Showing posts from 2010

Brunei: Stronger Links

The Oxford Business Group reported on 2nd Decmeber 2010 the following news: Brunei: Stronger Links The 17th ASEAN summit in Hanoi in October saw Brunei Darussalam taking steps to improve economic ties with several of its partners in the 10-member organisation, as well as with non-member states. The summit, the second held under Vietnam’s chairmanship, came at a crucial time for ASEAN as it seeks to build more internal economic integration while also strengthening its geostrategic role. Compared with other ASEAN nations, Brunei Darussalam is relatively small, both in terms of size and population. As ASEAN is a key forum for articulation of the smaller nations’ views and interests, strengthening ties with the organisation has long been one of the Sultanate’s key foreign policy objectives. Indeed, the summit provided an opportunity for Brunei Darussalam to reinforce its ties with its neighbours while strengthening relations with other regional powers. On October 28 His Majesty Sultan Hass

MOP-22 Report

Our Twenty-second Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in short, MOP-22 convened for its second day in Bangkok, Thailand,yesterday. In the morning, delegates considered the special situation of Haiti and compliance and reporting issues. The co-chairs also led delegates through a review of the agenda and decisions to be forwarded to the high-level segment. Plenary was adjourned mid-morning to allow contact groups on QPS, ODS destruction, the ToR for the evaluation of the financial mechanism, as well as the Budget Committee to convene throughout the day. Our plenary reconvened at 7 pm in the evening and heard updates from contact and informal groups and we ended around 9 pm. It was a tiring day. None of the contact groups which met in the afternoon did not complete their work. And we only have today for the final day of the preparatory segment. Tomorrow is the start of the high level segment.

The State of the World's Ozone Layer

Greetings from Bangkok. I am here to lead the Brunei's delegation to the 22nd Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The meeting is held at the United Nations Building in Bangkok from 8th to 12th November 2010. Yesterday was the first day of the meeting. The first three days are the preparatory meeting at senior officials level and the last two days will be the high level or ministerial level meeting. What is the Montreal Protocol and what does it do to us in Brunei? The Montreal Protocol is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion. It is believed that if the international agreement is adhered to, the ozone layer is expected to recover by 2050. This is probably one of the best example of international cooperation. More than 196 countries have ratified it. It helps everyone in the world including all of us in Brun

Faster RPN Housing

Yesterday morning, together with the Director of Housing Development, took a stock on how construction is going on in the various packages which we have awarded to several contractors. Altogether there are like 6 different main contractors building around 1,931 houses in the Meragang area plus about 800+s in the Tanah Jambu. They are all due for completion by next year or 2012. Next year we will see a bumper crop of housing. Together with the 2,000 houses in Pandan built by BEDB plus our smaller projects in Rimba, there should be more than 4,000 families receiving their houses. For the Belait District, it should cover applicants quite close to the year 2000 but for applicants in Brunei/Muara District, these houses in Meragang will bring in 1993 and 1994 applicants. The houses are built much faster now due to technology changes. Previously, you would see contractors building the tiang, the beams etc before laying the bricks. We learnt which is fast and the one built by Bina Puri in Pand

Time Traveler?

I was very intrigued when I read a news article about a film-maker believes he has found evidence of time travel in footage from a Charlie Chaplin film premiere shot in 1928. You can go to youtube or the still as above. George Clarke, from Belfast, says he has been puzzled for more than a year by the film which appears to show a woman talking on a mobile phone. He has posted the video on YouTube where it has notched up more than 2.2 million hits in just ten days, reports the BBC. Mr Clarke was checking the extras on a Chaplin DVD box-set and began watching a clip of the 1928 Hollywood premiere of The Circus. "As I sat back to watch it I realised in the first 30 seconds there's a lady strolling by with her hand up to her ear which looked quite familiar in today's society," he said. "So I wound it back and watched it again, zoomed it in and slowed it down and got other people in to check it out. Everybody had the same reaction - it looks like she's talking on a

