Thursday, May 26, 2016

Brunei Expands Financial Base Through Sukuk (Islamic Bonds)

The Oxford Business Group on 16 May 2016 had this report on Brunei:

Brunei Darussalam expands financial base through sukuk

Brunei Darussalam | Financial Services
Economic News Update
16 May 2016

Brunei Darussalam made headlines in April with the announcement of several sukuk (Islamic bond) offerings ahead of the launch of a standalone stock exchange in the Sultanate.

Efforts to expand the scope of the financial sector are aimed at ensuring a greater diversity of public and private sector financing, specifically in support of businesses and large infrastructure projects.

A roadmap of financial sector expansion is laid out in the Sultanate’s long-term national vision, Wawasan Brunei 2035. Launched in 2008, the programme targets an increase in financial services’ share of GDP from 5% last year to at least 8% by 2035.

Short-term finance

In April the Monetary Authority of Brunei Darussalam (AMBD) issued two sukuk worth a combined $150m. The first, a $50m bond with a rental rate of 1.03%, has a one-year maturity, while the second offering, a $100m sukuk with a rental rate of 0.78%, will mature in July.

To date, the country has issued a total of 130 sukuk, with a combined $9.71bn in short-term offerings since 2006. The government’s stock of outstanding sukuk stood at $575m as of the end of April.

Given its relatively small size, the country accounts for a significant share of worldwide issuances, according to a March report from the International Islamic Financial Market.

In the period from 2001 to 2015 Brunei Darussalam offered 119 short-term sukuk, equivalent to 2.32% of the global market by value.

The Sultanate stands alongside Indonesia and Malaysia as major issuers of Islamic financial instruments in the region and is poised to play a growing role in the issuance of sukuk in coming years, the report noted.

Financing for development

Short-term sukuk have been a major contributor to the country’s development, and may become more important in an environment of increasing uncertainty in international markets.

In the 2008-09 global financial crisis, for example, sukuk were seen as an attractive alternate for investors as they were less exposed to contagion from conventional banks.

Islamic finance is already becoming increasingly important in the development of major infrastructure projects, according to a World Bank report on global financial development issued in September.

Sukuk are particularly well suited for infrastructure financing, as the instrument is based on investment in specific underlying assets or real economic activities.

In practice, sukuk are often structured in a manner more similar to corporate bonds than project bonds, however, “they have the potential to be structured in ways akin to a project bond, where they can either bear the full risk of the project or stand alongside an equity financing tranche, depending on the risk appetite of institutional investors”, the World Bank said.

Sukuk could also have prospects for financing small and medium-sized enterprises further down the line.

The report underscored the success of sukuk in funding a variety of major projects, including a 1-GW coal-fired power plant in Malaysia, with local utility Tenaga Nasional issuing a $1.09bn sukuk with a 27-year maturity to finance the facility’s construction.

More recently, Cahya Mata Sarawak indicated that it was considering raising up to RM1bn ($247.6m) via sukuk this year to finance construction of its portion of the 2083-km Trans-Borneo Highway, which stretches from south-west Sarawak through Brunei Darussalam and on to Sabah.

Instruments for financing larger-scale infrastructure are also under consideration, with the AMDB announcing plans in June of last year to issue long-term sukuk bonds as early as this year.

However, given that the two sukuk issued in April did not exceed one-year maturities, the timing of such a move is unclear.

Looking to the future

The creation of a stock market, which could be launched as early as next year, could give further impetus to sukuk issues.

In mid-March international media reported that the AMBD had enlisted a team to overlook the framework for the Sultanate’s bourse, indicating progress on the long-awaited securities exchange.

Once launched, the bourse is expected to focus on equities trading before adding bonds and sukuk at a later stage, local media reported in April.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Scuba Diving at Pelong Rocks











Azli Azney
BRUNEI-MUARA
Sunday, May 22, 2016

BLUE waters, blue skies; it was a view that I enjoyed, among other things, one recent sunny day during a trip to Pelong Rocks – also known as the legendary Pulau Pilong-Pilongan – to discover scuba diving.

It’s always been something that I’ve always wanted to try but did not have the courage to do on the account of not being able to swim , but since I recently gained the skill, I decided to give it a try.

