Welcome to my private journal generally on Brunei issues. Any opinions expressed are in my personal capacity. All rights to the articles are reserved.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

You want to work till 60?

The article below on Brunei Times today elicited a lot of talking this morning. As a government finance man, I can imagine the many financial benefits it will bring to the public finance. On the flip side I can also imagine many difficulties including among others to many junior colleagues having to wait longer to be promoted. Me? I look forward to my retirement age at 55. What about you?

Brunei’s Retirement Age To Be Raised To 60 Soon?
By Yazdi Yahya

Bandar Seri Begawan - If the study by various government agencies determining if the retirement age should be extended is in the positive, then the retirement age for civil servants in Brunei could be pushed to 60 years in the near future.

The issue of raising the retirement age has been raised in last year's Legislative Council meeting, especially in view of the fact that life expectancy in the sultanate is now at 74 years.

A member of the council spoke on the matter suggesting that studies should be made to examine the impact of increasing the retirement age from 55 years to 60 years, a move which sections of the local workforce would welcome warmly for several reasons.

There has been a growing concern towards the issue of the retirement age in Brunei that the mandatory retirement age of 55 years was too early.

The shift of age structures in developed countries has had a profound effect on their political, economic and social conditions.

An ageing population, resulting from better health care and better living conditions has led researchers to examine the effects of the aged - especially in terms of social security.

The extended tenure would ensure these experienced employees continue to contribute to the nation's development. Currently, a significant part of the workforce is under the Employers Trust Fund (Tabung Amanah Pekerja), similar to the Central Provident Fund in Singapore and the Employees Provident Fund in Malaysia.

A former prominent figure from the public service department, who declined to be named, agreed that by increasing the retirement age, in some cases where the experience is needed, would provide them with more time to mentor the younger generation.

He added, "Thirty years ago, if someone were 55, they would be considered old but now, with higher life expectancy rates, the potential contribution would still be considered high, especially .as I feel that people nowadays are still active at 55."

He also highlighted that the extra years would give civil servants, under the TAP scheme, the chance to earn more money as there have been cases where retirees under the TAP scheme do not have enough at the end of the day. With extra money, it would also reduce government spending on social security schemes.

The implication of such a move would help provide better social security, especially for retirees. The extra earnings would be useful, once retired, especially to support their medical needs because older people who would need more healthcare. But questions may be raised on whether the people will want to continue working after 55.

Whether the retirement age is increased or it be made compulsory can affect the productivity of workers. Factors such as tiredness and lack of motivation should be considered before introducing such a change. Moreover, as a significant part of the local workforce is employed by the government, extending the retirement age would increase government expenditure.

If Brunei's retirement age were to increase to 60, the government would need to commit more funds (five years worth) for employee benefits.

Countries such as Singapore, with a retirement age of 62 and Philippines, at 65, have a higher retirement age than Brunei.

So why is Brunei not headed in this direction. Firstly, Malaysians and Singaporeans are mostly employed in the public sector and extending the retirement age does not affect government spending as much. In Brunei, the move would increase spending significantly.-- Courtesy of The Brunei Times

Monday, November 12, 2007

Found - New Water Gas in Brunei

From Offshore Oil and Gas News (at last something good to distribute):

Brunei Shell delighted with shallow water gas find

Filed from Singapore
11/12/2007 9:48:22 AM GMT

BRUNEI: Brunei Shell Petroleum Co. Sdn Bhd has found gas in the Bubut structure located just seven kilometres (four miles) from the shoreline and only 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the Brunei liquefied natural gas (BLNG) plant. Gas was found in an exploration well drilled by Premium Drilling jackup Deep Driller 2 in deep, high-pressure sand reservoirs.

Brunei Shell will be re-evaluating the nearby Danau structure drilled in the 1970s. Appraisal work will be conducted in both fields to define the full potential that could be tapped for an integrated development of and early production from the two fields using the facilities at the BLNG plant.

Brunei Shell is expecting Bubut-Danau to emerge as a third offshore gas production hub, after the existing Ampa and Champion gas fields. Brunei Shell's Managing Director, Dr. Grahaeme Henderson said the shallow water discovery is important to fulfilling the company's LNG sales contract, given its proximity to the BLNG plant. He also said the company is confident of bringing the gas field on stream 'in the shorter term.'

Friday, November 9, 2007

Easy Loans in Brunei

The Brunei Times cartoonist has been getting on target. Loans have been an issue in Brunei. The huge loans that has been generated by consumers is quite scary. Some blame the banks for giving easy credits. Some blamed the governments for not giving payrises. Some blamed the government for not providing enough opportunity for businesses to grow so that banks can give out loans to businesses and not to individuals. It may be all these things. But at the end of the day, it is us who hold the ultimate decision whether or not to get those loans.

