Saturday, November 22, 2014

UN Human Development Index 2014: Brunei Maintained 30th Position

Datin Adina, Brunei's Deputy Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports at The Asian and Pacific Conference on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment: Beijing+20 Review Conference


Saturday, November 22, 2014 - BRUNEI has maintained its 30th rank in the 2014 United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI).

This was due to the effectiveness of policy and manifestation towards achieving the country’s Vision 2035 which focuses on improving and raising the people’s quality of life, Deputy Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Datin Paduka Hjh Adina Othman said during a conference held recently in Bangkok.

The Asian and Pacific Conference on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Beijing + 20 Review Conference was held from November 17 to 20.

Issues related to the advancement of women are handled under a special committee on family institution and women under the National Council on Social Issues.

The deputy minister added that the country’s emphasis on education is another reason for the progress, that the government has allocated 13 per cent of the annual national budget exclusively on education.

The country’s ongoing efforts to ensure women inclusiveness includes reviewing SPN21 recommendation; proposal to extend duration of formal education; exclusive health facilities and building for women and children; enforcement of Mental Health Order 2014, Employment Order 2009, and Work Place Safety and Health Order 2009; women’s participation in the labour market; and extension of maternity leave from 56 days to 105 days.

Delegates from more than 40 state members took part in the conference that was held at UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

The Brunei delegation to the conference comprised Deputy Permanent Secretary at the MCYS, Hj Noor Jusmin Hj Abd Samad as well as other senior officers from the Community Development Department (JAPEM). – Billah Hassan

The Brunei Times


| Fadley Faisal |

THE recent declaration of Asia-Pacific ministers brings hope to Brunei Darussalam as it moves to enhance gender equality and women’s empowerment as part of the country’s efforts to realise the goals of its Vision 2035.

The ‘Asian and Pacific Conference on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Beijing+20 Review’ was convened recently in Bangkok, Thailand by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in cooperation with UN Women, from November 17 to 20.

Asia-Pacific countries adopted a ministerial declaration comm-itting to accelerate action on achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment across the region.

Representing a strong and united regional voice, leaders from more than 40 countries committed to reinforcing their efforts to eliminate gender discrimination and inequality, as a matter of human rights and for the development and prosperity of the region.

Deputy Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Datin Paduka Hajah Adina binti Othman, in her statement said, “The Brunei Government’s efforts in improving its citizens’ standard of living have placed the country at 30th place in the United Nations’ Human Development Index.This manifests the achievements of Brunei’s Vision 2035. The issues in the area of women’s empowerment are handled through the Family and Women Special Committee’ under the National Council for Social Issues. Women in Brunei benefit from eight main areas identified under the comprehensive Action Plan which will ensure the implementation of various projects and programmes.”

Datin Paduka Hajah Adina also highlighted that the nation’s efforts towards progress in various fields include the review of SPN21, the plan to extend the formal education period, the soon-to-be operational Women and Children’s Health Services building, the enforcement of the Mental Health Order 2014, Employment Order 2009, Work Place Safety and Health Order 2009, the participation of women in the job market, the extension of maternity leave from 56-105 days and the qualification of women staff in the civil service.

The Beijing Platform for Action is a declaration, which was agreed upon at the 4th World Conference on Women in 1995 and has been vetted by the United Nations General Assembly.

Since then, every five years, the progress in reaching the strategic objective ‘Plan of Action’ is reviewed by the ‘Commission on The Status of Women under the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’ (ESCAP), United Nations.

Three reviews were made in 2000, 2005 and 2010. The 4th review will be conducted in 2015 at the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Action Plan.

The review convention is led by ESCAP based on the regional research and the reviews reports by member countries on the participation of the civil society.

The convention usually formulates achievements and challenges as well as the vital execution of the 12 critical fields in the interest of the Action Plan, which are: women and poverty, education and training of women, women and health, violence against women (and girls), women and armed conflict, women and the economy, women in power and decision-making, institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women, human rights of women, women and the media, women and the environment and the girl child.

