Memoir Sultan Omar Ali

600 years ago, Brunei was at its height. It controls all of Borneo Island and extending it as far north as southern Philippines and as far south as some say even some parts of the Java Island. By the end of the 19th century, Brunei had lost almost everything except the rump of today's Brunei. Even Limbang was lost that Brunei found itself split in two. Sultan Hashim made an agreement with the British to turn Brunei into a British protectorate state and to accept a British Resident technically as Advisor but in reality the de facto governor. That saved Brunei from extinction.

After the end of the Second World War, Brunei once again faced its greatest test of whether it can survive as an independent nation. Whatever development had taken place since 1906, Brunei virtually lost it all when bombarded by the Allied Forces in their efforts to get the invading Japanese out. Britain with its East of Suez policy wanted every country that it once help administer to administer and managae their own countries. Where the countries are small, the British wanted to countries to merge. So it was with Brunei. It was another existence crisis that Brunei had to face.

Luckily in the face of difficulties, Brunei had been lucky to have Sultans who are strong enough to take charge. So it was at the end of the 19th century with Sultan Hashim. In the 1950s, it was Sultan Omar Ali.

In 1950, Sultan Omar Ali ascended the throne. He faced the challenge of rebuilding the country but he did it so well that he became known as the Architect of Modern Brunei. Evem though he faced a rebellion in 1962 but he was still forgiving - in January 1963, he said "... clemency will be the guiding principle to which my government is committed ... it is my heartfelt wish to see as many as possible to those misguided prisoners, who took up arms against my government, restored to their dear one ..." The British wanted Brunei to join the new Malaysian Federation but he stood strong to his principles. As a result, Brunei did not join Malaysia but instead by 1984, became an independent nation once again.

Most of us have known without Sultan Omar Ali, we would probably be one of Malaysia's umpteenth state. We know his contribution to the nation. We listened to LKY the other day giving a lecture about our great Sultan Omar Ali; a few years ago, a book was written by a UBD lecturer, Hussainmiya about Sultan Omar Ali; but today for the first time, we see a book written by Dr Muhammad Hadi, the Deputy Head of Brunei's History Centre called MEMOIR SEORANG NEGARAWAN. The book which cost $70 is probably one of the best books I have read recently about Sultan Omar Ali and contained many interesting snippets about His Majesty's life. There are many photographs which have never been seen before and for those alone, the book price does not do justice to the wealth of materials.

The book written in Malay is currently available at the History Centre Booth at the Indoor Stadium Book Fair. If you don't want to buy any books from the Book Fair or you don't want to buy a book for the rest of the year, at least get this one. The $70 is nothing compared to what information you will get.


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