I have to admit that I too have been suckered. Last July, I splurged on one of those LCD tv because I was allowed to have an interest free six months instalment payments. But mind you, I did not have to pay interest and my tv was on the blink. But at the end of the day, I could have decided not to go ahead and similar to most other financial decisions, it is up to us to decide.

When the government tightened the rules on personal loans, the total loans I have been told did not grow as fast. But what most people have done is to go to credit cards. Now, credit cards outstanding loans have ballooned. And credit cards credits cost more than loans. It's a no win situation. But whatever it is, we should go back to Financial Planning 101.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Bus Stops in Brunei

I thought this was an interesting cartoon on Brunei Times. There have been many occasions when buses don't stop at busstops. They stopped everywhere else but at the bus stops. Some poeple put it down to laziness or the chinchai attitude of the driver and the passengers - wanting to be too convenient. Turun saja whenever they wanted.

The thing is not many of us Bruneians take buses. We have many experiences of going on buses - in London or in other countries but back in Brunei, not many have the experience of going on buses. In London, I remembered the bus stops were like 200 to 250 meters apart. I remembered in New York, it was somewhere in that region. The ones in Brunei are like a kilometer apart. The difference is huge and for that reason, that's why passengers stop the buses at whenever they find it convenient. Should we then build more bus stops?

The obvious answer is yes. But then you would also realised that there are many places on the roads where there is not enough space to build bus stops. So that now means that whenever we build roads, we have to remember to given enough space to the bus stops. Perhaps, if we build more bus stops, making them more accessible, perhaps we can persuade more and more people to take buses.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Eating glue


I have never enjoyed ambuyat but the rest of my family does. The bit I enjoyed about it are the side dishes that go with it but ambuyat is something that I am never used to. Some say you are not a Bruneian if you don't eat ambuyat. But then I do eat lots of other Brunei things which other Bruneians won't even look at like belutak, so there. Anyway, I was reading a Malaysian newspaper, the Star where it featured Brunei's 'national' dish, the ambuyat and I thought I will reproduce it here.

Eating Glue

Brunei’s national dish, ambuyat, has the colour and consistency of wallpapaper glue. Fortunately, a range of delicious accompaniments make it more than just edible.

By GRAHAM SIMMONS

It’s official! The Sultanate of Brunei really does have its own national cuisine. If, that is, you can really call ambuyat a “cuisine”.

Ambuyat, a dish prepared from the sago palm, has the texture and consistency of wallpaper glue. It became the staple dish of Bruneians during the Japanese Occupation in World War II, when people were reduced to near-starvation. Frequently, the only thing left to eat was the pith of the sago palm.

But the use of the sago (Rhumbia) palm as a foodstuff goes back a long way. Indeed, the Indonesian name of Borneo, Kalimantan, is derived from the word Lamanta, meaning “sago starch”. Accordingly, I felt that I was following in hallowed footsteps when I joined my friends for an ambuyat feast at Brunei’s Aminah Arif Restaurant, in the Kiulap precinct of Bandar Seri Begawan.

The preparation of ambuyat is an involved process. The first step is to extract the pith from the trunks of the sago palm. This pith is then grated and dried, forming a fine sawdust-like flour. This is later emulsified into a starchy paste called ambulong.

Ambulong is available widely throughout Brunei, including from stalls at the Gadong night market. When ready to be cooked, it is placed in a saucepan and boiled with water until it becomes a thick, gooey, rubbery paste that would be perfect for gluing the soles back on your shoes.

In the Aminah Arif Restaurant, a big bowl of ambuyat graces the centre of the table. I’m yet to learn how to eat this concoction, but my kind host explains the process.

“You use these special chopsticks to twirl the ambuyat like spaghetti around it,” she says, pointing to an unusual implement looking like a forked stick, and made from the branches of the sago palm. These joined chopsticks, called chandas, are to the best of my knowledge unique to Brunei.

Were it not for the range of side-dishes accompanying the ambuyat, I fear that I would be gagging all through a meal of this bland offering. But it was quickly explained that the first step is to dip the ambuyat-coated chandas into a special ambuyat sauce, made from salted durian, lemon juice, belachan (shrimp paste) and binjai, a mango-like Bruneian fruit. Infused with this sauce, the ambuyat tastes quite delicious.

Other side-dishes traditionally accompany a meal of ambuyat. One is a preparation of pakis or ferns sautéed with ginger and garlic. Another consists of boiled fish in a super-hot sauce made from bird’s eye chillies. There is also a range of salads and other accompaniments. These totally transform what might otherwise be hardship fare into a real banquet.

And for drinks, what better than teh tarik, a frothy tea prepared from powdered local tea-leaves. This beverage has a unique flavour, far removed from standard teas. By now, I’m starting to think that Bruneian cuisine is one of the world’s last undiscovered secrets.

A range of Brunei cakes – kuih talam (sticky rice with pandanus leaf jelly), kuih tako (pandan-coconut cakes) and others complete the meal.