BEDB Houses at Pandan, Kuala Belait

Yesterday was our second MOD visit to Kampong Pandan to visit the 2,000 houses that BEDB is currently building for us. Sometime last year, we visited them with the former Minister and at that time, other than a few sample houses, most of the houses were in various stages of completion. Unlike yesterday, it is the other way around, most of the houses are nearly completed. We even visited the inside of the houses where two of the houses were actually fully furnished. Complete with proper interior decoration and nice furniture, I thought the houses looked very nice. Altogether there are 2,000 houses being built. Currently around 1,700+ houses have been completed and there should be another 200+ houses left to be completed. There will be 800 semi detached houses of around 1,300 square feet area and 1,200 terrace houses of around 1,200 square feet area. The colour schemes for the interior of the house is very nice. Our own officers even want to take photographs inside the house. How about t

Brunei's Undistributed Stamps

I was really surprised to see this set of stamps. This set of stamps was supposed to be released in 1970 but it was never released. The stamps were supposed to have been destroyed but I guess with these sets in the market, someone somewhere decided not to destroy every single one. I came across this set sometime early this year when my dealer in Singapore showed the whole set and I paid around S$800 for the entire four stamps. When I told one of my friends in Brunei who specialised in antiques, he said I overpaid for it. It's difficult to estimate what the value is as these stamps do not come up for auctions that often. When I saw it on ebay, I was surprised and put up a bid for it. I was the highest at one stage but towards the end, there were just too many bidders, serious ones too. When the dust cleared, the stamps were sold for US$935 which is even way way what I paid for. Whoever bought it, congratulations, I do hope no more of these stamps will appear suddenly any more.

View from Bukit Salilah

I acquired this photograph off the internet the other day. When I first saw it, I immediately thought to myself, this must be the view from Bukit Salilah. That hill is about the most accessible from town and if I am not mistaken even before the second world war, there used to be built up there a telegraph tower. Though with all the old houses and buildings at the bottom of the hill, I am not really sure whether this is taken from there. Why don't you study the photo and let me know.

Borneo as the Homeland of the Malays

This book is a recent addition to my library. I bought it at Select Bookshop in Singapore for me to read on my trip to Melbourne and Brisbane recently. I have been reading up on the various papers on the origins of the Malays. It was not until recently that the experts have more or less agreed that the origin of the Malays were from South China in Formosa Island (Taiwan). The Proto-Malays as they were known migrated to the Philippines about 3,000 years ago. They moved slowly downwards towards Sulu and Borneo. This is where the Malay language departed. One group went eastwards towards Sulawesi and the Oceanic Pacific islands. The other group went to Borneo and settled there as well as go down the Borneo Island and ending up at Sumatera and the Peninsula Malaysia. Remember this process took years. By the 7th century, Sumatera had risen up and slowly too were the states of Malaysia. Influenced by the Indians and the Chamic empires, the Malay states rose too. By the 7th century, th

Ariani's Shawls - Malaysia's Hidden Treasure

My auntie introduced me to this shop yesterday somewhere near Masjid India in KL. I guess if you know KL, you know where this is, it's the place where most Brunei ladies go to if you go to KL. I told my auntie, I wanted to get some tudung and she said the best place to get it is from this place. The place otherwise known as Ariani apparently is the in-thing to get today's tudung. I remembered my better half mentioning about it but it didn't really click until I saw the shop which has apparently expanded from one pintu to about three pintu now. According to my Malaysian auntie, she has seen Bruneians buying tudung here by the bag loads. So I went in. I was a bit speechless as those Bruneians who have been buying them by the bag loads are clearly earning several salary scales higher than mine. The prices I saw ranged from about the affordable RM60 to the sky high RM2,500. Ekin, Mawi's wife is their ambassador. Though when I was there, the shop ladies were talking about Da

