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Showing posts from June, 2008

The Last of a Great Sultan

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I bought recently a magazine article entitled 'The Last of a Great Sultan' written by Poultney Bigelow. The article was about Sultan Hashim which makes the article about 100 years old as Sultan Hashim died in 1906. The article was pulled out of Harper's Monthly Magazine. I was clueless about Harper's.

Recently I did a quick check on the net and found that Wikipedia has an entry on it: "Harper's Magazine (or simply Harper's) is a monthly general-interest magazine covering literature, politics, culture, finance, and the arts from a progressive, left perspective. It is the second oldest continuously-published monthly magazine (the oldest magazine being Scientific American) in the United States, with a current circulation of slightly more than 220,000."

Apparently Harper's Magazine began publication as Harper's New Monthly Magazine with the June 1850 issue. It changed its name to Harper's Monthly Magazine for the Christmas 1900 issue, and to Har…

Brunei during the 2nd World War

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For my article this Sunday on Brunei Times, I wrote about the history of Brunei during the Second World War. I sent a number of photographs to Brunei Times but I think only one or two are usually selected. So in case you are still wondering how the other photos look like, here they are in full:-

These are Australian soldiers along Jalan Muara. They landed in December 1944 and marched from Muara to recapture Brunei Town.

Brunei Bay was used by the Japanese Naval Forces. These are Warships Yamato, Musashi and Nagato.

Allied Forces capturing a Japanese soldier.

Brunei Town was virtually flattened by the British and Allied Forces. I personally disagreed why this has to be done. We virtually had to restart Brunei Town in the 1950s.

This is a scene I hope will no longer be repeated in Brunei. Our own countrymen running away from Seria. You can see Seria burning in the background smoke.

Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin did not have anything to do with the Japanese. The Japanese treated him still as the Sulta…

Brunei in FIFA

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In this football fever season, I thought I will check up on what's going in with Brunei. So in FIFA.com, a new FIFA ranking was in place. Brunei is currently 188 and apparently we went up 2 higher in June. The next ranking will take place on 2 July and that will be interesting as most of the Europeans and South American teams played during the summer.

Brunei apparently got 42.5 extra points for drawing 1-1 with Bhutan (rank 196). Apparently Bhutan too got 42.5 extra points for drawing with Brunei and went up 2 places higher. So I guess we should have more games with teams more to our standards. Perhaps that would boost up our positioning a bit. Losing a game gets us 0 points so it does not matter. But if the winner is below us, that might give them a boost and overtake us.

According to FIFA charts, we have been on a downward spiral since 1993. Then we were ranked as high as 140 in December 1992. Our lowest have been 199.

The Bang Toang Long House in Sukang

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Last week, I was accompanying my Minister for a Hari Gawai celebration at Bang Toang located at Mukim Sukang, Belait. I am not really sure how far Bang Toang is but I would say it is a good 150+ km from Bandar. You have to drive left at the Sungai Liang simpang. Then drive until you see the Sungai Mau/Merangking simpang and then drive through there all the way to the southern end of the Belait District.

First the road will be like what you and I used to see before turning into a rock covered road and finally a sand covered road and by then you can forget about sleeping in the car. The road bumps gets one's bums off the chair every few seconds and at places you can see that the road has eroded away that you wonder how the 4 wheel driver can actually drive through it. In the rain, you can forget about driving as the roads will turn into liquid mud.

Why has not the government improved the roads? It will be. It is part of the next RKN. Other than the Bang Taong longhouse and another lon…

Brunei's Latest Debts

I saw Reuters picked up on our Ministry of Finance's press release on the latest issuance of sukuk:-

KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 (Reuters) - Brunei has sold B$28 million ($20.5 million) of 91-day Islamic bonds at a yield of 0.88 percent, the government said.

The issue, which matures on Sept 18, is the 14th sale of short-term Islamic securities based on the "ijarah" or leasing arrangement.

With this issue, Brunei has so far sold B$1.1 billion worth of short-term Islamic bonds since its maiden offering in April 2006, the government said in a statement sent out on Monday.

Oil-rich Brunei is flush with cash but is issuing debt to build a market to become a regional hub in Islamic finance.