Pelong Rocks is located about five kilometres from the coast of Muara beach and aside from being one of the more popular beginner scuba diving and snorkelling locations; it’s also a location that is steeped in legend.

So I set out with a group from the Meragang Sixth Form Centre’s Scuba and Swimming club, led by its head, Norkhairulaney Hj Damit, aboard the Lantaran, belonging to Dive Master Rosland Hj Suhaili and the Lantaran Recreational Dive Tours Brunei to experience what Brunei has to offer in terms of aquatic scenery.

Since several of the members have never scuba dived before, we spent the whole morning at the shallow waters of Pelumpong Island to learn the basics of the equipment that we’d be using in our underwater adventure. These included the buoyancy control device, the tank and the regulator as well as the basic safety skills such as what to do in the event that one’s mask or regulator gets detached.

A few weeks prior to the trip, we attended a briefing session on the basics of hand signals that were necessary for the dive.

It was a little after lunch that we left the island to head towards the legendary Pelong Rocks, which was about a 15 to 20 minutes’ boat ride away.

The dive depth at Pelong is about three to four metres deep, perfect for beginners to discover whether scuba diving is something they’d like to pursue further.

Sadly, no thanks to human activity, many of the beautiful corals around the area are dead; something that I would see for myself when I dove down with rescue diver Jane and Rosland’s son, Alif.

“If you really want the beautiful corals that are left, come back when you have your open water certification where you can dive to a maximum of 12 metres,” said the rescue diver.

Jane also impressed upon us that we as divers are conservationists, first and foremost, and that we could only take certain hard corals with us if we wanted to do so.

Despite the dead corals, there were enough vibrant corals left and beautiful fauna shoaling and crawling here and there that the time we spent beneath the waves flew by.

We got to swim around and I had a blast chasing around colourful fishes, trying to identify all of them. Before I knew it, it was back to the boat where, for the first time ever, I experienced something that I’ve only heard about and never experienced personally despite the many boat rides I’ve taken; seasickness.

As Rosland puts it, “It’s the seasickness that gets to people who want to become a certified scuba diver and puts them off of certifying or practising. I know people who got their (open water) certification and never use it because they can’t handle the seasickness.”

However, there are tips you can take such as having polarised sunglasses and not eating certain food prior to a boat trip, to minimise the effects of seasickness.

By the way, I didn’t get to step on Pulau Pilong-Pilongan. I was contented to just take pictures from afar because I’ve heard that the island is a protected area. Trespassing is prohibited and I didn’t want to get into trouble.

Sitting there on the boat and looking at the rocks , I tried to see if I could make out any features that would bring to mind the image of a cock turned to rock, which the island was supposed to be, according to a legend associated with it written in the Syair Awang Semaun, something I read long ago as part of school.

The story goes that in the 14th century, there was a grand cockfight between the champion cock of Brunei, belonging to Awang Senuai, the nephew of the first Sultan of Brunei, named Mutiara, and Asmara, the champion cock belonging to the Betara of the Majapahit Empire, Raden Angkasuka Dewa.

Both cocks were undefeated, with Asmara said to have special powers and that it was so fearsome that when it crowed upon arriving on the shores of Brunei, none of the local cocks crowed in fear for days.

Here, there are variations to the story. Some say that the cockfight was to determine whether Brunei continues being the vassal state of the Majapahit Empire, while another was to determine whether Brunei will pay its tribute for the year. Either way, come match day, it was a grand spectacle with many coming from far and wide to witness the fight.

The story goes that Mutiara had landed a critical hit on Asmara, who then flew out of the ring to escape. Sadly, it succumbed to its wounds and fell into the sea to become Pelong Rocks. Mutiara gave chase to finish off his opponent and, in a fit of anger and embarrassment, Raden Angkasuka Dewa cursed it and it fell into the Brunei River to become Lumut Lunting.

There are still tales from the locals of Kampong Ayer that says that if Lumut Lunting were ever to be fully submerged that it would be an ill omen.

Anyway, despite the unpleasant experience of upchucking my lunch and breakfast twice, I had a largely positive experience and I actually am looking forward to going again in the future.