The Beijing +20 convention stated that most of the member countries have achieved perceptible developments in each field namely: policy fortification, rules and action plan towards gender equality, reduction in violence against women as well as the participation of women in politics and decision-making.

Meanwhile, some member countries still face deficit in gender equality in economy, education, health, environment, power, basic rights, and participation in media. Therefore, several fields have been identified for development such as politics, civil and private sector services, women empowerment in economy and the elimination of violence against women.

The Borneo Bulleting

Friday, November 21, 2014

Brunei Woos More Tourists Through Rainforest

The Bangkok Post on 18 November 2014 had this news:


Brunei Woos More Tourist Through Rainforest

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — Largely ignored by tourists for decades, Brunei is finally stirring as a holiday destination, drawing more tourists with its pristine rainforest as well as quiet and safe image.

The oil-rich kingdom on the northwest coast of Borneo has the potential to become an ecotourism hub due to its untarnished rainforest in the heart of Borneo, after being sidelined for years by more popular tourist spots such as Mt Kinabalu in neighbouring Malaysia, tourism industry officials and travel agents say.

Tourists to Brunei have risen in recent years, with more cruise ships calling at its port while travel agents have also been including Brunei as part of their regional itinerary. Some 3.3 million visitors came to Brunei last year, up from about 2 million in 2007, according to data from the Brunei Tourism Development under the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources.

Although the government is keen to diversify the economy to be less dependent on liquefied natural gas exports, there isn't much to attract tourists in the country so far.

But Brunei has a lush and pristine rainforest that appeals to the growing global interest in ecotourism.

Travel industry officials say one of the main factors for the rise in tourists in recent years is spillover from the huge number of Chinese tourists visiting Southeast Asia in line with China's economic boom.

Increasingly, travel agencies include a stopover in Brunei for Chinese tourists visiting Sabah or Sarawak in Malaysia, and Chinese are now among the top three sources of visitors to Brunei, the tourism department said.

This positive trend has seen a mushrooming of inbound tour operators and many local travel agents have hired Chinese-speaking staff.

And at least one travel agency even has Japanese-speaking staff to cater to Japanese tourists.

Anthony Chieng, managing director of Sunshine Borneo Tours, which runs an upmarket jungle resort in the national park, said that when he started his travel business 20 years ago, there were only two agencies in Brunei involved in inbound tours, but he estimates there are as many as 50 agencies doing such tours now.

Hoping to boost tourism, Brunei opened a luxury seaside resort, Empire Hotel, in 2000 and eight years later developed a jungle resort in Temburong National Park that is managed by Mr Chieng's firm.

Most tourists who visit Brunei are curious about Brunei as a wealthy country and one of the world's longest surviving monarchies.

Sightseeing tours offered by Brunei travel agencies usually include the national park, the water village, resplendent landscapes of palaces and mosques, the Seria oilfield and the Empire Hotel by the beach.

These days, Brunei's remote and conservative atmosphere is also seen as an advantage as more tourists look for a safe and crime-free destination where they can enjoy a quiet and peaceful holiday close to nature with their family away from rising crime in other popular tourist spots in Southeast Asia.

As a major LNG producer, Brunei's economy does not depend on logging or oil-palm plantations, and this has helped keep its rainforest more intact than others in Southeast Asia.

According to Brunei's Forestry Department, visitors to Temburong National Park jumped from 4,500 in 2003 to 10,000 in 2012 before sliding to 8,000 last year.

The 17-room Ulu Ulu National Park resort set amid leafy surroundings in the park has received guests from different parts of the world and can be reached by speedboat from a jetty in downtown Bandar Seri Begawan followed by a more leisurely longboat ride down a river lined with mangroves.