These subtly-flavoured delights are the products of a well-established Bruneian cottage industry, with many households in the Kampong Ayer water village producing cakes and other sweets from their elaborate kitchens.

Had there been enough room in my stomach, I would also have tried another Bruneian specialty, rojak sotong, originating from Kuala Belait – somewhat like the Indonesian salad gado-gado, but with some unexpected flavours. Principal ingredients are sweet turnip, cucumber, pineapple and calamari, all served with a spicy, piquant sauce. An unforgettable taste-symphony!

Eventually, it was time to leave the Aminah Arif Restaurant. By then, I had finally discovered the secret of ambuyat – it is not so much a food in its own right as an excuse to enjoy all those yummy side-dishes!

The author visited Brunei as a guest of Royal Brunei Airlines and the Empire Hotel & Country Club.

Monday, October 15, 2007

No clear boundary Brunei-Sarawak

This news on the trial of the two 'princesses' is interesting as it brought up other issues namely in the boundary between Brunei and Sarawak. As far as I know there has never been any modern demarcation between the Brunei and the state of Sarawak. Whatever border that was agreed upon was I think agreed upon by the British Residents present in both territories for their administrative purposes. It does open up all sort of possibilities.

No clear boundary, court told

MIRI: Malaysia and Brunei have never carried out a survey to determine the exact location of their borders, a Sessions Court heard yesterday.

“Until a survey is carried out, the accuracy of the location of the border can lead to confusion,” Sarawak Land and Survey Department chief assistant director of surveying Jamaluddin Md Zain said.

He was testifying at the trial of Puteri Lamia Roro Wiranata, 21, and Puteri Fathia Reza, 23, who claimed to be “princesses” of the Sunda Empire.

They are facing three charges each of having illegally entered Malaysia and having made false representations using their Sunda diplomatic passports to try to enter Malaysia.

They allegedly committed the offences between July 8 and July 22 this year.

The two women were arrested at a vacant plot of land after Malaysia’s Sungai Tujuh checkpoint but before Brunei’s Kuala Belait checkpoint on July 22 after they were found loitering in this zone.

Jamaluddin said the vacant plot of land was considered “Sarawak’s territory”.

“There is actually no ‘no man’s land’ because this area is within the Malaysian boundary,” he told the court.

Upon questioning by defence counsel Shankar Ram, Jamaluddin said international border boundary lines were agreed upon between the governments of the two countries.

Jamaluddin acknowledged that he does not have any experience in conducting international boundary surveys and that there are maps which show a different boundary between Sarawak and Brunei.

When pointed out by Shankar that a big part of Sarawak belonged to Brunei before the Raja Brooke era in Sarawak, Jamaluddin agreed.

“Yes, I know that Sarawak was a lot smaller before and that the Brunei Sultan had given more land to Sarawak during the Brooke era,” he said, adding that he did not know that the Queen of England had already demarcated a boundary line between Sarawak and Brunei long before independence.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sabah

This is an interesting document. In 1877 Baron de Overbeck applied and got the concession for Sabah. He and another Englishman Edward Dent later on got a company called the North Borneo Company and ran Sabah from then on until it was taken over by the British. Sabah came into being with this document where Baron de Overbeck was made the Emperor of Sabah (Maharaja Sabah) and King of Gaya and Sandakan. Baron de Overbeck was a clever man and he knew the history of Sabah. Sabah was at that time technically Brunei but Brunei was supposedly to have given up Sabah to Sultan Sulu during the Brunei Civil War. So, to be on the safe side, Baron de Overbeck when to Sultan Sulu and in January 1878, Sultan Sulu also made him Dato Bendahara and Raja Sandakan. Sabah at that point in time was more or less under the influence of Sultan Sulu.

What is intriguing about this document and another document (that of Sultan Sulu) was this these were included in Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's commemorative book on His Majesty's ascension to the throne. Why these? Were these the only historical documents Brunei could find then? I am not pretty sure why but I sure am curious.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Kampong Ayer, Not Brunei?


When I saw this postcard, I thought to myself which angle of Kampong Ayer was this taken from.

Then I realised it is not Brunei's Kampong Ayer. Guess where this is? (Answer in the comments page)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Australia's TAP Oil in Brunei

I saw this on Reuters. I know about this a lot earlier obviously. But what gets me is that it took this long for Block M to be started since the award of the first operatorship. I do hope that TAP Oil will be able to do it soon. Their track record is amazing and they only have a handful of people to generate lots and lots of revenue. That's something our companies should emulate. And TAP Oil always reminds me of our own TAP. I hope no one confused the two when TAP Oil operates in Brunei son.

UPDATE 1-Tap Oil says gets 40 pct stake in Brunei field
Fri Sep 21, 2007 6:40am BST

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[-] Text [+] (Adds details)

SYDNEY, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Australian oil and gas explorer Tap Oil Ltd (TAP.AX: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Friday it has been awarded a 40 percent stake and operatorship of a block of an onshore oil and gas field in Brunei.