If you are interested to go for yourself, you can check out the diving operators such as Lantaran and Poni Divers and check out the waters.

The Brunei Times

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Murder of a British Resident in Brunei



Rozan Yunos
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Sunday, May 22, 2016

THE citizens of the Straits Settlement Colony in Malaya and Singapore saw this headline on The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser on 22 May 1916 ‘Brunei Acting Resident murdered’.

If there was a newspaper in Brunei at that time, many would be surprised too. But even though there was no newspaper in Brunei then, the small population would have known much earlier that the British Resident residing in Brunei who was the de facto Chief Minister at that time had been murdered on May 18, 1916.

The Singapore newspaper reported and gave a quick summary of his biography as follows:

“News is to hand that Mr Ernest Barton Maundrell, BA (Cantab), acting British Resident, Brunei, was killed on Thursday last by a Bengali or Sikh policeman. Maundrell, who was born on November 9th, 1880, arrived in the Colony in 1903 as a cadet. He passed his final examination in Malay in May, 1905, and was then gazetted as a passed cadet of class five. In August, 1905, he went to Port Dickson as Acting Harbour Master, and acting assistant District Officer.”

“In 1907 he was acting secretary to the Resident, Negri Sembilan, and held that post until December 1909. In March, 1910, he went home of half pay leave, and upon his return was sent to Penang as third magistrate, from thence coming to Singapore as acting third magistrate. In May, 1912, he was acting assistant Colonial Secretary and Clerk of Councils, and in January, 1914, was also temporarily in charge of prisons. He went to his last appointment on February 19, 1915, and in May of last year was promoted to class four of the Civil Service.”

EB Maundrell in fact, was the first Resident to stay in Brunei. Prior to having Maundrell having a permanent appointment in Brunei, all other Residents stayed in Labuan. In fact it was the Assistant Residents who actually ran the government in Brunei.

By the time Maundrell was murdered in 1916, the British had been governing Brunei for 10 years. During those 10 years, the police force in Brunei was basically made up of Sikh and Bengali policemen with an inspector in charge. It will take another five years before the police force was made up of Brunei Malay policemen.

According to Marie-Sybille de Vienne in her book ‘Brunei: From the Age of Commerce to the 21st Century’ (2015), the fortuitous assassination of Resident EB Maundrell by a Sikh Policeman in 1916 resulted in the creation of a Malay police force in 1921 with 39 members.

The newspaper also reported that it was at 10 o’clock on the night of the 18th, that the Sikh sentry on duty at the government office made an unsuccessful attack on a companion. He then attempted to escape. In a daring attempt to arrest the man, at a distance of half a mile from the Government Office, Maundrell was shot. He died instantaneously. The next morning, the murderer surrendered.

The newspaper also reported that the Governor of the Straits Settlement government deeply regretted the untimely loss of the promising office, who exemplified in his death that unhesitating spirit of courageous loyalty and devotion to duty.

It was on August 8, 1916 that The Straits Times of Singapore reported about the trial of Maundrell’s murderer. The headline reads ‘Murder trials at Brunei’ and a smaller headline which reads ‘Death Sentence on Maundrell’s Assailant’.

There were two murder trials which Sir John Bucknill, KC, Chief Justice, presided on July 27 and July 28, 1916. The first was the murder trial of EB Maundrell where Vir Singh was charged. The Chief Justice was accompanied by two assessors in place of a jury, GB Mulligan and Thomas Lewis. Inspector Crummey prosecuted an WF Zehnder was the defence’s counsel. The accused’s defence was that he was insane at the time the act was committed, and therefore was not responsible.

But at the conclusion of the trial, the court was of the unanimous opinion that the accused was guilty and the sentence of death was passed. What was discovered during the trial was that Vir Singh first attempted to murder a companion, who had the most remarkable escape from death. Vir Singh pressed a rifle against his companion’s stomach and pulled the trigger, and luckily for the companion, the result was a misfire. It was then Vir Singh made off pursued by a party headed by Maundrell was killed when the accused turned and fired.