"We are not here for the mass market. Brunei is a small country that is suitable for the niche market of people who appreciate nature, culture and heritage," said Mr Chieng, who would like to focus more on nature-based tourism.

He hopes to attract more tourists from Singapore and Japan.

Sugumaran Nair, inbound manager of Freme Travel Services, said that although his company is more than 40 years old, its inbound tour division only came into being in 1990. Its Rainforest Lodge, about 40 minutes by boat from the national park, was built about 14 years ago.

"We have growing interest from Japanese tourists. Our main market at the moment is still China, but we are also looking at new markets like Australia. We want more people from Japan and also other neighboring countries," Nair said.

In particular, the company, which has five Japanese tour guides, plans to woo Japanese expatriates based in Singapore to visit Brunei.

Brunei has long had a more conservative Islamic image than other predominantly Muslim Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

The sale and public consumption of alcohol is banned in the country although non-Muslim visitors are allowed to bring in two bottles of wine or spirits and 12 cans of beer for private consumption.

All businesses in the country are required to shut down for two hours from noon to 2pm every Friday when Muslim men are required to attend prayers at the mosques and during Ramadan every year food outlets are closed until sunset.

And smoking is now banned in all public areas.

The country also introduced the first phase of a more all-encompassing Islamic law since May this year that has raised concern among some.

"We offer something that is uniquely different," Mr Chieng said. "Brunei is slowly coming towards recognition by travellers to be a destination where it's actually an advantage to have no alcohol because many guests have commented to us that they feel so much safer. In Brunei you have such peacefulness and quiet."

Mohd Shavez, a young Bruneian who has high hopes his country will have a bright future in ecotourism, has been actively promoting nature conservation and dreams of starting his own ecotourism business some day.

The 21-year-old university student started his own club, "1stopbrunei Wildlife," which aims to protect Brunei's rich and diverse wildlife. "We are a group of young people just trying to make a change," he said.

"Brunei can be an ecotourism hub and can be a great market. Oil and gas is going to run out in maybe 20 to 30 years so I think it's time to diversify now before we lose our forests like other nations. There is a market, it's just about exposure."

Disseminate Positive Values & Images of Brunei and Monarch

The Meeting at the Lapau Building

LAPAU, BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, 21 November 2014 - Media practitioners are the first in line to distribute and broadcast accurate information as well as having the right accountability. A media sharing information programme and the government agencies act as a medium in sharing knowledge between the government with the government and private media.

The Assistant Senior Chief of Adat Istiadat Negara, Yang Amat Mulia Pg Seri Wijaya Pg Hj Ahmad Pg Md Yusof highlighted the matter at the Knowledge Sharing Session ceremony yesterday.

According to Yang Amat Mulia, the existence of the open communication network will enable media to broadcast and disseminate the correct information to the public without affecting the image and reputation of the Monarch and the Government.

Yang Amat Mulia also said the Public Communication Committee for the Government and its Departments will also be use as a bilateral platform between the Media and the Government.

With this platform, both parties will jointly support and look after the good image of the government and the country to ensure a harmonious and peaceful life for the people and citizens of Brunei.

Present was the Chief of Adat Istiadat Negara, Yang Amat Mulia Pg Lela Cheteria Sahibun Najabah Pg Anak Hj Abd Aziz Pg Jaya Negara Pg Hj Abu Bakar.

The Permanent Secretary for Media and Cabinet at the Prime Ministers Office, Awg Hj Md Rozan Dato Paduka Hj Md Yunos in his speech said the session aimed to increase knowledge and improve the quality of broadcasting.

According to him, following a correct order or hierarchy is among the most important agenda in the country in accordance to the Malay Islamic Monarch (MIB) doctrine.

Such a program was aimed to benefit every media practitioners in sustaining their integrity, being responsible in a career, not violating the code of ethics and journalism ethics that focussed on the concept of MIB towards the harmony of the country.