The block has reserves of between 10-50 million barrels of oil and in excess of several hundred billion cubic feet of gas, Tap Oil said in a statement.

The Perth-based company said the block covers an area of about 3,100 square kilometres and is located in the oil-rich Baram Delta province of the sultanate of Brunei.

Tap Oil, which has a market value of about A$305 million, said it was committed to investing about A$20 million ($17.26 million) over the next five years to appraise existing discoveries and exploration.

Shares in Tap Oil, which also has exploration interests in Australia and New Zealand, were up 3.2 percent at A$1.95 by 0533 GMT. ($1=A$1.16)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Unemployment in Brunei

Unemployment is an interesting issue especially for Brunei. No one really knows how many unemployed there are. We have job seeker registrants but not everyone of those is unemployed. And there are unemployed who are not registered. But then counting unemployed has never been easy as every country has a criteria of counting unemployment.

The more interesting thing is what is that country doing about it. We have about 6,000 vacancies in the civil service. The SPA can't process fast enough for all the jobs to fill as there are also about 600 to 800 retirees every year. And not everyone of the 6,000 jobs are for entry level graduates as some of them are very senior position or very junior position. The more junior the post the harder it is to recruit as there will be more applicants for the jobs - so the process of selection is longer.

That leaves the private sector. Is the private sector not big enough? Take out a small percentage of the 100,000 foreigners, there must be some jobs left over for locals?

Economic Growth Not Fast Enough, Say VC
By Shareen Han

Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei's economy is not expanding fast enough to provide sufficient jobs for university graduates, said Universiti Brunei Darussalam's vice-chancellor.

It is a demand and supply problem, and some graduates are not willing to work in the private sector because they know that there are more benefits in the public sector, Dato Paduka Dr Hj Ismail Hj Duraman told The Brunei Times in a telephone interview yesterday.

"In the minds of locals, the private sector cannot compete with the public sector because it has more benefits compared to other countries that have a tax system," he said.

He said most locals need to "tackle their attitude first", in order to make the implementation of national policies more effective in the long term.

"It is a paradox that locals are not taking up the jobs, but foreign workers are taking it instead," he said.

One of the reasons why employers hire foreign workers is because they are cheaper and locals are too selective in choosing jobs which are mostly filled up by foreign labour, he said.

Moreover, some of the unemployed locals may come from well-to-do families, so they would rather enjoy life with their families, he said.

"There is no simple solution, a concerted effort by everyone is needed," he said, adding that graduates should be more proactive and take up any available job opportunities, including apprenticeship programmes.

"The attitude will only change when a crisis arises, because there is no shocking factor at the moment that they need to make a drastic change as the oil and gas is still there," he added.

The vice-chancellor said that one of UBD's roles is to equip students with the knowledge and skills, but employers are always looking for "something extra" in workplaces.

"Thus, I made the speech (at the 19th convocation ceremony) to graduates that they need to bring added value to the organisation that they work for," he said.

Dato Ismail also noted that UBD is currently doing research on unemployment in Brunei because the statistics that are currently available may not be accurate and regularly updated. There are 313 local jobseekers that fall under the technical, vocational and university graduates category, based on figures from the Labour Department for the month of June.-- Courtesy of The Brunei Times

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bandar's Old Police Station


This is a building which was unfortunately destroyed in 1983. Prior to the 1984 declaration of Brunei's independence, the authorities needed to enlarge the padang area. This building stood in the way and it had to go.

Recognise it? This is the old Police Station in Bandar Seri Begawan. It was located in front of the SOAS Mosque - around where the Yayasan above ground car park is currently located. A new police station was built in the nearby Jalan Stoney. It's a pity that this station had to be demolished. It held many memories including that of being the holdout against the rebels in 1962.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Brunei in World War II


This 1945 photographs is one of the saddest period of Brunei's history. The Allied Forces in wanting to take back Brunei and the other regions in Southeast Asia proceeded to bombard the city which included the destruction of many buildings in Bandar Brunei including the old Masjid Pak Marbut in Kampong Ayer.

When the Allied Forces finally recaptured Brunei, this particular photograph showed just how much destruction took place in those days. Look at all the rubble around the soldiers.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Jalan Chevalier now known as Jalan Pemancha


This is a photograph of Jalan Chevalier, now renamed Jalan Pemancha. Imagine if you are standing next to the HSBC Building looking down towards the BIBD Building. This is where this photographer was standing. The Boon Pang Cinema is gone and that is replaced by the BIBD HQ. The building on the corner too have disappeared replaced by a building which I am not sure what it is called. But that building towards the bottom end of Jalan Cheavalier is still standing.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What happens when the Oil runs out?

The following article was written by Gavin Pao on 14 September 2007 and posted on Asia Sentinel, a news blog.

