Showing posts from October, 2009

Graduating Today?

This morning, lots of people will be coming out of ICC with brand new degrees and diplomas. I was going to do a short piece about the History of UBD and found that UBD has already publicised it in its website, but just in case, you have not read or seen it yourself, here it is with some additional notes. The idea of establishing a university of Brunei Darussalam was first raised during a comprehensive review of the country's higher education facilities in 1976. Subsequent discussions led to the appointment of a steering committee which, with the assistance of the British Council, proceeded to engage a group of experts to study and advise on the matter. However, active planning for a university did not commence until 1984-5, at which time academic links were discussed with a number of universities in the United Kingdom and Malaysia. On 23 April 1985 came an announcement from His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Negara Brun

The Story of Two Books

I bought two books this week. One is a normal price or rather, locally Brunei priced best seller book and the other is an old almost antique book which cost five times more than the other one. When I look at Amazon, the price of that best seller was almost half but I guess with postage etc, it would probably cost close to what our local bookstores are selling. Anyway, I am talking about Dan Brown's Lost Symbol which retailed for $50.80. I don't know about you. But after having watched National Treasure movies and reading other books and watching all those National Geographic and other channels, I didn't find the Lost Symbol that mysterious anymore. I guess that's me. Though I did lose some sleep trying to read the 500+ pages in just two days. Would I recommend it? Well... I would say buy it but wait for the paperback. The other book which I bought was this. This plain green book is entitled simply 'The Royal Brunei Malay Regiment' which tells the history of the

RBA's Boeing 777?

According to The Washington Post compiling news from Indian newspapers on 26th October 2009, amongst them The Indian Express, Royal Brunei Airlines will finally be acquiring her Boeing 777. Remember the continuing saga about Boeing 777? About 2 years ago, RBA was supposed to have leased a couple of Boeing 777. Brunei Times in its 18th June 2007 news wrote that "... reports on the internet ( have stated that the airline has already acquired its first Boeing 777-200 last month. According to the report, a Boeing 777 has been repainted in full RBA livery from American flag carrier United Airlines, which is awaiting delivery at Fort Worth Alliance Airport in Texas. Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) is also looking into expanding its fleet, with the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner touted as one of the possible future choices ..." The photograph of that Boeing was this:- Anyway, despite the training and retraining of pilots, the planes still did not appear. Now The Indian E

Brunei - now a big fish!

The Oxford Business Group reported the following on 26th October 2009: +++++ Brunei Darussalam: Diving In at the Deep End 26 October 2009 Brunei Darussalam is steadily building on its reputation as an Islamic financial services hub, making up for lost time and developing a credible sharia-compliant banking and financial sector. Though the Sultanate has long offered Islamic financial services, operating in tandem with conventional banks and institutions, the lack of a broad-based regulatory environment meant that until recently the sector struggled to gain the recognition it deserved. However, over the past few years there has been a rapid shift, thanks in part to reforms that established rigid guidelines to ensure banks offering Islamic products were fully compliant with sharia financial law requirements. As a result of these and other measures, Islamic banking sector has been equipped with a regulatory platform equal to or in advance of most of others operating in the industry. These

A Sad Year

This has been a very sad year. This year I have already seen my aunty, my uncle, my grand uncle passing away. On Saturday, it was the turn of my dear mother in law. I remembered when we were busy by the bedside, my phone rang. I did not recognise the number but when I answered, it was my 9 year old son. We had left him at my sister in law's place. He asked, 'Babah, banar nini nada lagi?' (Dad, is it true that grandmother has passed away?). It was at that point that I broke down completely. I couldn't even answer him but passed the phone to my wife who answered him tearfully. I remembered mama being a strong woman. I first met her when I first visited my then future wife's house during Hari Raya. She was about 73 then. Everytime I visited the family, I always see her taking care of my invalid father in law, feeding him and fussing over him. She was a good cook and there were a few signature dishes which I always know that it is her doing the cooking. Over time, she w

Puspa Hotel - Short History

The winner of Saturday's post of what happened to this hotel is my good friend, Mr. Haji Awang. Unfortunately he only texted me so his note was not available to readers. Anyway, before Puspa Hotel was built, it was the site of a factory. The factory was producing bottled softdrinks called Snowman. Most probably the factory was built soon after the war and the factory lasted until the 1960s. That was when the factory was torn down and a hotel was built in its place. You have to remember that the hotel was actually next door to the wet market (now the Bumiputera Building with the Municipal Council office on top of the multistorey carpark). And this place was more or less the central place to be. The bus terminal is still where it is now except now there is a multistorey carpark on top of it. The RBA Office was somewhere at the back of the Britannia Building. Puspa Hotel lasted until the late 1970s when the lease on the land ran out. Normally leases are continued with the payment of a

Puspa Hotel

I am just wondering who remembered this? Be the first to tell the world what happened to it.