Incidentally, the other murder trial was the death of a Chinese and two Malays were accused of killing him. During the trial it was said that the body was not recovered because it was thrown into a river infested with crocodiles. However because the evidence in this case was a contradictory nature, both Malays were discharged, the court holding that the evidence was not sufficient on which to convict.

The next day, on August 9, 1916, the full court report was reported on The Straits Times headlined ‘First session opened in the state’ and a smaller headline ‘Murder of the Late Maundrell’.

This time the report also included what kind of robe was worn. HH the Sultan of Brunei was represented by the Prime Minister, the Pengiran Bendahara who attended with his suite, two of whom carried swords being emblems of his office. His Lordship wore full judicial robes and preceded by the mace-bearers.

Inspector Crummey as the Chief Police Officer (CPO) opened the case for the prosecution by welcoming the Chief Justice and thanking the High Commissioner for sending the highest judicial authority of the colony. As the prosecutor, he also noted that before the British Court of Justice, the country was without a code of law, the punishment for theft was cutting off a hand but murderers were dealt with lightly and punished by monetary fine. Crummey noted that all this old order of things had changed and the British brought the Penal Code of which Penal Code Section 302 is charged to the accused.

The trial started with the cross examination of the witnesses before the court appointed defence lawyer started his defence. The counsel tried to defend the accused by saying that even though the accused stood guilty of the charge, this was a clear case of ‘running amok’ and as such the accused could not be held criminally liable because of the prisoner’s mind.

Some facts which the defence wanted to take into consideration was that there was no premeditation nor preparation, nor was there any motive. The accused was at that time discharging his duty and without ‘rhyme or reason’ he attempted the life of his comrade. He also blew his whistle. A sane man, argued the counsel, would not have done all that. The counsel also quoted several cases including the murder of Irish journalists.

The court retired soon after the defence closed their case. It took 20 minutes before the court reemerged.

The Chief Justice addressed the accused that he does not think, and the assessors agreed, that he was insane. The Chief Justice considered his actions were not the actions of a madman, he was not running amok as he was not firing indiscriminately but he deliberately fired two shots at Maundrell who was giving him words of good advice and also at the Sergeant for advising him. Therefore there was no excuse and the Chief Justice found him guilty and he was sentenced to death.

The Brunei Times

Monday, May 23, 2016

HM Sultan Brunei: Strategic ASEAN-Russia Cooperation Needed to Counter Extremist Elements

Add caption





Strategic Asean-Russia cooperation needed to counter extremist elements
on: May 21, 2016

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, on Friday expressed his hope for an increased engagement between Asean-Russia’s security agencies to counter terrorism and other transnational crimes, especially to stop violent extremist elements from coming in and establishing themselves in the region.

In a titah, which was delivered at the Plenary Session of the 20th Asean-Russia Commemorative Summit at Radisson Blu Resort and Congress Centre in Sochi, Russia, His Majesty also touched on the need for regional and international cooperation to be more strategic in addressing issues of terrorism and other transnational crimes and considering measures that could help countries become more resilient to economic uncertainty.

The impact of low oil prices and their volatility, as well as the economic slowdown in many important markets, were also touched on by His Majesty.

His Majesty highlighted how the establishment of the Asean Economic Community at the end of last year and the economic vision for Asean for the next 10 years could provide significant opportunities for enterprises to thrive.

Encouraged by the trade target that has been envisaged for the next 10 years, His Majesty highlighted that the role of the business community is vital in achieving the goal. In this regard, stronger links between Asean-Russian businesses should be nurtured and facilitated, His Majesty said.

His Majesty further noted that building mutual understanding and friendship amongst the people of Asean and Russia is key to the development of a strong partnership. His Majesty then called for a greater understanding of the richness and diversity of both cultures.

The strengthening of cultural diversity, stated His Majesty, can be seen through Russia’s commitment through its Asean-Russia Youth Symphony Orchestra held annually in Asean cities, which is welcomed by Asean.

At the end of the titah, His Majesty said he welcomed Russia’s engagement with Asean through the Comprehensive Plan of Action, which will set a pragmatic direction to expanding cooperation for the next five years, and further emphasised how a strong and dynamic Asean-Russia partnership will provide an anchor for peace, stability and prosperity regionally and globally.

