Wednesday, June 29, 2011

When did formal education begin in Brunei?


My colleagues at MOE was asking me the other day when exactly did formal education started in Brunei. I understand MOE wants to celebrate the 100th anniversary of formal education but the exact date is not known. All I can answer is that refer to the Brunei Annual Reports.

However the Brunei Annual Reports in those years have not been reporting much on education. By 1911, the British Resident had been running the government for five years and they are still focused on many other issues, the utmost important was how to raise money. Remember in those days, the Brunei government had to repay back our loans to the Straits Settlement Government and was not exactly flushed with money.

In 1911, the Brunei Annual Report recorded the following for education:-

"Preparations were made to start schools in the new year. It is most difficult to find any one who can read or write amongst the Brunei Malays so this has led to the employment of foreign Malays."

For the next two years, the Brunei Annual Report was silent on education issues. In 1914, the Report recorded the following for education:-

"There is a small Malay Vernacular School at Brunei with about 30 boys attending. Hitherto it has been held in the mosque, but in October was removed to the building formerly used as the Monopolies office."

Based on these two statements, strictly speaking the first school building other than education at the mosque began in October 1914. Formal education most likely held at the mosque began sometime in 1911 or 1912 as the statement of the 1911 report did not mention which 'new year' though it does imply 1912 rather than 1911.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Royal Brunei Airlines

RBA's latest strategy had many Bruneians talking. eTurboNews, the Global Travel Industry News had this article about the airlines which probably can answer why the RBA Board did what it did. You can link to the etn website or read it below:

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ROYAL BRUNEI AIRLINES IN TROUBLE
Royal Brunei pays the price of decades-long wrong strateg

BY LUC CITRINOT, ETN | JUN 23, 2011
BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) - Arrogance? Probably. Lack of vision? Certainly. Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) remains a mystery among Southeast Asian carriers. The carrier serves Southeast Asia’s second wealthiest country after Singapore with a GDP per capita of over US$20,000. But at the same time, the Sultanate of Brunei is one of the least-populated countries among ASEAN members with a population of 360,000 inhabitants. Although Brunei's population is small, the airline’s catchment area is rather attractive. Brunei is the only independent kingdom located on Borneo Island with its population of 20 million inhabitants. Southern Borneo (Kalimantan) belongs to Indonesia, while a large part of Northern Borneo opted half a century ago to rally the Malaysian Federation. An independent and neutral Brunei could then position itself as the ideal international gateway to connect Borneo with the rest of the world.

RBA has preferred to concentrate until today on prestigious routes such as long-haul flights. Its fleet is composed of Airbus A320s and Boeing 777-200 ERs, leased from Singapore Airlines. And instead of offering flights to Sandakan (Malaysia), Balikpapan, Pontianak, and Makassar (Indonesia) or Davao (Philippines) - they are all desperately looking for more international connections - the airline’s management found it more rewarding to propose flights to Auckland, Brisbane, Dubai, London, or Melbourne. Of course, in the tiny kingdom, RBA has been long considered as a toy, an object of pride to be exhibited worldwide.

Unfortunately, this strategy cannot survive anymore in current world air transport. RBA is losing money, a lot of money, on long-haul flights due to the absence of O&D (Origin & Destination) passengers. Flights in transit to Australia from Southeast Asia or London were also wrongly timed, making Bandar Sri Begawan an unattractive alternative. Finally, low-cost carriers in the region – especially AirAsia in the neighboring cities of Kota Kinabalu and Miri and also in Kuala Lumpur - slowly made Brunei national carrier’s own regional network moribund and its proposed fares rather expensive.

The airline is paying the price now of its overrated ambitions. By appointing ex-Aer Lingus executive Dermot Mannion, the airline’s shareholders (in reality the Sultanate of Brunei) show finally that they understand the urgency of the situation. RBA is probably close to financial asphyxia, even though its management will never admit it. But the decisions now taken by Dermot Mannion show that the situation at the airline has been seriously addressed. From August, RBA will terminate flights to Kuching in Sarawak, and from October, it will end most of its intercontinental flights, abandoning Auckland, Brisbane, and Perth, as well as Ho Chi Minh City. From an intercontinental network which still had Frankfurt and Sydney a decade ago, RBA will be only left with three overseas destinations: London via Dubai and Melbourne. And nobody is now certain that those destinations will not be eliminated in a second phase of restructuring.