Chinese Temple in Brunei Town

There seemed to be a rush of entries yesterday about the development in Brunei. For today I thought I will look at the Chinese Temple. I wrote about the old Chinese Temple a couple of years back and received interesting comments. The original Chinese Temple is not at its location in front of Sungai Kianggeh. It was originally at the wharf. During the early 1950s, you can still find the old temple in between the Customs Building and the old Government Rest House (that Rest House became the Pelita Brunei office in the 1970s and 1980s and now completely demolished). This is what it looked like around 1920s: According to a research paper I came across, this first Chinese Temple was built in 1918. As the first World War raged on in Europe, apparently times were good for the Chinese towkays in Brunei. The Chinese businessmen were among the first to heed the British Resident's call to set up shops away from the Kampong Ayer. The original town centre on Kampong Ayer then was Kampong Bakut

Building Brunei in the 1950s

I recently received a note from a Mr Sun-Hoo Foo which talked about my books, the Golden Warisan Volume 1 and 2. But most importantly he was talking about his father which I took the liberty to quote as follows:- Your article 7 on the Mosque in the Capital is most interested to me, since our family is tied most closely to the construction of this magnificent mosque. My father Foo Hong was the Chief Draughtsman of Booty & Edwards, who was the architect firm for most of the major Brunei public works in the 50+. My father recently published his memoir in Chinese and took me around to show the differnet goverment buildings that his firm had designed. According to him, he was assigned with the job of building the mosque while he was in Kuala Lumpur. He studied various design and came up with the main Golden dome etc. He then spent months, worked with a young man, constructing the model of the mosque and personally presented to the Sultan and his council and got final approval. After t

International Airport

[Brunei International Airport around 1970s] I had to hunt high and low for this postcard. Eventually one was offered on ebay together in a package with postcards of the Logan Airport in Boston which I used to use when I studied in the US and the Minneapolis-Saint Paul's (MSP) Airport which is an interesting airport as it is surrounded by Minneapolis, St. Paul and the suburban cities of Bloomington, Eagan, Mendota Heights and Richfield. I have no idea why the seller would sell the Brunei Airport postcard with those other two. Anyway, I bought all three cards. This postcard of the Brunei International Airport shows the airport as it was completed in the 1970s. The most interesting feature is that it did not have any air bridge or aero bridge. Those were built much later. The original airport meant that you have to walk down the two ramps on either side of the airport. You can see the one ramp on the extreme left of the postcard. That ramp was demolished when the new extension was bui

Two Bridges Over Time

[Clifford Bridge or also known as Jembatan Rangas] This is a postcard of the Clifford Bridge or is popularly known as Jembatan Rangas. This one was built in the 1920s replacing an older wooden bridge. This bridge is still in existence today. If you happen to be crossing the river into Bandar, you can see the old bridge on the left. It was just left there. The bridge was very narrow and only allowed one car to go through. This is a slight enlargement in them middle of the bridge which does one car to stop there to allow another car to go through. There was a feature in the postcard which I overlook previously. But this time I have marked it. The old Istana Darussalam is clearly visible in the postcard. I was told that this is the original palace. It was rebuilt and moved slightly inland at the current site. [Edinburgh Bridge] This is the newer Edinburge Bridge. This is the original Edinburgh bridge and it allows cars on both sides of the road to go through. There should be a third postc

Brunei, Male Only Policy?