At the end of the Plenary Session of the 20th Asean-Russia Commemorative Summit, His Majesty proceeded to attend a working luncheon.

His Majesty later left Sochi after attending the summit.

Before leaving the hotel, a Doa Selamat was recited by Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia (Dr) Ustaz Haji Awang Abdul Aziz bin Juned, the State Mufti.

Present at Sochi International Airport to bid farewell to His Majesty were Yuri Filatov, Director of the Department of State Protocol of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation; Anatoly Pakhomov, Mayor of Sochi; and Haji Haini bin Haji Hashim, Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam to the Russian Federation.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Brunei Deputy Defence Minister Visit Supercarrier USS John C Stennis


Deputy Minister of Defence, First Admiral (Rtd) Dato Seri Pahlawan Abdul Aziz bin Haji Mohd Tamit; United States Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam, Craig Allen; and Rear Admiral Marcus A Hitchcock, the Commander of Carrier Strike Group 3, onboard USS John C Stennis. – DEAN KASSIM

Top defence officials visit US Navy supercarrier
on: May 18, 2016
| Hakim Hayat |

SENIOR defence and military officials from Brunei Darussalam yesterday had firsthand view of the US Navy aircraft carrier, USS John C Stennis (CVN-74) which is currently passing through international waters close to the Sultanate on a routine operation.

The delegation, led by Deputy Minister of Defence, First Admiral (Rtd) Dato Seri Pahlawan Abdul Aziz bin Haji Mohd Tamit, arrived from the Rimba Air Force Base via a US Navy C-2 transport aircraft, along with United States (US) Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam, Craig Allen.

The visit on board the supercarrier was hosted by Rear Admiral Marcus A Hitchcock, the Commander of Carrier Strike Group 3.

While at sea, the group saw a demonstration of an aircraft launching and recovery operations as well as air fire-power demonstration by the assets of the Carrier Strike Group.

According to the Ministry of Defence, the invitation signified the warm state of bilateral relations and the mutual desire to enhance defence cooperation between Brunei Darussalam and the US.

The visit, coordinated by the US Embassy in Brunei Darussalam, also aimed to increase the understanding of naval aviation and carrier strike group operations.

The deputy minister was accompanied by Datin Paduka Hajah Suriyah binti Haji Umar, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence; First Admiral Pengiran Dato Seri Pahlawan Norazmi bin Pengiran Haji Muhammad, Commander of the Royal Brunei Navy; Colonel (U) Shahril Anwar bin Haji Ma’awiah, Commander of the Royal Brunei Air Force and Director of Intelligence, Ministry of Defence.

Also part of the delegation were senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and members of the local media.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sumbangsih Mulia Complex Highlights Brunei's Heritage










Adib Noor
Bandar Seri Begawan
Sunday, May 15, 2016

BRUNEI is truly the land of unexpected treasures, and rightly so. In the busy Beribi Industrial Area is the Sumbangsih Mulia Complex, a unique venue which aims to highlight the heritage of the sultanate via traditional handicrafts and local delights.

The Sumbangsih Mulia Complex was officially opened in 2007 and houses close to a hundred vendors operating in the open food court area as well as a separate air-conditioned section that showcases hand-made intricate local handicraft for sale.

One of the main aim of the establishment of the complex is to help local business entrepreneurs to have a place to sell their products and handicrafts and over the years, there is no denying it has done exactly that.

“We’ve been operating here since it was opened, and it does get busy during lunch time especially during the weekdays,” said Layla who works for Soto CT, one of the popular vendors in the food court.

“It’s never a slow day here, each and every day we will sell more than a hundred bowls of soto. And it’s always great to see our regulars who come by and would just say “Biasa” (‘the usual’),” she added.

The soto seller shared that the venue has always been a popular spot thanks to the nearby businesses which surrounds the area as well as being a popular tourist spot for tour operators.

“Here we are always spoilt for choice. Thanks to the many food vendors, we have a lot of variety to choose from, and honestly it is good value for money,” shared Rafie a sales representative of a local advertising company.