Meanwhile, Bandar Sri Begawan could be turned into the missing international gateway to Borneo Island and even to neighboring Celebes and Mindanao Islands. Opening new routes in a circle of up to three or four hours around Brunei and offering a more competitive fare structure matching low-cost airlines, could dramatically change RBA's destiny. A good example to take inspiration from is Singapore-based Silk Air, Singapore Airlines’ regional subsidiary. The carrier managed to grow its traffic volume despite low-cost competition by offering a simplified service without compromising on high quality for passengers. RBA management’s announcement this week certainly marks the end of a dream, but probably also of an increasingly frightening nightmare.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Getting Around in Brunei

I was reading Brunei Times today and came across this article written by Melvin Jong which I thought is a topic which we have not discussed about much. Unless you have a car, it is not easy getting around Brunei. Most Bruneians have cars so don't worry much about public transportation. The purple buses system work only if you need to travel during the daytime but come evening, you will not be able to get anywhere. But even for those with cars, the traffic jams are our bane early in the morning, lunch time and dinner.


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Melvin Jong
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Thursday, June 23, 2011

THERE is still much to be done to improve Brunei's public transport if it is to one day become a fixture and promoter of our tourism industry.

Much has been said about Brunei's public transport system, some of which is encouraging but mostly, unfortunately, is not encouraging. Responses from the relevant authorities have always stated how the set-up is either trying or 'currently is in the process' of updating the system to make it more effective and trustworthy.

In a report dated 2009, the global consultancy firm HOK Planning Group said that areas like layout, population density and distribution of Bandar Seri Begawan were being looked into to make recommendations on the future design of the city in the hope of enticing more people to use public transport.

Robert Marshall, brought in to oversee the design and formulation of the BSB Development Masterplan, said the firm believes the future of transport in the city will be a mix of different modes. "There will always be private vehicles, but there has to be more diversity when it comes to transport options," he told The Brunei Times.

But what was more interesting was Marshall's assessment of how a well-developed public transport system will also help benefit the tourism industry. "I can tell you from my personal experience that Brunei is not an easy place to get around if you don't have your own car. There are very few buses and no taxis around," he said. More than a year has passed, and while I understand that it takes time to implement changes, it is disheartening that nothing has been done yet.

Just recently, I had an old friend visiting Brunei from Perth, Australia. For convenience sake let's just call him Steve. On arriving in Brunei, Steve found it surprising that there were no taxis stationed at the Sultanate's national airport. He then decided to try his luck with the buses but found himself hapless due to lack of information provided on hand. He spent almost an hour at the airport before finally deciding to give me a call. While he was all smiles when I picked him up, I could sense his irritation and disappointment over his first couple of hours in the country.

Steve's transport woes did not end there. Staying at a prestigious hotel in the Gadong area, he had no trouble getting a taxi. The driver encouraged him to experience the sights and sounds of Kampong Ayer, one of Brunei's most well-known landmarks, and he happily took up the offer. Fearing not being able to get a ride back, Steve took down the number of the taxi driver to call him if need arose. All was well and when it was time to return, he called the number he had jotted down after failing to locate a taxi. All he heard was: 'Sorry, the caller could not...' His luck again failed him as the taxi driver had run out of phone credit.

Once again this good friend needed to be rescued. Slightly embarrassed at the state of our public transport, I offered to drive him around during his two days' remaining stay in Brunei. An offer he took up without a second thought. Fortunately, as I work on night shifts I had no problem in taking Steve around, but what about the tourists who have no contacts here.

Steve is not alone in his plight. In numerous reports, tourists have expressed dismay over the difficulties they faced while travelling around in Brunei. "Taxis are difficult to be found, the fares are exorbitant, bus stops are hardly visible and there is no infomation whatsoever that is available to help us explore this beautiful country," some tourists said in a separate news article.

Something has to be done, even if it is just a short-term fix in preparation for the introduction or implementation of a long-term plan, to help tourists get around Brunei easier.

The views are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Brunei Times.

The Brunei Times

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

1,000,000 visitors!


Sometime last night, someone was this blogsite's 1 millionth visitor!

It has been a long journey on blogspot.com. Moved from Windows spaces in March 2006, it has been 5 long years on blogspot. Thank you to all visitors and I do hope that you find what you are looking for.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Brunei: Long Term Plan

The Oxford Business Group reported the following about Brunei on 21st June 2011:

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Brunei Darussalam: Long-term plan


Brunei Darussalam has adopted a determined bottom up approach to ensuring the comprehensive spread of information and communications technology (ICT) throughout society and the economy, though sector participants expect it will take time for these policy actions to transform the status quo.

Brunei Vision 2035, the blueprint for national development for the first third of the century, places strong emphasis on becoming a knowledge-based society. This vision foresees the Sultanate building a solid technology backbone, encouraging an awareness of the opportunities offered by ICT in daily life and providing citizens with the skills to best take advantage of these opportunities.

One of the cornerstones of this policy is e-Hijrah, a six-year programme that will deploy the full resources of the Ministry of Education (MoE) to develop a coordinated effort to integrate ICT into the national education system. The strategy's name is taken from the Arabic word hijrah, meaning "moving forward", and is intended to set the tone for the Sultanate’s future.