A short-term economic shock presages what happens when the oil runs out

Billboards and advertisements lining Brunei’s thoroughfares often implore their citizens to do something (or buy something) for the future generation. But, while most Bruneians have it quite easy, with free education and other heavily-subsidized services, the recurrent “future generation” theme implies a sense of apprehension.

On September 2, Brunei’s economy was reported to have shrunk by 3.6 percent during the first quarter of 2007 over the previous year. Oil and gas output plummeted by 9.4 percent during the period. Industry, agriculture, and fishing also contracted significantly, with the farm sector dropping 10.1 per cent in the first quarter, having shrunk 28.7 percent during the same period last year. Industrial output declined 8.6 percent from January to March this year, with mining, manufacturing, construction and electricity all posting downturns. Indeed, the only sector to record any growth during the first quarter was services, up 4.3 percent.

This is symptomatic of Brunei’s problems. The oil-rich sultanate’s attempts to diversify its economy to date have largely been based on encouraging the service sector. It has long promoted itself as a center for Islamic finance, and is making efforts to rejuvenate its tepid tourism sector. Special offers from Royal Brunei Airlines are often advertised abroad to provide a boost.

But oil has shaped every aspect of Bruneian life, from the 22-karat gold that coats the domes of the country’s biggest mosques, to the immaculately highways, reminiscent of Europe's best roads. The oil and gas sector accounts for roughly half of Brunei’s real GDP, and generates more than 90 percent of export earnings. And, as has been reported widely, Brunei’s crude deposits are running out. At the outside, they have perhaps 20 to 25 years left. Some estimates put the end of oil in Brunei in as little as seven to eight years.

Solely because it did not wish to share its massive oil wealth with the rest of Malaysia, Brunei refused to join the Federation of Malayan States when the British granted Malaysia independence in 1957. But it is clear that Brunei, with a native population of only 300,000-plus, must diversify its economy. It is an issue gaining increasing urgency.

Given Brunei’s relatively well-educated, cosmopolitan, English-speaking and largely urban population there is potential for service sector expansion. In late August, HSBC and Brunei Shell, the national oil company, teamed up to sponsor a youth business awards competition as part of an effort to spur entrepreneurial blood. It is one of scores of such competitions to try to shake Brunei’s young out of their torpor.

In addition, Brunei has embraced globalization the same way as other small, rich hubs like Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore and Qatar, taking in large numbers of foreign workers to do lower-wage jobs.

Filipinos work behind café counters and in supermarkets, Indians dominate much of the city center. Nepali security guards are a common sight, and there has been a Gurkha camp here since the days of the British. The government can afford to pay for Australian and New Zealand natives to teach at university. Indeed, although Brunei abstained from joining Malaysia in the 1950s, it remained a British colony and protectorate until 1984.

The surface similarities between Brunei and other Asian hubs pretty much end there. Brunei has no hustle or bustle, no skyscrapers, little traffic or pollution, few factories, no bars (alcohol is forbidden), no legal nightlife. A large proportion of Bandar Seri Begawan’s 30,000 people live in clusters of traditional wooden villages, collectively called the Kampung Ayer, or water village, propped up on the riverbanks by wooden stilts and plank-ways.

These quaint dwellings do not represent poverty or backwardness, however. Rows of gleaming cars are permanently parked along the river banks, owned by those who live in the villages. Many locals choose to live a traditional and simple lifestyle, reflecting the innately conservative nature of Brunei’s social fabric.

This isn’t to say that Bruneians haven’t embraced a modern lifestyle. Most “traditional” dwellings come complete with satellite dishes. In coffee houses, teenagers surf the internet on palm-sized laptops. Women getting flying home from Singapore or Hong Kong often start out in sleek western clothing and change to shapeless Islamic garb in the airplane lavatories.

However, it could be argued that conservatism is an essential ingredient in maintaining a distinctly Bruneian identity. Adherence to strict Islamic codes of behavior is probably the most striking sociological difference between Brunei and Malaysia. Otherwise, the two speak identical Malay, albeit with differences in accent. Beef rendang and nasi ayam are both countries’ staple foods. Traditional lifestyle and national dress is similar, though not identical, especially in the case of the royal court.

Perhaps the second fundamental difference between Malaya and Brunei is the degree of reverence and extreme wealth accorded to the sultan. All royal ceremonies are conducted with much more attention to resplendence, opulence, and grandeur than in Malaysia.

A park right in the middle of the city center was built only to hold twice yearly celebrations, the country’s national day and the sultan’s birthday. It is otherwise always empty.

In newspapers, the front page article often begins with “His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince, did this, went there, launched that, met so and so, etc”. Portraits of the sultan and his wife are even more ubiquitous than in Thailand, where reverence for the king is fervent.

There have been recent reports of virulent criticism from imams about young women being indecently dressed. Such attention to traditionalism means it is unlikely that Brunei would ever consider being re-incorporated back into Malaysia, even should its oil revenues one day slump to the point that the government loses its original raison d'etre for independence?