In the air-conditioned section of the complex, visitors can take a closer look at the many local handicrafts such as songkok (skull cap), sinjang (long cloth) and many more.

“Here we offer handmade customised songkok and our customers get to choose the materials and even the design of the songkok. It’s been extremely busy lately and we are in the process of taking in the final orders as we are almost fully booked as people are already preparing for Hari Raya,” shared Nis of Syarikat Asrina, one of the vendors who specialises in making songkok at Sumbangsih Mulia.

Apart from songkok, the specialised section of the complex is filled with other ‘treasures’ from the first floor to the second floor and is one of the places to go to for local handicrafts and even wedding preparations.

“Our sinjang is handmade and is limited, some costs up to $1,000 depending on the materials and how intricate the design and details of the traditional garment,” said Ahmad one of the Sinjang makers at Sumbangsih.

The Sumbangsih Mulia Complex is open from as early as 6am and as late as 6pm daily. So drop by for a taste of Brunei.

The Brunei Times

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Brunei's Ancient Exports




BRUNEI'S ANCIENT EXPORTS

by Rozan Yunos
Bandar Seri Begawan
Sunday, May 15, 2016

TODAY, Brunei’s main export is pretty well known even to non-Bruneians. Our oil and gas exports are the main items driving our export markets and the nation’s income.

But oil was only discovered in 1929 in Seria. However, historians have indicated that Brunei had been very active in the ancient maritime trade for centuries. So what was it that Brunei did in all those years to ensure that ships from China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malacca and other nations to come and trade with Brunei?

Brunei had geography on her side. Brunei was ideally located among the busy trade routes in Southeast Asia. Its sheltered bay protecting ships from the monsoon winds and positioned as a halfway house for the travel journeys from Korea and China to the Southeast Asian nation states all no doubt played a role in making ships come and stop by to trade with us here in Brunei. Geography alone is not sufficient.

Trading ships would only gladly come and navigate to Brunei if there was anything worth to buy and marketed. Pengiran Dr Karim in his book ‘The Brunei Shipwreck: A catalogue of some selected artefacts and Brunei’s ancient trade products’ published by the Brunei Museum in 2015 noted that “anything that was rare and exotic was in demand and would bring big profit and fortune. Traders would rather risk their lives and belongings in favour of wealth”.

Pengiran Dr Karim (2015) noted that it was “Brunei’s fortune (that) depended on her rich in natural, jungle and sea resources, which was highly in demand in the international markets. During that time, Brunei was a big country with large territories. This was a bonus for Brunei because it was the bountiful resources essential for trade.

“Resources were also collected from neigbouring states and distributed via the Brunei Port. The varieties of resources had influenced merchants and trading ships to come to Brunei and contributed Brunei into the helm of maritime trade.”

What were Brunei’s products?

Brunei was known to have a high quality of forest, sea and natural products which are needed by the Chinese and the Europeans. These were known to be in demand in the court of China and among the elites and wealthy families in Nanjing and Beijing as well as in the castles and mansions of Europe.

Not all of these products came from Brunei but they were traded through the Brunei Port brought by the natives to the Brunei Port. The total exports of Brunei can be summarised as camphor, turtle shell, bird’s nest, yellow bees wax, gaharu wood, laka wood, damar, rattan, sago, pearl and gold as well as spices. Most of these originated from Borneo, but some were also obtained from the Sulu people and the people in Eastern Indonesia.

Many of today’s readers would not know what are these items. This article will deal with each one and explain what they are, where they come from and what they can be used for.

Camphor or kapur barus or kapura (in Sanskrit) or kafur (Arabic) was the most important of Brunei’s forest produce and had been regularly mentioned in the early historical records of nations dealing with Brunei. In the Chinese records, it was mentioned as one of Brunei’s tribute to China as early as the 10th century. In 1225 AD, Zhou Rugua mentioned that Brunei produced four different varieties of it.

Brunei’s camphor was of the highest quality in the South Sea and was worth its weight in gold. DF Lach in his book ‘Asia in the Making of Europe: The Century of Discovery’ (1965) said that the true camphor produced in Borneo is valued like gold in India and brings a higher price than the camphor of China.