Briyani Gam

Day 4 in Kuala Lumpur. We completed our meeting yesterday which ended around seven in the evening with the closing ceremony. Today we had the field trip. There were three choices, one was to sanitary landfill in Bukit Tagar, the second to a Community Service Recycling Centre at Shah Alam with a visit to Jaring Metal Industries, and a third to the Integrated Centre for Scheduled Waste Management, Negri Sembilan. We split ourselves visiting the various sites. The landfill at Bukit Tagar is said to be the most premium of all landfills in the region and it showed. The second was interesting and I firmly believed copyable - the community has to be involved. The third is interesting too. In the evening, my Malaysian Uncle and Aunty took us out. This time we had another local favourite at a restaurant called Annur Briyani at Kampung Baru. Kampung Baru is interesting. It is a local kampung in the middle of KL and there are lots of food stalls here. Very interesting place. What I wanted was as

Greetings from KL

Greetings from Kuala Lumpur! I took a two weeks leave after Hari Raya so that my better half and I have time to visit our elderly relatives. We managed to visit quite a few of our elderly uncles, aunties and siblings. Some of them which we had missed over the last few years. I was glad I took that leave. Unfortunately I had to cut my leave short last week. I had to fly to Australia and Singapore with my other hat on as a member of the CSPS Board. The CSPS have two major projects this year, one was the Alternative Energy Study and the other is the Optimisation of Land Use Study. It was the latter project which I am involved in. That's why if you had been trying to visit updates for the last few weeks, I have not been able to update the blog as often as I would have. I was away on leave and then flying off to Singapore, Melbourne and Brisbane. I came back for just one day work and I had to fly to KL to attend the second meeting of the Regional 3R Forum in Asia organised by the Malays

Brunei's Connections

The Oxford Business Group reported on 30th September 2010 the following news: +++++ Brunei's Connections [photo is from] The arrival of a flotilla of traditional Filipino balangay sailboats in Brunei’s Muara harbour last month was not only a colourful display of seamanship – the boats are on a 14,000km journey around South-east Asia – it was also a reminder of the Sultanate’s plan to deepen trade and transport links with neighbouring nations. A significant contributor to the enhanced cooperation is the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) initiative. Launched in 1994, it seeks to boost economic activity between Brunei and peripheral states of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, since the states are economically distant from their countries’ main growth centres. The multilateral grouping includes the states of Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan in Malaysia, the provinces of Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku, West Papua and Papua in Indone

Brunei Darussalam 50 Years Ago

[This article was published in Brunei Times on 20th September 2010. I ran out of material to write and then I saw the 1960 Brunei Annual Report and had a lightbulb moment.] The Brunei Annual Report of 1960, exactly 50 years ago had a very short general review. Not only is it short, it was also toned-down despite the fact that the new Constitution was promulgated the year before. It stated: “The year showed a steady decline in the revenue of the State, due no doubt to the fall off in the production of oil and partly to the trade recession as a result of there being no new development plan being introduced by the Government. Retrenchment of staff in the Public Works Department has caused concern and until a new development plan is introduced this situation will not improve. The Public Works Department has virtually ceased all large-scale activities, and the two new hospitals which it was hoped to build have not eventuated. Brunei, under the new Constitution promulgated in September, 1959

Open Air Classroom

Students of today had no idea what kind of classrooms we had to endure in the 1970s. Today almost every school had fantastic looking sports facilities and brand new school blocks. In the 1970s, we had to endure open classroom out in the SOAS fields. The Brunei Preparatory School in Bandar Seri Begawan only had walls separating the classes but no walls on either side. When anyone walks past, you can see the students. Even the staff room had no walls either. When it rains heavily and especially with the winds, one side always had to move in to avoid the rain. I did not go to BPS in Bandar but I managed to use the classrooms for my ugama classes. At that time only the Madrasah had ugama sessions in the morning but Madrasah was so full that a number of us were transferred to Ugama school at BPS HQ as we used to call it. It was an interesting mix.

Teachers Day

Many of us had forgotten that the 23rd September was Teacher's Day. The celebration I think had been put off to sometime next week. That's ok too. It gives me this whole one week to put up old teachers photos. One of the photos is the one that belongs to teachers of the BPS School in 1971. I remembered one of the teachers in this photo is Cikgu Jamilah Ahmad. She was my Prep 1 teacher in 1973 at BPS Lambak. She is no.8 from the left in the middle row. Another teacher is my uncle, Cikgu Sany Hussein, he is no.4 from the right on the top row. You might recognise some of your old teachers. Click on the photo and the enlarged version will come out.