“Never”, said Rizal, a 28 year-old teacher, who waved away the question. “We’re a steady and stable country, and there is no reason to expect that to ever change, one way or another”.

Indeed, Brunei may arguably have the least active political culture in Asia.

“We will never merge with Malaysia. Most importantly, we don’t want all the problems, social and otherwise, that afflict all modern countries, which thankfully we do not face; prostitution, bad family relations, degeneration, pollution, crime, drugs, corruption, deforestation.”

Brunei is also fiercely proud of its distinguished history. The kingdom of Brunei once controlled all of Borneo as well as a large chunk of what is now the Philippines. It repelled Spanish attempts to impose Christianity on its society, and instead acted as the main conduit for Islam in today’s southern Philippine provinces.

So how can the economy be given some extra life?

Importing yet more foreign labor to make up for the shortfalls in the farm and industrial sector is an option, however it is unlikely given the already large percentage of foreign workers in the country vis-à-vis the native population.

Indeed social fragmentation appears to be an issue of sorts. Bruneians express disdain towards the foreign minorities, and the groups are fairly segregated.

Although Brunei's options are relatively limited, there is still good reason to be optimistic. The IMF expects that capacity in the energy sector will be restored this year, and that the non-energy sector will record new growth given stable national macroeconomic foundations, as well as other sources of revenue directly and indirectly linked to energy.

It thus predicts that Brunei's economy will grow roughly 2.75 – 3 percent over the medium term, based on further development of downstream industries in the energy sector and other energy-related growth, as well as new government development projects.

Meanwhile, new opportunities to develop the tourism industry have yet to be taken advantage of. There is no reason why Brunei should not be able to compete with the likes of Sabah and Sarawak.

It has some of the world's best protected rainforest, with numerous national parks, and an impressive array of fauna, flora and wildlife. One of the country's national icons is the eccentric-looking proboscis monkey, a now-endangered animal with a huge protruding nose that gives it an almost clownishly human look.

It has first-rate museums and some of the most resplendent and awe-inspiring architecture in the region. Its food is excellent, and strict food quality control ensures consistent standards of hygiene and freshness.

But again, there may simply not be enough hands on deck to create a fully thriving tourist industry. Moreover, perceived exorbitant costs in Brunei continue to deter tourists of all shades.

But what deals the biggest blow to tourism is that it is the only country in Asia that bans the sale of alcohol. Nightclubs and discos are non-existent. Bali, the Indonesian tourist hot spot, is a classic example that outlines the importance of making exceptions to alcohol-related rules in order to keep the tourists streaming in. Don't expect Brunei to make any such compromises at the expense of its way of life.

However, travel in Brunei is inexpensive if one avoids the hotels, taxis and tour agencies. Government-funded youth hostels are better value than those in neighboring countries, and the food is cheap if you eat at the markets.

Bruneians are generally open, friendly and helpful to tourists, perhaps because there are so few of them, and partly because of Brunei's tranquility and laid-back attitude, coupled with the fact that shopping malls are just about the only entertainment.

Meanwhile, it looks like there are gradual changes taking place with regards to the way things are being run in Brunei. Take a recent trip to Jerudong Park Playground, the huge Disneyland-scale amusement park born from the excesses of the infamous Prince Jeffri, the sultan’s brother, and his Amedeo Development Corporation, once the largest non-petroleum conglomerate in the country, which collapsed in 1998 after it was revealed that it had suffered tens of billions of dollars in losses.

The park is free to all residents of Brunei and has a rather surreal air to it, with fun-for-the-family style rides and entertainment provided on a huge scale. Many of the rides and entertainment facilities had actually been temporarily closed and were making way for new attractions and other rides. And apparently, once these are finished, shock horror, people may even have to actually pay for some of them.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Interesting Business News

I read this news on Channelnews Asia. Hmmm.... Rahaman.... Sounds kinda familiar, don't you think?

Swiber Holdings signs MOU for JV in Brunei
By Pamela Almeda, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 14 September 2007 2202 hrs

SINGAPORE : Mainboard-listed Swiber Holdings has signed a memorandum of understanding for a joint venture in Brunei.

Swiber will own 51 percent of the joint venture and Brunei-based Rahaman will hold the remaining 49 percent.

The partnership will enable Swiber to bid for projects open only to Brunei-incorporated companies.

Swiber is an integrated offshore engineering, procurement, construction, installation and commission contractor.

Rahaman in involved in the oil and gas commodity and trading business. - CNA/ms

Friday, September 14, 2007

More OPV stories


More on Brunei's OPV. This I found from a small newspaper named North West Evening Mail published on 31st August 2007.

THREE new state-of-the-art warships belonging to the Sultan of Brunei are now awaiting a buyer in Barrow.

The price could be around £600m which is what the Sultan of Brunei’s government paid to have them built by BAE.