Camphor is a waxy, flammable, white or transparent solid with a strong aromatic odour. It is found in the wood of the camphor tree. Camphor is the crystrallised camphor oil in the tree trunk of the Kapur tree.

Camphor contains a chemical that is very useful for medicinal purposes and used extensively in ancient Chinese medicine. It was also very useful for preservative purposes especially in the embalming of the corpse.

In India, it is used for incense making, cooking ingredient and used in religious ceremonies. Among the Arabs, camphor is used for embalming, food ingredient and medicinal remedy but also in ointment for the treatment of rheumatic diseases and muscle pains as well as for sprain and pulled muscle.

Turtle shell was also widely recorded as Brunei’s trade commodities. Turtle shell also formed part of Brunei’s tribute to the Chinese Court in the 10th Century. During the Ming Dynasty, pearls were also included in Brunei's tribute to China. The Portuguese recorded that cowries shells were part of Brunei’s exports to Malacca.

Pearls obviously are still popular even up to today. But turtle shells are no longer being traded. In the older days, turtle shell is an important part of Chinese culture because it symbolised long life and fertility, an emblem of strength, longetivity, and endurance and the universe. The shells can be used as serviceable and decorative items and used for a variety of things such as rattles in ceremonial dances, shamanic healing tools and even for divination purposes.

Bees wax was mentioned as another important ancient trade export. Bees wax is a natural wax produced in the bee hive of honey trees.

It is made from the nectar of flowers thus giving it a sweet smell. Candles made from bees wax gave out sweetly smell without the need to add fragrance and perfume. The candles also lasted longer and do not drip.

Brunei’s gaharu wood is still known till today. This was much exported in the past. Their prices today can be in tens of thousands for a litre. Gaharu wood is the dark resinous heartwood of the Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees. The Egyptians used the wood as part of their death rituals more than 3,000 year ago.

Another wood known as the laka wood was also exported from Brunei mentioned in the Chinese records as far back as the 13th century. Laka wood is a scented heart wood and root wood of a thick liana, Dalbergia parviflora.

One item exported from Brunei in the old days which is quite surprising is gold dust. Brunei has never been known as a producer of gold. But in the 13th century, foreign traders brought gold to Brunei to be traded in the local market.

In the 16th century, a Spanish report mentioned that gold was among the trading items brought by Brunei merchants to Malacca. Gold was probably mined in the Kalimantan region such as in Sambas and Banjarmasin.

Sago deserved a quick mention as it was mentioned by Tome Pires in 1515 as one Brunei’s commodities in Malacca. Sago was considered by the Portuguese as food for the lower classes.

Another tree produce, the dammar was part of Brunei’s exports as recorded by Pigafetta in 1521. Dammar is a kind of gum obtained from a type of trees and are used for many roles including incense burning, foods and medicines.

Hopefully this article will serve as an introduction to what Brunei was able to produce and export in the past.

The Brunei Times

Monday, May 16, 2016

HM Sultan Brunei Awards 593 House Keys to Tutong Residents















Sally Piri, Darren Chin and Khai Zem Mat Sani
TUTONG
Sunday, May 15, 2016

HIS Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, presented 593 people with keys to their Bukit Beruang semi-detached and terrace homes in Tutong yesterday.

Out of the total number of house owners, 160 received semi-detached houses while 433 will be living in terrace houses.

The Ministry of Development in a statement said the $140 million Bukit Beruang National Housing Scheme is sprawled over 127 hectares of 1,500 housing units.

The Department of Housing Development is currently reviewing the national housing scheme to ensure it can sustain meeting the increasing number of applications.

Among the long-term strategies include optimal use of land to build more houses, as seen with the building of cluster and vertical homes.

The ministry said over 27,000 houses were built under the National Housing Scheme (RPN) and Landless Indigenous Citizens Housing Scheme (STKRJ) across the country.

A total of 25,647 housing units had been handed over to recipients, including 1,304 people in Tutong.

The Brunei Economic Development Board managed the Bukit Beruang housing project before it was handed over to the Ministry of Development in May 2014, after the completion of the housing units in March 2014.