Batu Lintang Teacher Training College

I bought this book at the Sarawak Museum bookshop when I was there in August. Priced at RM85, I thought it was a bit steep at first. After looking through the book, it was a worthwhile buy. The book written quite sometime ago (1995) is an account of Batu Lintang - how it progressed from being a camp for the British Army towards becoming a Prisoner of War camp for the British and Allied Forces captured by the Japanese and then becoming a Japanese POW camp run by the Allied Forces before finally becoming the Batu Lintang Teachers Training College by the late 1940s. The book is an interesting account but it does not pretend to cover everything. There are many stories and tales during the harrowing period of the POW camp run by the Japanese that one can read on Wikipedia. What most Bruneians do not know also is that the association of this camp with Brunei. It housed the Punjab Platoon that was supposed to protect Brunei but in reality only burned the oil rigs from falling to the Japanese

Headhunting in Brunei

Thanks to everyone who gave ideas about what to do with my computer. It was indeed a virus attack and I lost the winsock.dll file or whatever equivalent it is on Windows 7. The technician took less than 10 minutes to repair it. Unfortunately it took me more than 2 weeks to bring it over to him. I got the PC up and running yesterday. What have I been doing in the meantime? I have been reading books. One in particular was this book edited by Janet Hoskins with the title Headhunting and the Social Imagination in Southeast Asia. What caught my attention was there was an article in there written by an Allen R Maxwell entitled Headhunting and the Consolidation of Political Power in the Early Brunei State. I actually referred to this article when I wrote about the early Brunei conquests article a few weeks ago. The Maxwell article actually is based on the Syair Awang Semaun but it focused especially on the headhunting part. When Awang Alak Betatar attacked the Melanau Government in today'

Computer Down

Apologies to regular visitors. My PC is currently unable to be connected to the espeed. I have called up TELBRU people, someone came over twice and said that the connection is fine but my PC is not connecting. So I am unable to to update from home. Does anyone has a solution or what I can do, other than bring the PC to the shop?

Brunei Clock Tower

This black and white photo is currently being sold for about US$775 together with two other photographs and two other postcards on ebay. I am not sure whether this is worth that amount of money but you are most welcome to bid on them. This photograph shows the clock tower and I would presume the photo was taken in the early 1960s. You can still see the old police station and the old police officers barrack in the background. By 1980, the old police station had been demolished, the barracks were demolised earlier. There was no traffic light yet but there is a light on top of the junction. This served to remind road users that there is a junction.

Old Borneo Map

I was spring cleaning my study yesterday and in one of the envelopes that I nearly threw away was this map of Borneo. I must have ordered this quite a while ago and have never got round to framing this. I don't know how old this map is but judging by the data should be around 100 years old at least. The boundaries are not marked so that means Rajah Brooke have not arrived yet to take over Sarawak and Sarawak is only marked with a little dot where Kuching is today. Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei is marked 'Roy Borneo' which I take to mean 'Proper Borneo' as most other Anglicised map would show for this period. Proper Borneo is to distinguish it from the Island of Borneo and Brunei was referred to as Proper Borneo in those days. Borneo is also marked where Bandar Seri Begawan is today with an italic lettering of Bruni to denote its other name, as far as the map is concerned. What I like most about this map is that the Limbang River is marked as Borneo River. In those days,

Smallest Frogs in the World

[photo from National Geographic website ] The scientists found this somewhere on Borneo Island. I can only say, WOW. According to National Geographic: One of the smallest frogs in the world, the species was spotted inside and around pitcher plants in Malaysian rain forests on the island of Borneo (map), which is divided among Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The new species was announced Wednesday, but the frogs have been hiding in plain view for more than a century. "I saw some specimens in museum collections that are over a hundred years old," co-discoverer Indraneil Das said in a statement. "Scientists presumably thought they were juveniles of other species," said Das, a herpetologist at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak in Malaysia. "But it turns out they are adults of this newly discovered microspecies." +++++