One of the aims set out by the ministry for the project, which was launched at the end of February, is to increase the digital confidence and capability of teachers and students, thus allowing them to make a substantial contribution to key areas of the government's ICT plan. These themes include developing a technologically-savvy society and deploying citizen-centric and integrated e-services through the public and private sectors.

Some essential foundation stones have to be laid before the benefits of e-Hijrah can flow into the curriculum and from there into the economy. These include overhauling the MoE's own administrative practices, creating a centralised database to oversee documents, deploying advanced ICT-based management systems and providing training to administrators and teaching staff.

According to the minister of education, Abu Bakar Apong, the first stages of e-Hijrah will revolutionise the administrative practices in the MoE before doing the same for educational operations.

"We have looked into the requirements of schools and ministries, as well as the requirements of every division within MoE," the minister said in an interview with the Brunei Times in late May. "Before e-Hijrah, we did introduce ICT to schools and ministries but it operates in silos. What e-Hijrah is trying to do here is to integrate all the requirements of every agency within the MoE."

Samir Patel, the principal consultant with New Zealand-based Global SoF Consortium, which is working with authorities to roll out the e-Hijrah blueprint, said the initial phase of the programme will facilitate the future measures required by the strategy and the implementation of ICT advances.

The strategy will create platforms from which detailed information will be readily available to the education minister and his permanent secretaries, giving them access to data and allowing them to make decisions more effectively, he said.

"They will be able to determine where the gaps are [and] pinpoint them, so policy decisions will be much better," Patel told local media on May 21.

Another of the main thrusts of the e-Hijrah strategy is to ensure that schools have the resources required to implement and utilise new and emerging technologies and practices. This will allow schools to stay ahead of innovations in education by having immediate access to new technology devices for teaching and learning. It will also provide a means of training users to maximise the benefits of new applications and services.

At an international education conference on May 23 Abu Bakar said that work and research was required to provide teachers and students with the necessary support in a changing educational environment, one that was becoming more dependent on ICT.

"Our classrooms are transformed with the introduction of new technologies," he said.

"Design research will contribute to the integration of educational technology in the learning process. Our students expect us to use new media to help them learn."

Centres of higher education are also broadening the range of courses related to ICT they have on offer. Institut Teknologi Brunei (ITB) is planning to launch part-time degree programmes in internet computing and business information technology later this year, and other campuses are also beefing up their ICT components so as to provide more avenues of study for future graduates of the e-Hijrah-driven secondary education system.

As new generations of Bruneians start to enter the workforce, the ICT skills they developed throughout their schooling, are expected to be critical to powering non-oil growth helping the Sultanate achieve its Vision 2035.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pigafetta, Brunei's 15th Century Chronicler

My article below was published in Brunei Times on 13th June 2011:

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Cavallero Antonio Pigafetta
Brunei’s 15th Century Chronicler

One of the most vivid descriptions about Brunei in the 16th century was provided by a European voyager named Pigafetta. Pigafetta was an Italian but was part of a Spanish crew exploring the Indies. On the return voyage to Spain, they travelled via the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

It was during the return trip to Pigafetta stopped in Brunei and described Brunei very clearly. It was his description that many historians quoted quite extensively. His description is very comprehensive and covered many areas including the first description the city entirely built in salt water.

Parts of his description of Brunei include the following description of Kampong Ayer:

“The city is built in the sea, the King’s palace and the houses of the principal persons excepted. It contains twenty-five thousand hearths or families. The houses are built of wood upon large piles, to keep them from the water. When the tide rises, the women, who are chief venders of necessaries, traverse the town in boats. In front of the King’s place is a large wall, built with bricks of great size, with embrazures, or rather port-holes, as in a fortress; and on the wall are mounted fifty-six bombards of brass, and fix of iron: in course of two days we passed in the city, they made several discharges from these guns.”

Pigafetta described the Sultan as:

“the King, who is a Mahometan, is called Rajah Siripada. He is very corpulent and may be about forty years of age. He is waited upon by women alone, the daughters of the chief inhabitants of the island. No one is allowed to address him otherwise than in the manner I have described, through a sarbacane. He has ten secretaries constantly employed on different matters of state, who write on a very thin epidermis of certain trees which is called chiritoles. He never leaves his palace upon any occasion other than to hunt.”

Who was Pigafetta? Pigafetta was named Cavallero Antonio Pigafetta born in 1491 and died in 1534. He was an Italian scholar and traveller from today’s Austrian city of Venice then known as the Republic of Venice. In his book, he described himself as ‘a gentleman of Vicenza, and Knight of Rhodes’.

Pigafetta himself came from a rich family and is independently wealthy. As a young man, he studied subjects related to seafaring and travel such as astronomy, cartography and geography. The voyage with Magellan was not his first. He had served on the ships of the Knights of Rhodes at the beginning of the sixteenth century.