The event was held at the Dewan Persantapan Lapau in the capital. ©BRUDIRECT.COM

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Shell International Confident in Brunei's Energy Future

Graeme Smith, Shell International VP for Exploration in Asia and Australia

Rachel Thien

MANILA, Thursday, November 20, 2014 - SHELL International’s VP for Exploration in Asia and Australia yesterday said he is very confident there is more oil and gas in Brunei, and is looking to see how undertaking exploration can be economically viable for Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd (BSP) and the government.

Speaking to The Brunei Times here in Manila on the sidelines of a briefing of the Philippines Malampaya Deep Water Gas and Power Project, Graeme Smith said his role as VP for exploration is to try and find new hydrocarbon pools in Brunei.

“I am very confident that there is more oil and gas in Brunei. What I would love to see, double check and have a conversation... is how we can make those rewarding for both Shell and the government,” he said.

With regards to exploration, Smith said he would love to drill more and see whether the small accumulations can be economic for BSP and therefore make money, given that the bigger accumulations have already been tapped into.

Asked whether he forsees challenges in exploration activities now that Brunei is looking towards the use of renewable and alternative energy, he said: “I think everywhere needs to look at both.

“We need efficiency, which means switching off air conditioners, and getting more appliances that are ‘A’ rated. First of all, every little bit of use of energy needs to be more efficient,’’ he said, adding that hydrocarbons will be needed for the future.

Sebastian Quiniones, Managing Director of Shell Philippines Exploration BV, said from a Shell perspective, they are very proud of BSP and are glad that Shell is permitted to be able to further explore in the country.

“They have been a very responsible company there, and have developed the country so much. I have been in Brunei and I have seen the facilities there and how they (BSP) have helped the people, and I am very impressed,” he said.

“We shamelessly copy the good things BSP has done, such as the Green Days, which is the process of monitoring performance safety and I shamelessly stole the good stuff that they are doing.

“That is what you do in Shell. You always try to get the best practices around,” he added.

Asian journalists have been invited to take a closer look at the Malampaya Deep Water Gas and Power project, a public-private partnership which has contributed to the Philippines’ reduced dependence on imported fuel by 30 per cent.

It is currently providing up to 40 per cent of Luzon’s power generation requirements, and has remitted over US$7.7 billion to the Philippine government as of June.

The Brunei Times


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

100 Years of Formal Education in Brunei Darussalam

On Friday, 10 October 2014, The Brunei Times reprinted my article on the post war education history in Brunei Darussalam. This article has been reprinted at least twice before in The Brunei Times before this. Here is the article which was published under my column The Golden Legacy:



Friday, October 10, 2014

TODAY in Brunei, students have a choice of four universities to choose from, all fully funded by the government. However providing education has not always been as easy as it is now. We look at the early development of education in Brunei.

When the British Resident first began his duty in Brunei in 1906, the education system in Brunei was along the line of religious education with “sekolah pondok” and students being taught the rudiments of the Islamic religion as well as how to read the Al-Quran.

It was not until 1911 that the British Resident was able to introduce a western education system. It was not because education did not play an important role for the government but it was because of the lack of funds as well as the lack of available Bruneians who can teach. Between 1906 and 1910, the budgets were in deficit and it was only in 1911 that the budget showed a small surplus.

It was also thought that the introduction of a western style education so soon after the British Residency would be quite sensitive to the Brunei population then.

Formal education began in Brunei in 1914 with the opening of a Malay vernacular school in Brunei Town. When it started, it had no special building so the school used a mosque. Psychologically, using the mosque also reduced the resistance and objection from parents. It later moved to a building which was formerly occupied by the Monopoly Office. The first group of students was made up of 30 boys.

By 1915, that number has increased to 40 boys. Another school was established in Muara with a Malay Teacher teaching at his own house. The other districts got their first schools in the next three years. In Belait, the first Malay school, the third in the country, was built in 1917. In Tutong, it was built in 1918.