Seeking Forgiveness

[This was my article published last Monday on Brunei Times.] THE GOLDEN LEGACY Seeking Forgiveness During Eid Fitr Ramadan is the Muslims’ month of fasting. It is a time for Muslims to learn to be patient, to be humble and to understand more about spirituality. Ramadan is also an auspicious month. It is during Ramadan that the Al-Mighty first revealed the first verses of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). It is also the month where everyone asks forgiveness for past sins and past misdeeds. The practice of asking for forgiveness from misdeeds continue not just during Ramadan but also during the Eid month of Syawal more commonly known as Hari Raya in Brunei. A common practice in Brunei and elsewhere in the world is to seek forgiveness from relatives and friends as well as to send Hari Raya greetings. These can be done in person when one meets them but can also be done by sending out Hari Raya greetings in whatever form. In today’s technological world, Hari Raya greetings including s

Kampong Ayer 1970s

For most Bruneians, Kampong Ayer is something which has always been there. We do not realise how time passes by. This is a postcard of Kampong Ayer produced by a Singapore company and sold here about 40 years ago. Compare this scene with those of today, you can't see much difference. The boats are already fast as you can see. For those living or who once lived there, can your recognise where this was taken? The only clue is the bakut as there can't be too many of those in the Kampong Ayer. Let me know.

Seria 1980s

Sometime last year, I wanted to buy this postcard but I lost it on ebay. I didn't realise there was another buyer equally determined trying to get this postcard. When it came again recently, I was determined to get it. However, it was quite a painless task as I managed to acquire it for a song. This is Seria or rather this was Seria in the 1980s. This is taken from the angle of the coastal area. The houses on the foreground are no longer there and these has been replaced by the OGDC. The shophouses in the background too have changed. The general layout remain similar and some of the shophouses remained unchanged.

First Malay Secondary School

While going through the old Hari Raya cards, I found a couple of cards with reference to SMMP and the school's motto EXCELSIOR. The card above with the school badge, I found very familiar. I remembered seeing this school badge and the school motto. It took me quite a while when I realised it belong to today's Maktab Sains. I did not go to Maktab Sains, so the badge was not as familiar as I am sure it should be to my brother and sister who went there. So SMMP must be percusor to today's Maktab Sains. It took quite a while before realising SMMP actually stands for Sekolah Menengah Melayu Pertama (First Malay Secondary School) which in itself was interesting as a school name. It began in Brunei Town in 1966. Form 4 was first introduced in the school in 1967 while Sixth Form classes were introduced in 1969. In that same year the school moved from Brunei Town to Jalan Muara at Maktab Sains present site. On 23 September 1971, Sekolah Menengah Melayu Pertama was officially renamed

Old Brunei Hari Raya Cards

My article today published in The Brunei Times is about old Hari Raya cards used by Bruneians in the 1960s and early 1970s. If you want to read the article, you can buy the paper today. I will publish it in this blog sometime this week. In the meantime, the old Hari Raya cards in Brunei looked like these:

SOAS Mosque on Vietnam stamps

I managed to acquire these stamps recently from a Vietnamese stamp dealer. I did not get these when I was in Vietnam but I saw the stamps on ebay and I was quite intrigued. I have a number of stamps issued by other countries which depicted Brunei's scenes but I have never seen this one before. The stamps were supposedly issued in 1993 and with a face value of 8000 dong which is roughly equal to about 67 cents. Other than seeing what is already on the stamps, I have no other information about it. I would love to hear from others who know more about this issue.