In 1519, Pigafetta accompanied the papal nuncio, Monsignor Chieregati to Spain. It was in Seville, Spain that Antonio Pigafetta heard of Magellan’s planned expedition and he decided to join the crew. In a translation from an 1819 book entitled “A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in Various Parts of America: many of which are now first translated into English” by John Pinkerton, Pigafetta described,

“As there are men whose curiosity would not be satisfied with merely hearing related the marvelous things I have seen, and the difficulties I experienced in the course of the perilous expedition I am about to describe, and who are anxious to know by what means I was enabled to surmount them; and as due credit by such would not be given to the success of a similar undertaking if they were left ignorant of its most minute details, I have deemed it expedient briefly to relate what gave origin to my voyage, and the means by which I was so fortunate as to bring it to a successful termination.”

“In the year 1519, I was in Spain at the court of Charles V, King of the Romans, in company with Signor Chiericato, then apostolical prothonotary and orator of Pope Leo X of holy memory, who by his merits was raised to the dignity of Bishop and Prince of Teramo. Now, as from the books I had read, and from the conversation of the learned men who frequented the house of this prelate, I knew that by navigating the ocean wonderful things were to be seen; I determined to be convinced of them by my own eyes, that I might be enabled to give to others the narrative of my voyage, as well for their amusement, as advantage, and at the same time acquire a name which should be handed down to posterity.”

“An opportunity soon presented itself. I learnt that a squadron of five vessels was under equipment at Sevilla, destined for the discovery of the Molucca Islands, whence we derive our spices; and that Fernandez Magellan, a Portuguese gentleman, and commander of the order of St Jago de la Spata, who had already more than once traversed the ocean with great reputation, was nominated captain-general of the expedition. I therefore immediately repaired to Barcelona, to request permission of His Majesty to be one on this voyage, which permission was granted. Thence, provided with letters of recommendation, I went by sea to Malaga, and form that city over-land to Sevilla, where I waited three months before the expedition was in readiness.”

Pigafetta accepted the title of sobrasaliente or supernumerary (temporary staff) and a pay of 1,000 maravedis. It was during the expedition Pigafetta became Magellan’s assistant. He kept an accurate and meticulous journal throughout the journey. There were 240 men who set out from Seville together with Pigafetta.

They travelled around the world exploring parts of the Indies, the Americas and later arrived in Asia. It was in Mactan, Philippines that Magellan was killed by the natives there. Pigafetta himself was wounded. He recorded that Magellan was killed on 27 April 1521 and described the battle between the islanders and the Spanish. The captain was killed when “… an islander at length succeeded in thrusting the end of his lance through the bars of his helmet, and wounding the captain in the forehead … he now attempted to draw his sword, but was unable … the Indians who perceived this, pressed in crowds upon him …”

Captain Juan Sebastian Elcano took over the leadership on the death of Magella. Pigafetta managed to recover. Captain Elcano together with Pigafetta was among 18 men out of the original 240 who limped back in Spain at the port in Salucar de Barrameda, Province of Cadiz in September 1522.

Pigafetta returned to Venice. Pigafetta wrote about his experiences in his book entitled Relazione del primo viaggio intorno al mondo (Report on the First Voyage Around the World) originally published in Italian. The book was published in French when Charles Amoretti translated it into French. The manuscript was not published in its entirety until the late eighteenth century.

Pigafetta described that he wrote the book because ‘on my return to Italy, His Holiness the Sovereign Pontiff Clement VII, of whom I had the honour of an audience at Monterosi, and to whom I related the adventures of my voyage, received me with great kindness, and told me that I should much oblige him in affording a copy of the jounal of my voyage’. Pigafetta dedicated his book and the Island of Rhodes to the Grand Master of Rhodes.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Brunei Economy's Report

Yesterday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released the following report about Brunei:

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2011 Article IV Consultation with
Brunei Darussalam

On May 4, 2011, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation with Brunei Darussalam on a lapse˗of˗time basis.

Background

Brunei’s economy is dominated by the oil and gas sector, which contributes nearly two thirds of the nominal income. Oil and gas exports earned about 95 percent of Brunei’s export revenues, and generated about 90 percent of government revenue. Per capita GDP is one of the highest in the world (estimated at US$32,000 in 2010). The authorities have adopted a prudent fiscal strategy to save oil revenues for future generations, mainly through the General Reserve Fund managed by the Brunei Investment Agency (BIA).

Economic growth rebounded strongly in 2010 after two years of decline, mainly due to the recovery of oil and gas production. Real GDP rose by 5½ percent in the first half of 2010. For the year, GDP growth is estimated at 4 percent. Current account surplus has also rebounded, benefitting from higher world oil prices. Inflation remains contained as a result of the appreciation of the Brunei dollar and continued price controls.

The authorities continued to make rapid progress in financial sector reforms. The establishment of the Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD) and the Deposit Protection Scheme, on January 1, 2011, marked the milestones in building strong financial institutions and strengthening financial sector stability. As a result of the prudent credit policies, banks’ excessive exposure to personal, and in particular, credit card, debt has been reduced.