The vessels were built by BAE Systems at Scotstoun, Glasgow, but Brunei has since decided it does not want them.

Barrow-based James Fisher and Associated British Ports, which owns the port, have bid to look after the ships on a care and maintenance contract until a buyer is found.

Despite being brand new and raring to go, the frigate-sized offshore patrol vessels were each towed by tug to Barrow — because none of them has a crew.

Brunei claimed the ships were not fit for use, an accusation denied by BAE and the issues went to international arbitration.

BAE said that resulted in Brunei having to make the final payment for the ships.

The Shipping Times publication said: “The vessels are amongst the highest spec ships of their type, and therein lies the problem.

“The Brunei navy wanted them to be stuffed full of the latest and greatest wizardry and they got it.

“Trouble is, they don’t have the personnel to man them.

“Initially the Brunei government said the ships were not up to spec, but that was dismissed out of hand not only by their builders BAE Systems, but practically everyone who knew a thing or two about the contract.”

It is thought the ships could be a feature of the Barrow scene for at least six months.

Kampung Bakut China


In one of my articles, I mentioned that the 'commercial centre' of the Kampong Ayer was Kampung Pekan Lama. Pekan Lama obviously being Old Town denoted that the place was the old commercial centre. However it was not known as Kampung Pekan Lama in its heydays. It was known as Kampung Bakut China.

Bakut is the Brunei word for sandbank. China is obviously Chinese. Kampung Bukit China is where the Chinese settlement is on a sandbank on the Brunei River. This photograph shows how the place looked like with its shophouses and everyone converging here. This is the beginning of the end of the padians on water. Even though they still existed but the Chinese shops with its many supplies and soon when they moved on to dry land would become to formidable for any padian.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

History of Brunei Newspapers

[Note: The following article was published on the Golden Legacy Column of Brunei's national newspaper, The Brunei Times on 7th July 2007.]

As ‘The Brunei Times’ celebrates its anniversary of being the new kid in the Brunei’s newspaper industry, it is worthwhile to look at how the newspaper industry have fared since newspapers began to be circulated in Brunei.

Brunei’s media industry is relatively new compared to many other countries. Despite Brunei being an ancient country, it is considered a new nation by some which it is. After the turbulence at the end of the 19th century where Brunei had lost practically most of its territories, Brunei emerged as a new nation, having the first British Resident in 1906 to set up the new modern administration, discovering oil as its new lifeline in 1929, writing its own constitution and self internal administration in 1959 and finally achieving its independence in 1984.

Likewise the newspaper industry only began after the 1950s. Before 1950, there was no other publication in Brunei other than the Annual Reports which are published by the British Colonial Office. The first other regular government publication was the Government Gazette which was first published in 1951. However the gazette was not strictly a newspaper, but an official publication for the government.

The first newspaper to appear was ‘Salam Seria’ published in 1952 by the British Malayan Petroleum Company, the forerunner to today’s Brunei Shell Petroleum Company. Being an official company publication, it delivered news and information to its staff as well as the general public regarding its oil exploration and other company news. Even though it was produced bilingually in English and Malay, the Malay version had added content of world news and educational materials. ‘Salam Seria’ became ‘Salam’ the year after and had remained until now. ‘Salam’ remained a free publication.

The second newspaper is today’s ‘Borneo Bulletin’ which first appeared on 7th November 1953. This English weekly publication was printed in Kuala Belait by the Brunei Press Company which was formed in October 1953. Borneo Bulletin was sold for 20 cents when it was first produced. At first most of its news concentrated more on news in Borneo with special emphasis on Brunei and its first publication run of about 3,500 was the largest in Borneo then.

In 1959, the founders of Borneo Bulletin sold the press and newspaper to the Straits Times of Singapore. The first bulletins were published with different covers for the three different editions for Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak. It publication increased to about 10,000 by 1957 but was reduced to about 6,000 in 1970 as a result of both Sarawak and Sabah being incorporated in Malaysia. However by 1983, production had increased to about 30,000 before gradually reducing to about 10,000 by 1997.

In 1985, Brunei Darussalam's first public listed company, QAF, took over part of the shares of Brunei Press from the Straits Times. By September 1990, the ‘Borneo Bulletin’ became a daily newspaper. At present, the circulation per issue averaged 20,000 copies daily while the Weekend and Sunday edition averaged 25,000 copies.

The third publication is the Government’s ‘Pelita Brunei’ which was first published in 1956. Pelita Brunei’s first issue on 15th February 1956 had His Majesty Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Saadul Khairi Waddien’s speech inaugurating the publication of the newspaper.


In 1957, ‘Pelita Brunei’ was produced twice monthly and was at first produced using A4 size paper before increasing in size to 9 inch by 14 inch in 1959. It was not until July 1965 before ‘Pelita Brunei’ became a weekly newspaper published every Wednesday and remained so until now.