Sarawak Museum Journal

One of the visits I had to visit was the Sarawak Museum when I was in Kuching. I have to admit despite my aversion to things Brooke, the Sarawak Museum is a must visit. I did not have the time to go into the museum but only to see if I can buy the Sarawak Museum Journal. For those who are interested, the Sarawak Museum Old Building was built in 1891 and was extended to its present form in 1911. The building was especially built to permanently house and display local native arts and crafts and collections of local animals as mainly encouraged by the famous naturalist, Alfred Wallace, who was then collecting specimens in the country. The Sarawak Museums comprised of a number of museums. If you have a few days in Kuching and has a penchant for things past, you will not be bored. Me, I was only interested in the Museum's publication, the Sarawak Museum Journal. The Sarawak Museum Journal has been publishing since 1920s, unlike our own Brunei Museum Journal which started only in 1969. S

Sungkai Buffet

Only Cuboiart can come up with the appropriate cartoon this time of the year. I have not been keeping up with his genius drawing lately and I was happy to see a few new cartoons which he has just drawn and published in the Borneo Bulletin lately. This one is a killer. Every Ramadan, comes the Sungkai Buffet. I was told at certain places, there are so many people that the food had to be topped up. I much prefer to sungkai at home. There are just so many temptation if I do pop into one of these sungkai buffet. But the other day, my better half, my little one and me did go to the buffet at Holiday Lodge in Jerudong. That was the third day of fasting. We were quite surprised when we went there, we were asked to choose a main course. The main course was a Western dish and in my case, I chose Sirloin Steak, the other choices included tiger prawns, chicken, fish and one other I cannot remember. This main course comes on top of the usual buffet that you can choose which included Roti Kosong a

Kuching, First Impressions

According to my father, I had been to Kuching once. At least to Kuching Airport. In the 1960s, my mother and I used to go 'balik kampong' every year or so. My mother is from Johor, so balik kampong was back to her hometown in Batu Pahat. I am the eldest son, so I am the one who frequently went back with her. In those days, the only way to go to Singapore (then take the taxi to go to Johor) was to fly via one of those propeller aeroplane to Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) before taking the jet flight to Singapore. Sometimes, one had to fly to Kuching instead. But that trip to me does not count. So the first time, I actually went to Kuching was three weeks ago to attend the haze meeting. The meeting was at the Pullman Hotel which is the newest hotel in Kuching. The lobby was especially huge and being a new hotel does make it look much brighter and bigger than anyone else in Kuching. Plus it is placed on a hill and so can overlook practically everything else in Kuching. The hotel lo

Sultan Tengah, the first and only Sarawak Sultan

Someone asked me why have I not blogged for quite a while. The easy answer is it is the fasting month - terawih prayers and all that plus the need to go to sleep early to wake up early for sahur. In addition to that over the last two weeks I was away in Kuching to accompany my minister to attend the 10th Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution and then I was in Hanoi to attend the 21st ASEAN Senior Officials Meetings on Environment. It has indeed been quite busy for me. I had some spare time in Kuching, namely at 7 o'clock in the morning on the day we were flying back to Brunei, to rush to Santubong to visit the Sultan Tengah grave. Santubong is about an hour's drive from Kuching. But the visit was worth it. One of MOD's architect helped design the mausoleum. With the space frame technology, the in thing when it was first built looks a bit dated now. Sultan Tengah was the first and only Sultan of Sarawak. I actually wrote

The Early Brunei Conquests

[Note: I wrote this when I was attending the ASEAN Senior Environmental Officials Meeting in Hanoi last week. I brought one book with me as a reference but luckily there was enough references on the net. It was published in The Brunei Times on 9th August 2010.] THE GOLDEN LEGACY The Early Brunei Conquests A.E. Lawrence writing in the first edition of the Sarawak Museum Journal of 1911 in an article entitled “The First Brunei Conquests on the Sarawak Coast” stated that Awang Alak Betatar enlarged the newly founded Brunei territory by first defeating the Melanau hero Tugau, thus advancing his frontiers from the Tutong River to the Rejang delta. According to Brunei’s own epic poems, Syair Awang Semaun, this happened during the rule of Brunei’s first ruler, Awang Alak Betatar, who was later renamed as Sultan Muhammad Shah when Brunei battled against the Melanau Government. When Melanau lost, Brunei conquered all its territories stretching from Mukah to Tutong. This short article will illus