Economic diversification, a major medium-term challenge, is picking up momentum. Government policies increasingly emphasize economic and commercial viability in supporting development spending. Government funds were set up with an explicit purpose of supporting profit-oriented projects through public-private partnerships and joint ventures in non-energy sector development, especially in food, aquaculture, medicine, and telecommunication industries. Five consecutive years of corporate income tax cuts have brought down the tax rate to 22 percent, from 30 percent in 2006.

Economic outlook is highly positive. New oil and gas finds and exploration agreements are expected to extend the life of Brunei’s hydrocarbon reserves. The recent run up in world oil prices will boost fiscal revenues in the near term. In 2011, growth will be supported by both higher oil production and public expenditures. Over the medium term, under the baseline scenario, annual GDP growth is projected to be about 3 percent. Growth will be sustained by new investments in oil and gas explorations and extractions, as well as the implementation of economic diversification projects. Accelerated structural reforms and successful implementation of the various economic diversification initiatives could increase growth further.

Executive Board Assessment

On May 4, 2011, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation with Brunei Darussalam and considered and endorsed the staff appraisal without a meeting.

Staff commends the authorities for their flexible and prudent fiscal policy. This policy has cushioned Bruneians from the impact of the global economic crisis and stimulated growth in 2010. With the economic recovery firmly in place, fiscal policy has now automatically shifted back into a savings mode. The further reduction in the corporate income tax in 2010 has helped businesses and made Brunei’s corporate tax rates competitive in the region.

Over the longer-term, higher economic growth could come from new hydrocarbon discoveries, but successful implementation of diversification initiatives is the key to long-term sustainability. Government spending, including on payroll, transfers, and subsidies, will continue to support domestic demand. In addition, government spending will continue to restrain the pass through of the global business and commodities price cycle to the domestic economy. At the same time, the government’s ability to accelerate growth through fiscal stimulus spending is likely to have only negligible impact on domestic production. Due to Brunei’s small size and small production base, most of the additional spending would likely spill over into the demand for foreign goods and services. Economic and structural reforms to reduce price distortions are needed to foster private sector development and the identification of viable export products and niche markets.

Fiscal management could be bolstered by the adoption of a multi-year rolling budget, which would introduce a medium-term perspective into the annual budget process. A medium-term budget framework would lay the foundation for broadening the revenue base, undertaking a comprehensive review of expenditures, including subsidies and civil service compensation, strengthening the framework governing extra-budgetary funds, and adopting a long-term fiscal goal, including for the inter-generational allocation of Brunei’s hydrocarbon wealth. These reforms will enhance fiscal sustainability and better prepare Brunei for the eventual depletion of its hydrocarbon resources.

The current exchange rate regime continues to serve Brunei well. The peg to the Singapore dollar has engendered macroeconomic stability and continues to be appropriate. Brunei’s current account surpluses are consistent with the estimated savings-investment norm for countries with exhaustible oil and gas reserves. Accordingly, the real effective exchange rate appears broadly in line with fundamentals.

Substantial progress in financial sector policies and reform are commendable. Staff welcomes the establishment of the AMBD and the Deposit Protection Scheme, and looks forward to the introduction of the Credit Bureau. The AMBD promises to become a full fledged financial sector supervisor and will benefit from cooperation with central banks of other countries. The regulations to reduce consumer lending and link credit card accounts to payroll accounts have contributed to the current trend of household deleveraging and are improving financial discipline. In the longer term, staff expects the authorities to be able to increase reliance on market driven measures to contain credit growth and ensure its prudent and efficient allocation. This will limit the adverse economic impact of quantitative restrictions that needed to be imposed in recent years.

Economic diversification is becoming a matter of necessity. The economic diversification reform agenda could include administrative measures as well as more fundamental structural reforms. In terms of improving the business environment, shortening the average time to start a business could be accomplished by streamlining and consolidating in one place business registration requirements. The “One Single Authority” is a step in the right direction. Opening areas traditionally dominated by the public sector could provide a needed boost to private sector initiatives. Improving access to financing and business advisory services, in particular for start ups and small companies, would increase the number of new companies and their survival chances.

Reducing the attractiveness of public sector employment for school and university graduates would enhance the supply of highly qualified labor to the private sector. Public official support for activities that encourage and develop entrepreneurship, including among women, will help private sector growth. Removing price distortions by allowing prices to move in tandem with international prices could play an important role in ensuring an efficient long-term allocation of investment, and supporting domestic demand for a broader range of goods and services.