More than twenty years ago when I went to UK, I had a hard time explaining where Brunei was. Ten years later when I was studying for my Masters in the USA, it was the same problem. But I thought recently with our disappearing act in the 2008 Olympics and our recent run-in with BAFA/FIFA saga, many journalists, especially sporting ones would have realised where Brunei was. Apparently not so. In their minds, Brunei is still aparently somewhere in the hot desert sun and according to them, we were in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This is a Monday news entry from The Florida Times-Union:- +++++ Aside from displaying great teamwork and acting as source national pride, the Olympics also serve as a reminder of how far America has come in relation to women in sports — and how far some other countries still have to go. According to the Associated Press, the IOC is unhappy with three member countries because of the countries’ attitudes toward female athletes. While IOC president Jacques Rogge didn’t

Brunei No.1

Oxford Business Group's Report on Brunei on 9th October 2009 are as follows: +++++ Brunei Darussalam: Praise and Pointers 9 October 2009 Brunei Darussalam's economy has received somewhat mixed reviews in two internationally recognised reports, having been rated by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as the number one country globally in terms of macroeconomic stability but also well down the rankings when it comes to ease of conducting business. In the latest WEF Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), released on September 9, Brunei Darussalam's economy climbed seven rungs up the ladder from its position of 39th last year out of the 133 countries assessed, beating regional powerhouses such as India, Thailand and Indonesia. Brunei Darussalam's unrivalled performance in the area of macroeconomic stability was a result of its large budget surplus cited by the report, which was assessed as being equivalent to one-third of its GDP, the fourth highest in the world; the high level of

Zero Poverty

Yesterday's ceremony when His Majesty handed out the zakat funds to those who are needy certainly marks a new chapter in Brunei's history. I was sitting on the stage watching from the back seeing the faces of all those receiving the zakat funds. Certainly a number of them deserved to receive the funds. A number of them were in wheel chairs and a number of them too had difficulty walking. Regardless of appearances, I am sure that whoever assessed their needs must have taken into account whatever difficulties that they faced. Yesterday, about 4,084 heads of families received the zakat funds who are considered asnaf fakir miskin (the poor and needy) and among them are 190 people asnaf al-gharimin (those who are in debt). The 190 people are mostly those who cannot pay their housing debts. About $2.3 million of unpaid housing loans have been paid up through the zakat funds. For the poor and needy, each head of family yesterday received $20,000 each and members of the family received

Brunei's GDP 2008

I got this book from my colleague at PMO yesterday. It is Brunei's 2008 Annual National Accounts. What is it? It is a publication by the Statistics Department of the Economic Planning and Development Department of the Prime Minister's Office. It tells you what Brunei's GDP is. This one tells you what the 2008 GDP figures look like. First of all, the statistician corrected the growth rate of 2007. It was provisionally estimated to be 0.6% growth but it has now been revised to 0.2% growth only. of which the oil sector's growth is a negative 6.9% but the non-oil sector growth was 8.5%. But since our economy is oil dependent, that impressive growth in th enon-oil sector translated into only 0.2% growth overall. What about 2008? We were officially in recession. Our growth rate for 2008 is a negative 1.9%. The oil and gas sector dropped by 6.3% but the non oil and gas sector only picked up by 2.4%. Overall 2007 figures are much better. Our 2008 GDP at current prices is $20.4

Brunei Money Defects

This was in the cbox ** salwa: Mr BR, i discovered a print defect on our Brunei $1 notes. I compared it with one another, the defect one has a low upper sides and longer on the right hand sides. ** Actually I am not surprised. I remembered sometime in November 2006, one reader sent me a newspaper cutting of a news written in the Miri Daily Newspaper. Not many Bruneians came across that paper as it is writting in Chinese. I posted an article about it then. The link is here if you are interested in that old blog entry. The news was about a currency note collector who was very excited as he discovered an extraordinary note. The B$1 note bears two different serial numbers on it. Mr. Yong said that he started to collect B$1 notes years ago, particularly those with the “golden” numbers of ‘6’ or ‘8’. To date, he has collected over ten pieces “golden” numbered B$1 notes. In the news, he was fortunate to have discovered a note with “golden” numbers, as well as a note that has two different s

Constitution of Brunei Darussalam 50th Anniversary

Not many realised that on 29th September 2009, Brunei Darussalam’s Written Constitution celebrated its Golden Anniversary of 50 years old. This news from RTB:- The Brunei Written Constitution and Brunei Agreement was signed on 29th of September 1959 between Brunei Government and the British Government at the Lapau Building, in Bandar Brunei. Through the declaration, the status of the country has been glorified in the international arena and Brunei developed in all areas including programmes towards the excellence of the race and nation. Almarhum Sultan Haji ‘Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien is the person who played important roles in the realization of the existence of constitution and to clear a way towards Independent Brunei. The late monarch declared plan to set up Written Constitution for Brunei in early May 1953. Al-Marhum stated his desire and ambition in his own Syair Perlembagaan. In line with the decision of the Legislative Council Meeting on the 10th April 1953, a