During the house keys presentation ceremony at Tanjong Maya Secondary School, Acting Tutong District Officer Hj Adnan Hj Adam said the houses were constructed with the latest design and are equipped with public facilities such as a community hall, recreational area and children’s playground.

Following the ceremony, His Majesty toured Tanjong Maya Secondary School, which has 718 students. The school was established in July 2009.

The monarch also visited Abdul Rashid Primary School in Tanjong Maya, where 69 pupils from pre-school to Year Six are studying.

After visiting some of the school’s facilities, His Majesty stopped by a virgin coconut oil (VCO) enterprise named Syarikat Wira Bina.

The VCO products were introduced to Tanjong Maya villagers in 2009 under the One Village, One Product initiative.

The monarch also visited the house of Lubok Pulau Village Head Hj Abd Rahman Samad and Bukit Beruang Fire and Rescue Station, which began its operations in March last year.

The Sultan then took time to make stops at some of the new houses, mingling and taking pictures with the housing recipients.

Also present during the visit were Second Minister of Finance Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Hj Abd Rahman Hj Ibrahim, Minister of Development YB Dato Paduka Hj Bahrin Abdullah, as well as Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism as Acting Minister of Home Affairs YB Dato Paduka Hj Ali Hj Apong.

The Brunei Times

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Pasarneka Kuala Belait: Fresh Food Haven and More

















Hafiizah Maideen
BELAIT
Sunday, May 1, 2016

IT'S BEEN about three years since Pasarneka Kuala Belait was opened, selling fresh fish and meat, retail products, snacks and a place to dine under one roof.

The elongated building, which can be easily spotted when driving to Kuala Belait town, might be fairly new, but the vendors are no amateurs. Most of them are seasoned hawkers for more than 20 years, relocated from the old Pasar Kuala Belait, which has now become a food hotspot on weekend afternoons.

True to the nature of the word ‘pasarneka’, the place hosts a variety of stalls selling diverse products. The building is divided in three sections – fish and meat, light food and retail. The place to dine in is at the middle of the building.

In addition, there's also a weekend market at the carpark vicinity.

Taking into consideration the number of vendors from the old market, which is located further down the road, there are currently more than 30 stalls in each section, except for the light food and traditional delicacy section where only a handful of vendors can be found.

As the name goes, the light food section houses vendors selling easy-to-prepare meals and also traditional delicacies such as local kueh mueh. These usually sell out fast, with the customers normally office workers who dropped by before 8am to get something for their tea breaks.

The retail sections, despite the name, are mostly hawkers selling vegetables, fruits and other farm-grown products. One of the stalls, Musteh Enterprise, which is manned by seasoned vendor Dayang Puteh, sells a variety of home-made traditional delicacies.

She shared that like many others, she has been selling for more than 20 years, and her customers usually go for her home-made snacks.

“We made these fresh every day, and sell it here every day except the weekends,” she told The Brunei Times. “We cater to orders as well. My children are also in the food business.”

Meanwhile at the fish and meat section, vendors display sea and farm harvests on tiled quarters. If you’re lucky, you can also find squids, clams and other unique sea edibles at reasonable prices.

For residents in Kuala Belait, this is the only place where they can get the freshest fish.

Under the same roof, visitors can also have their breakfast or lunch at the eating area. Though there’s only two main restaurants to take your orders, they offer a variety of Malay, Chinese and Western dishes.

To make it easy for visitors, there are pictures of the food that they served. The majority usually go for the no-fuss chicken rice and fried noodles.

Despite being somewhat in the same vicinity with the wet market, diners can rest easy and enjoy the food as the area doesn’t reek of fish stench.

Not lacking in terms of space – especially the parking area – Pasarneka Kuala Belait does have its shortcomings. The building seemed closed off and unwelcoming at most times, unlike the concept of ‘open market’ adapted by the former Pasar Kuala Belait or Seria's Friday market.

Vendors have also voiced out the need for better indoor lighting, and certain places could be quite stuffy in the day.

“The place may be new, but there are still rooms for improvement,” said one of the vendors who refused to be named. “Either way, this is the only place in KB where you can get fresh perishables and also have a quick bite, so it’s not all bad.”

The Brunei Times

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