Staff welcomes the recent statistical improvements and looks forward to the timely and regular reporting of macroeconomic data to the Fund. More regular and timely data dissemination on the authorities’ website will enhance the analytical usefulness of the data. Staff also looks forward to the regular updating of the GDDS metadata. The planned establishment of a National Statistics Committee will strengthen Brunei’s institutional setting for macroeconomic statistics.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Brunei's Ongs

Last Friday, I was waiting in the car waiting for my better half who was out shopping for some groceries. I heard an interesting interview with Dato Chef Wan, the famous Malaysian chef who was in Brunei last week. One of the things that struck me was he noticed that many places in Brunei have 'tong' at the end of the names. I think he was referring to Jerudong, Gadong, Tutong or Kiarong, these are more or less the famous places in Brunei that one can go to. I was thinking that Chef Wan is correct. There is a lot more and I sent out an sms to fellow colleagues and friends and I compiled the list as follows.

Nama-Nama Tempat di Brunei hujungnya ‘-ong’

1. Gadong
2. Tutong
3. Jerudong
4. Temburong
5. Sengkurong
6. Bengkurong
7. Kiarong
8. Mumong
9. Layong
10. Pengkalan Dong
11. Batong
12. Serawong (Bukit)
13. Bukit Nibong (Kampong)
14. Belalong
15. Baong
16. Ukong
17. Basong (Sungai)
18. Riong
19. Selirong
20. Belayong
21. Maraburong
22. Penanjong
23. Pelumpong
24. Bakong
25. Perakong
26. Tilong (Sungai)
27. Ujong Tanjong
28. Pelumpong
29. Panchong
30. Bangsingong

See if you can add more...

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Old Brunei Hostel in Singapore Revisited

I was pleasantly surprised when someone commented on my old 2008 post about the old Brunei hostel in Singapore. He thanked me for sharing the history of this place, a home to many of us who had been students in Singapore, a home where we grew up in and literally became adults. I spent almost 7 years of my life here and by the time I went to UK to continue my degree, I was more than ready to face life in UK.

This photographer, a Canadian, somehow managed to get into the grounds of the now abandoned hostel and took many photographs of the place. When I saw the photos on his facebook site, it was very painful. I remembered the place in the 1980s and yet looking so abandoned, it was so sad. I could almost imagine myself in one of those rooms, having dinner and attending tuition classes. Click on the old post and then go to the comments. You will get the link to see the rest of the photographs. This photographer is a great photographer.

Recently a number of alumni visited Singapore. Unfortunately I could not be with them. They managed to visit the grave of our former hostel supervisor, someone who looked after us night and day. Took us to the clinic, make sure we are fed and healthy. I guess you don't really appreciate someone until he is no longer with you. Thank you Tuan Haji Said Mubarak Khadaied for all those years looking after us.

For those curious to know which of the current Deputy Ministers, PS and DPS still in the government who were in Singapore all those years ago, I thought I will share the list:-

Dato Kifrawi, Chief Justice
Dato Bahrin Abdullah, DM MOF
Pg Haji Bahrom, DM MORA
Haji Mohd Abdoh, PS PMO
Haji Mohd Roselan, PS MOF
Dato Haji Shofry, PS MOFAT
Haji Maaruf, PS MOE
Dr Junaidi, PS MOE
Haji Mohd Rozan, PS MOD
Haji Abd Aziz, PS MORA
Dato Hamid Jaafar, PS MCYS
Noorjusmin, DPS PMO
Haji Amer Hamzah, DPS PMO
Haji Nazmi, DPS MOFAT
Haji Ismail, DPS MCYS
Haji Md Zain, DPS MOD
Eddie, DPS MOD
Haji Harun, DPS MORA

Sunday, June 05, 2011

An Unknown Republic in Borneo

[I was asked by BT to write about the Lanfang Republic. I was not sure how to approach that subject as resources on this is very thin. I had to borrow heavily from a number of on-line articles but I thought I balanced it when I finally wrote about it. Credit for the story goes to the people who had kept the republic alive in the digital world. Here is the story of the Lanfang Republic and this was published in my Golden Legacy column in Brunei Times on 23 May 2011.]

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The Lanfang Republic
by Rozan Yunos

If one can travel through time, one interesting destination is 18th century west Kalimantan in Borneo. More than 200 years ago, this part of the Borneo Island was well known for its mineral deposits which were mostly gold and tin. There were already a number of sultanates established in this part of the Borneo Island then. Every single one needed labour to work in the mines.

There were three sultanates at that time. The boundaries of the Sultanates were not clearly defined. This led to frictions and battles between the three sultanates exploding from time to time. Along the coastal area, the Javanese and the Bugis settled down in the sultanates. At the same time, the three Sultans’ control were confined to the coastal areas, and towards the interior, the local aborigines Dayaks were not under the control of any of the Sultanates and aligned themselves with whomever they wanted to. In Kuntian, Pontianak was Sultan Abdul Rahman; in Mempawah was Sultan Omar; and in Singkawang was Sultan Panembahan.