The first crop of these schools was absorbed into the government as trainees by 1917 and full time government servants by 1920. Some of these students were also sent to attend short teaching courses at a Teachers’ Training College in Melaka.

Education in these early vernacular schools was limited. It was conducted in Malay for boys aged between seven and 14 years and the curriculum included Reading and Writing (in both Arabic and Romanised script), Composition, Arithmetic, Geography, History, Hygiene, Drawing and Physical Education. Gardening and Basketry were later introduced at some schools.

The Chinese community established their own school in 1916.

Teacher training in Brunei began soon after the modern Brunei education system started in 1912. The shortage of experienced and qualified Brunei teachers was immediately apparent.

According to the State of Brunei Annual Report of 1919, as early as 1918, two Brunei teachers were sent for a short teacher training course at the Malacca Teachers College. Teacher training began in earnest from the 1930s. As there were no teacher training institutes in Brunei, all the trainee teachers were sent abroad.

The colleges included the Sultan Idris Teachers College at Tanjong Malim, Perak (SITC) and the Durian Daun Women Teachers College in Malacca (MWTC).

The first Bruneians to be sent to SITC were Marsal Maun (later to be Dato Paduka) and Haji Basir Taha (later to be Dato Paduka) in 1930. They graduated from the college in 1932.

Islamic religious education began in 1931 when it was taught formally as a subject at Jalan Pemancha Malay School. It was still limited as classes were only held on Friday after the noon prayers.

The teaching staff was made up of mosque officials. These teachers received an allowance of $5 per month only. They were not paid by the government but by three donors.

In 1936, Marsal Maun was appointed as the first local Superintendent of Malay Education. Under his watch, the Islamic religious education was moved into the regular Malay education curriculum and no longer taught on Friday afternoons.

However despite the government's efforts, many parents did not want to send their children to schools. Even though there were shortages of teachers and shortages of school buildings, there were also shortages of willing parents. Most of the boys who attended were from the upper class and very few from the village commoners. Most parents refused to send their daughters to school.

In order to encourage parents to send their children to school, the government enacted a legislation making attendance at school compulsory.

The School Attendance Enactment of 1929 allowed the government to impose a fine between 50 cents to $1.00 to parents who refused to send their children aged between seven and 14 years old to government schools. The Enactment covered mostly parents living in the Brunei Town area and had little effect elsewhere in Brunei.

At first the government's efforts were mostly focused on getting Bruneians to be able to read and write. During those years, there were not many literate Bruneians.

The curriculum was based on those taught at the Malay Schools in the Federated Malay States in Malaya. They are taught Malay language and Malay culture so that they can inherit their parents' occupations which were mostly farmers and fishermen.

Oil has yet to be discovered and the British Resident was quite pessimistic about the ability of a good education system. British Resident EEF Pretty in the Brunei Annual Report of 1923 stated that Brunei “is not ready for any elaborate educational schemes since there are practically no openings for a well educated Brunei in his native land and he is loth to leave it”.

In that year, despite the opening of a new school in Belait, attendance has actually fallen from 193 to 172. The poor attendance was attributed to the revival of the rubber industry — the children were taken by their parents to assist in the tapping and weeding of their small holdings.

English education did not begin until expatriate workers came to Brunei with the advent of the oil discovery. In 1931, the Anglicans opened up a school in Kuala Belait. Another English school was opened in Brunei Town in the same year funded by Brunei Shell and Brunei Government but run by a missionary. A few more English schools were opened by Christian missionaries in the following years.

HRH Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin funded a religious Arabic school in the early 1940s. It was a private school registered at the Education Department.

Prior to the outbreak of war in the region in 1941, the number of schools in Brunei had exceeded 30 including 24 Vernacular Malay, three private English and five private Chinese. The number of pupils enrolled was 1,746, including 312 girls.

It was during the post World War II era that Brunei’s education system really expanded into what it is today.

The writer runs a website at

The Brunei Times

Inspirational Quotes