Islamic bonds do not pay interest, which is banned as usury under Islamic law, and are structured as profit-sharing or rental agreements underpinned by physical asset. ($1 = 1.36 Brunei dollars) (Reporting by Soo Ai Peng; Editing by Lincoln Feast)


If some of you are going "huh??!" why the gov…

Padang Besar in Bandar

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[Note: This was my article that appeared in Brunei Times yesterday.]

NOT that many nations' capital cities have a field in the middle of them.

Tourists often wonder why Brunei's capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan has a nice big field situated in the middle of it. Not many realised the historic role of that field. If that field could talk, the stories it could tell would astound many.

The Padang Besar as it used to be known or simply translated as the "Big Field" is now officially known as "Taman Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien" named after His Majesty's late father who was the 28th Sultan of Brunei Darussalam. The Padang has been in existence for at least a hundred years. In his book, "The City of Many Waters" published in 1922 but talking about Brunei at the end of the 19th century, Peter Blundell described the following "At the back of the town behind the Sultan's palace was a large plain known locally as the Padang, an ideal site for…

Our Ambuyat

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[Note: I found this article on our national food 'Ambuyat' written for Denver Post by John Henderson and syndicated on the The Times of South Africa (of all place!). Ambyuat indeed is an acquired taste.]

If Bruneians want to expand tourism, they’ll need to hide their national speciality.

I saw the sultan of Brunei the other day. He walked right by me as he entered a national Qur’an reading contest.

I wanted to ask the sultan a key question about his country’s cuisine: Hey, sultan, why can’t a man worth 22-billion, whose 400-million palace has a 110-car garage and 257 bathrooms, afford a better national dish?

It’s called ambuyat. Don’t look for it at an ethnic restaurant near you soon. It’s not going anywhere, and it’s here for reasons only historians and the streets’ starving cats can appreciate.

After four days in Brunei, I’d describe ambuyat (pronounced om-BOO-yacht) as a big pile of gelatinous, transparent goo dipped in coagulating blood.

First, a little background. During Worl…

The Love Document

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Remember the late Sudirman? He was a lawyer though not many people knew that. Well, we have our own singing lawyer, Hans Anwar, though many Bruneians would know him for his singing and not for his legal practise.

I don't know his legal prowess but I do know his singing prowess. This new CD containing 15 of his newest songs written mostly by him not only shows his singing capability but also his songwriting capability. It also contained the song which he did with a Japanese singer, Yuri Chika 'Treasure the World'. In Malay the song is known as Hargailah Dunia Kita. I loved that song when it came out about a couple of years back and had waited for it to appear in an album

Hans not only had won a number of singing awards but also a couple of songwriting awards as well so it is not surprising that this album showcased his capability in both singing and song writing.

This album is the first if I am not mistaken that Hans Anwar showcased his singing. He had appeared in a number of …

Just Like the Others

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What can 4 good Bruneian singers and a Malaysian producer come up with? A surprisingly good CD. 'Seperti Yang Lain' is the product of that combination. 4 Brunei singers - Fakhrul Razi, Fairuneezan, Faiz and Sri Nazrina produced the album under Julfekar, a Malaysian producer who owns MillenniumArt Sdn Bhd. The album was produced with the cooperation of Brunei's Phuture Phase Productions.

All the singers have won singing competitions in Brunei as well as have performed on stage, on televisions and have represented Brunei in some of the bilateral Brunei-Malaysia, Brunei-Singapore, Brunei-Thailand productions. Fakhrul Razi also worked on National Radio as well as being a Rampai Pagi presenter. The singers have experience on their side. There are 12 songs, so each presented 3 songs each. On two of those 12 songs, Farawahida, another Malaysian singer also did a duet with Fakhrul Razi and Fairuzneezan.

Their CD was launched recently which I must have missed. I remembered reading an…

Short History of Brunei's RKN

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[Note: The following article was published on Sunday in my Golden Legacy column on Brunei Times. I got rapped by the economic planning people for calling the ninth RKN, the ninth RKN and despite that being the ninth RKN, it should not be called the ninth RKN. I guess them planning people used a different numerical scale. Heh. Anyway, it is officially called RKN 2007-2012. By the way, the code in the budget book for RKN 2007-2012 starts with the number 9. I guess the finance people used another numberical scale. The illustrated photo accompanying the article is that of Kuala Belait in 1955.]