Interestingly enough according to Kao Chung Xi writing in the book entitled “Hakka people - Jews of the Orient”, Sultan Panembahan believing that Chinese workers are hard working, brought in 20 Chinese from Brunei. Sultan Omar in Singkawang, also having heard about Chinese diligence, leased land to the Chinese under the lease land system to encourage them to explore in his territory. Thus the three sultans were very much aware of the pioneering spirit of the Chinese migrants. The three Sultans competed to offer them attractive leases for them to explore and work the gold and tin mines.

In 1740, the number of Chinese in the area was very small. By 1770, that number has multiplied to more than 20,000. The Chinese established a number of Kongsi (company) both as a business cooperative venture and for mutual protection against hostile outside forces including other rival Chinese kongsi.

One such kongsi was formed by a Chinese Hakka named Low Fan Pak. Low Fan Pak also known as Low Lanfang, came from a small village in the Chinese Hakka Meixian County of Guangdong Province in South China. Lam Pin Foo writing in an internet article noted that Low was both an educated man, skilled in martial arts and admired for his brain and brawn. However, failing repeatedly to pass the highly competitive Imperial Examinations, he knew he could not make it in the Chinese Civil Service and decided on a new career in Borneo. He managed to borrow enough money for his long journey, accompanied by a small group of ambitious fellow villagers to seek a better life.

Under Low’s leadership, the Lanfang Kongsi became very prosperous and they were able to build a new township near Kuntian. It was now easy to facilitate trade for the members and their families too.

With the expanding mining industries, the Sultans in the area also saw increasing wealth from their land concessions. Sultan Omar of Mempawah decided to build a new grand palace and expand his sultanate to enhance his standing. However Sultan Abdul Rahman of Kuntian was offended and fierce between the two Sultans ensued. Sultan Abdul Rahman also managed to convince Low’s Langfang Kongsi to join in attacking Sultan Omar and easily defeated him. Even though Sultan Omar managed to join forces with the Dayaks to launch a counter attack, – that too was easily repelled by Sultan Abdul Rahman and Low Fan Pak.

The role of Low Fan Pak in the victory raised his profile and that of the Lanfang Kongsi. The other Chinese kongsi in the area and neighbouring districts all wanted to align themselves with the Lanfang Kongsi. Low Fan Pak was now the most well known of all the Kongsi leaders. He became the protector of a very much larger kongsi now.

Sultan Omar and Sultan Panembahan both agreed to sign a peace treaty with Lanfang Kongsi. Surprisingly Sultan Abdul Rahman too thought it was in his best interest to come under the protection of the Lanfang Kongsi. As a result, Lanfang Kongsi now have better terms for their mining rights. They had more land mining concessions. Most importantly, Lanfang Kongsi now governed a much bigger area than it was used to.

Low Fan Pak now suddenly had a very extensive area to look after and by some counts, there were close to one million people within its borders. Like it or not, Lanfang Kongsi had become a government. It had to look after a large and significant population. That means looking after their livelihood, welfare and security.

Low Fan Pak was 57 years old. He enjoyed tremendous popularity and he could have taken any title he wanted. He did not style himself Sultan. He would prefer to be elected as Lanfang’s founding president (Ta Tang Chon Chong) and he was duly elected. He also ensured that their new constitution also required that, since the Hakkas formed the majority of the administration and the population, future presidents must be elected from the Hakkas.

Even though the borders and the authority were not clearly defined, many described the Lanfang Kongsi as a modern Republic, much earlier than the USA, which became a republic in 1777 or France in 1780. The town of Ceh-Wan-Li where the Kongsi was sited became the new Republic’s capital. According to Lam Pin Foo, similar to modern countries, Lanfang was divided into provinces, counties, towns and villages. Lanfang set up judiciary and legislative assemblies and other functional departments. There was no army. Every able bodied person was required to defend Lanfang if the need arises.

Low Fan Pak died in 1795 when he was 57 years old. He had served as president for 18 years. His successors managed to run the state until 1884. In that year, the Dutch occupied the lands of a nearby sultanate and Lanfang was drawn into the conflict. After four years of fighting the Dutch emerged victorious and many Chinese fled to Sumatra and elsewhere. The Dutch allowed a Chinese to be the figure-head of the area for but for all intents and purposes, the Lanfang Republic was over.

Many wondered whether Brunei had connection with this Lanfang Republic. Other than providing the 20 able bodied Chinese to Sultan Panembahan, nothing much is known about Brunei’s connection. Perhaps Lanfang was not a real state but merely a state within a state as noted by a book entitled “Sojourners and Settlers: Histories of Southeast Asia and the Chinese” edited by Anthony Reid and published in 1996.

