Islam.

With the spread of Islam, travellers from Minangkabau brought teachings of Islam to other parts of the region. One such place was to the Tapu Island in the Philippines. According to Joesoef Sou’yb, a Muslim propagator named Makhdum Awal from Minangkabau died there. Makhdum, together with another propagator, Raja Baginda, erected the first mosque in Sulu in 1450-1480 during the period of Sayid Syarif Abubakar. Sayid Syarif Abubakar hailed from Johor, and later married the princess of King Baginda, putting him in line to become the next King of Sulu.

Hamka in his book “Islam dan Adat Minangkabau” wrote that these two propagators also went to North Kalimantan in 1390. During their trip there, both of them went to Southern Philippines, then to Brunei and finally to Sabah.

In the Salsilah Raja-Raja Brunei (the Brunei Genealogical Table), it was also stated that the Muslim propagators from the Sayid Syarif family had a relationship with the Sultan of Sulu. Dra Zusneli Zubir noted that in one of the writings, the third Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Sharif Ali, was married to the daughter of Sultan Muhammad, the first Sultan of Brunei. Sultan Sharif Ali is said to be descended from the King of Sulu known as Syarif. If this is so, then the Sulu Sultanate and Brunei Sultanate is connected to Minangkabau through King Baginda.

The Brunei-Minangkabau connection is also made through descendants of Istano Pagaruyung. Based on the writings of Pehin Jawatan Dalam Seri Maharaja Dato Seri Utama Dr Hj Muhammad Jamil Al-Sufri Begawan Pehin Udana Khatib Hj Umar in his book, Dra Zusneli Zubir noted that the historical migration of Minangkabau to Brunei was during the reign of Sultan Nasaruddin, the 15th Sultan of Brunei reigning 1690-1710. During that time, Raja Umar, a member of the Minangkabau Royal Family, came to Brunei. He came disguised as a trader, and was known as Dato Godam.

Dato Godam was the son of Bendahara Harun and his mother was the daughter of the Dutch Resident in Padang, Jan Van Groenewegen. Due to his mixed parentage, the people in Padang did not want Dato Godam to succeed his father. In Sarawak, he met Pengiran Temenggung Pengiran Abdul Kadir, who took him to Brunei. Dato Godam’s descendants are known as Awang-Awang Damit in Brunei, and the Abang descendants in Saribas, Sarawak.

The Brunei-Minangkabau relationship can also be seen through similarities in culture. There are a number of words which are very similar. These include Bedil (Badia in Minangkabau), Langkau (Langkau), Jamban (Jamban), Gendang (Gandang), Lapau (Lapau), Surau (Surau), Masin (Masin), Sokong (Sokong), Elok (Elok), Inda(Indak), Kalatmata (Kalokmato/Ngantuk), Banar (Bana), Basuh (Basuah), Hampir (Hampia), Nini(Niniak), Bulih (Buliah).

Further studies can be made on this subject matter in the future.

The Brunei Times

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