On 4th June 1950, Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin passed away in Singapore due to a haemorrhage. His brother, Pengiran Bendahara Omar Ali ascended to the throne two days later.

The ascension of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin III as Brunei’s 28th Sultan can be considered one of the most significant milestones of Brunei’s history. His ascension marked the beginning of the modern Brunei as we know it today. It was Hi…

Borneo Cinema, Bandar Seri Begawan

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I know I am a part time historian cause I write and do research on Brunei history, I am also a philatelist because I collect Brunei stamps, first day covers and related philatelic materials and I am also a numismatist because I collect Brunei currency notes, coins from ancient to modern times as well as other currencies. What most people do not know that I am also a deltiologist. And no, this has no connection to any of the religious '-ologist' - deltiologist is someone who collects postcards.

As a Brunei deltiologist, I buy old Brunei postcards because it has something to do with my primary hobby of being a historian. The old Brunei postcards tell me what's going in Brunei generally in the 1950s and 1960s. I do not have postcards going beyond those times. But I do have photos and pictures of postcards issued in the 1920s and 1930s.

Last night I was going through my collection and was looking closely at this particular one:


Most Bruneian would be aware of this scene. In the b…

Brunei, 1963

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I found this book on ebay and decided to purchase it. For once, it did not cost me a fortune but it does provide some interesting insights what other people think about Brunei.

This book is part of a series of books written for West Malaysians and Singapore to know more about their 'neighbours' thus Our Neighbours Series. The series was published in 1963.

I am not sure who the book was aimed at. It is quite critical at times and not just about Brunei but about the three countries - oops, I should say, two states and one country. There was a passage which I am not sure how to interpret in this early morning, perhaps readers of this blog would like to explain it. The paragraph goes - 'A further characteristics of the territories is that are confronted with the many problems of a largely agrarian economy. At least this is true of North Borneo and Sarawak, and the problems existing in these territories are accentuated by the reluctance of Brunei to help develop a hinterland whic…

Brunei Days by TS Monks

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I was rereading one of my Brunei books when I came across this one by TS Monks. This is so far the only book that I know that was written about Brunei at the end of the Second World War. Captain Monks, a British officer was seconded to the Australian Army and was part of the returning forces forcing the Japanese out of Brunei and Borneo.

He and another officer were tasked to jumpstart the new government and this book is an account of those early years in the mid 1940s just after the end of the Second World War. The book was written more or less like a personal journal of what he went through. Though one sided, he has given an accurate and descriptive account of what actually goes on at that time. For that, you can not get anyone better than Monks.

Surprisingly Monks did not return back to Brunei a full 35 years after he left. He was only here in Brunei for a couple of years and it took him 35 years after he left. The description of the changes in those 35 years alone makes the book a wo…

Bandar Seri Begawan 1955

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This is Bandar Seri Begawan in the mid 1950s. I like looking at old photographs. It's not because I want to live in the past. But by looking at old photographs only can we see the physical development of Brunei.

This 1956 photograph is interesting. This is taken out of the State of Brunei Development Report January 1956, just before Brunei first launched its 1st RKN or 1st National Development Plan. There are many things which are different. The Sungai Kianggeh is still a big river and has not been turned into a huge drain as it is now. Only the rudimentary buildings of Jalan Sultan are there. There are lots of other buildings which have disappeared since then.

More What Happens Next?

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More photographs for you to consider what happens next to the characters in the following photographs.






What happens next?

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The following photographs are nothing with Brunei. But I like them when I received them yesterday and I thought I will share them with you all. I supposed the quiz would be - what do you think will happen next - for each of the following photographs?









Old Airport Government Complex

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If you were to go around the government complex with all the government offices buildings at the Old Airport. You could not have imagine the place 50 years back. Many realised that by calling it the Old Airport, there would have to be an old airport there. Just in case you did not know it, there is indeed an old airport there and the old runaway as well.

The current Printing Department main building is indeed the old airport terminal. And the round top on top of that building was indeed the control tower. The road in front of the SPA, JKR and MOE was indeed the old runaway stretching all the way to what was formerly the place where people learned to drive. The government complex is fairly recent. It was only since 1980s that buildings were built there.

Recently while doing my research on something else, I stumbled upon these two photographs. These are taken when the runaway was still being built in 1953 and 1956. There was nothing there 50 years ago.