The tales of Lanfang Republic survived because Yap Siong-yoen, the son-in-law of the last kongsi leader wrote an adulatory and only account of the kongsi which was translated into Dutch in 1885. Although the text shows the leading role of Hakkas in the region but another Dutch author, Schaank writing a book entitled “De Kongsis van Montrado” published in 1893 has shown that it is not always reliable. There were also other gold mining settlements, much larger than Lanfang but unfortunately left no written accounts. Lanfang Kongsi functioning as a governing state was therefore not unique and perhaps there were more ‘republics’ formed during those years.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Brunei Legislative Council, 2011-2015

SPEAKER OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL

Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Bakti Diraja Dato Laila Utama Awang Haji Isa bin Pehin Datu Perdana Menteri Dato Laila Utama Haji Ibrahim

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MEMBERS OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL - Ex-officio Members (Prime Minister and Ministers) as provided for under sub-paragraph 1(a) (i) of the Second Schedule of Article 24(1)

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Saadul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Minister of Finance

His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah ibni Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzaddin Waddaulah, the Crown Prince, Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office

His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Saadul Khairi Waddien, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong, Minister of Education

Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Johan Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Adanan bin Begawan Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Mohd Yussof, Minister of Health

Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Suyoi bin Haji Osman, Minister of Development

Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Hamzah Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdullah bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar, Minister of Communications

Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar, Minister of Industry and Primary Resources

Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abd Rahman bin Haji Ibrahim, Second Minister of Finance at the Prime Minister's Office

Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Paduka Lim Jock Seng, Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Yang Berhormat Pehin Datu Singamanteri Col (R) Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Mohd Yasmin bin Haji Umar, Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister's Office

Yang Berhormat Pengiran Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Muhammad bin Pengiran Haji Abd Rahman, Minister of Religious Affairs

Yang Berhormat Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Haji Awang Othman, Minister of Home Affairs

Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Paduka Awang Haji Hazair bin Haji Abdullah, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports

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MEMBERS OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL - For Titled Persons as provided for under subparagraph I (a)(ii) of the Second Schedule of Article 24(1):

Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Setia Negara Pengiran (Dr.) Haji Mohd Yusof bin Pengiran Haji Abdul Rahim

Yang Berhormat Pehin Datu Imam Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Abdul Hamid bin Bakal

Yang Dimuliakan Pehin Orang Kaya Maharaja Kerna Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Yaakub bin Pehin Orang Kaya Maharaja Diraja Dato Paduka Awang Haji Zainal, (formerly Commissioner of Royal Brunei Police Force)

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MEMBERS OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL - Persons who have achieved distinction as provided for under sub-paragraph 1(a) (iv) of the Second Schedule of Article 24(1)

Yang Berhormat Pehin Kapitan Lela Diraja Awang Goh King Chin (Corporate Figure)

Yang Berhormat Orang Kaya Maha Bijaya Awang Haji Othman bin Uking

Yang Berhormat Datin Salbiah binti Haji Sulaiman (formerly Permanent Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office)

Yang Berhormat Dato Paduka Haji Abdullah bin Haji Jaafar (formerly senior government officer and diplomat)

Yang Berhormat Awang Haji Morshidi bin Pehin Orang Kaya Digadong Seri Diraja Dato Laila Utama Haji Awang Abdul Rahman (corporate figure)

Yang Mulia Awang Haji Zulkifli bin Haji Abd Hamid (Quantity Surveyor/HZ Associates)

Yang Mulia Datin Paduka Hajah Zasia binti Haji Sirin (formerly Director of Islamic Dakwah Centre)

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MEMBERS OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL - District Representatives as provided for under subparagraph 5(1) of the Second Schedule of Article 24(1):

Yang Berhormat Awang Haji Ahmad bin Haji Hussin, Penghulu Mukim Berakas A, Daerah Brunei/Muara

Yang Berhormat Haji Gapor @ Haji Daud bin Karim, Ketua Kampong Belimbing, Daerah Brunei/Muara

Yang Berhormat Haji Tahamit bin Nudin, Penghulu Mukim Gadong A, Daerah Brunei/Muara

Yang Berhormat Awang Jumat bin Akim, Ketua Kampong Putat, Daerah Brunei/Muara

Yang Berhormat Awang Haji Mohd Shafiee Ahmad, Ketua Kampung Lumut I, Daerah Belait

Yang Berhormat Haji Mohd Yusof bin Haji Dulamin, Ketua Kampong Mumong, Mukim Kuala Belait, Daerah Belait

Yang Berhormat Orang Kaya Jaya Putera Dato Paduka Awang Haji Mohd Taha bin Abd Rauf, Penghulu Mukim Keriam, Daerah Tutong

Yang Berhormat Awang Haji Ramli bin Haji Abdul Latif, Daerah Tutong

Yang Berhormat Awang Haji Sulaiman Haji Ahad, Ketua Kampung Belingos, Mukim Bangar, Daerah Temburong

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CLERK OF COUNCIL

Yang Dimuliakan Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Jaya Dato Paduka Awang Haji Judin bin Haji Asar

Inspirational Quotes

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