In the beginning, there was only about 1,000 being printed by the 1990s, more than 45,000 ‘Pelita Brunei’ was printed weekly becoming the largest print publication in the country. The content of the newspaper increased from about 4 pages to about 24 pages now and with a second part being added to it containing all the government job vacancies and tenders being awarded in the government as well as other interesting features and articles.

A fourth publication was a short lived one called the ‘Berita Brunei’ which was first published in March 1957. It was printed in Malay and also partly in jawi. It was a weekly publication and was published every Thursday and sold for about 10 cents each with a print run of about 5,000. By July 1958, the jawi was dropped and by October 1959 it was renamed as ‘Berita Borneo’. However the newly named ‘Berita Borneo’ only lasted for 5 editions and the last publication was in December 1958 with the editor citing the drop in advertisements from Malaysia and Singapore as the main reason for its demise.

In April 1958, another publication in jawi started called ‘Malaysia’ printed by the Budaya Press. Sold for about 20 cents each, it too died by September 1958.

A publication by a former political party called ‘Suara Bakti’ was published on October 1961 and came out every Friday was the sixth newspaper in Brunei. It called itself ‘the largest weekly newspaper in North Kalimantan’ and sold for 20 cents each. However the newspaper came out sporadically and by December 1961 it only had about 10 editions. A new editor took over and that too lasted for only about 5 editions before closing down in January 1962.

A seventh publication called ‘Bintang Harian’ and ‘The Daily Star’ published in both Malay and English first appeared in March 1966. It appeared everyday except Sunday and cost about 15 cents. More than 10,000 copies were printed daily as it was published not just for Brunei, but also for Sabah and Sarawak, West Malaysia and Singapore. When it stopped publication in January 1971, more than 15,000 copies was printed. The publication stopped when the publishers The Star Press became a subsidiary of The Brunei Press.

Two other government publications, Brunei Darussalam Newsletter and the Brunei Darussalam Daily Digest were published in October 1985 and January 1990 respectively. The former continued being published but its readership is mostly made up of foreign readers and are seldom seen by local readers. The latter had stopped but efforts are in place to restart the publication again.

‘Media Permata’ was the latest of a number of local Malay newspaper when it began in January 1995 as a weekly paper focusing on local news and features for the Malay literate. It was relaunched as a daily newspaper in July 1998 and remained so until today with an average of 10,000 copies of Media Permata being circulated. Media Permata is available from Monday to Friday and a weekend edition is also available for Saturday and Sunday.

The last newspaper to appear before Brunei Times was the ‘News Express’. News Express started when the 20th Southeast Asian Games was hosted in Bandar Seri Begawan towards the later end of 1999 but by early 2001, it too joined the ranks of other newspapers which were unable to sustain themselves in Brunei’s competitive newspaper market.

And of course, the latest newspaper to join in the ranks of Brunei’s newspapers is today’s Brunei Times.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Where Malay words come from

I am writing an article about Jawi and the Malay Language when I came across this list of words. I did not realise that Bomba was a Portuguese word (what are we doing with a Portuguese language?) and that katil was a Tamil word.

aksi - action (from Dutch actie)
almari - cupboard (from Portuguese armário)
anggur - grape (from Persian انگور/angur)
bahasa - language (from Sanskrit bhāshā)
bandar - town (from Persian بندر/bandr)
bangku - stool (from Portuguese banco)
bendera - flag (from Portuguese bandeira)
bihun - rice vermicelli (from Hokkien bi-hun)
biola - violin (from Portuguese viola)
biskut - biscuit (from English)
bomba - fire brigade (from Portuguese bomba, "pump", or bombeiro, "fireman", lit. "pumper")
boneka - doll (from Portuguese boneca)
buat - do (from Sanskrit wuat)
buku - book (from Dutch boek)
bumi - earth (from Sanskrit bhumi)
cawan - cup (from Mandarin cháwǎn)
dakwah - sermon (from Arabic da3wah)
dewan - hall (from Persian دیوان/diwan)
duka - sadness (from Sanskrit duhkha)
dunia - world (from Arabic dunyā)
falsafah - philosophy (from Arabic falsafah)
gandum - wheat (from Persian گندمGandm)
garfu - fork (from Portuguese garfo)
gereja - church (from Portuguese igreja)
gratis - for free (from Portuguese)
guru - teacher (from Sanskrit)
had - limit (from Arabic hadd)
huruf - word character/letter (from Arabic ḥurūf)
ini - this (from Persian این)
jawab - to answer (from Arabic jawāb)
jendela - window (from Portuguese janela)
Khamis - Thursday (Arabic al-khamis)
kamus - dictionary (from Arabic qāmūs)
kapal - ship (from Tamil கப்பல் /kappal)
katil - bed (from Tamil கட்டில் /kattil)
kaunter - counter or desk (from English)
keju - cheese (from Portuguese queijo)
kemeja - shirt (from Portuguese camisa)
kepala - head (from Sanskrit kapala "skull")
kereta - carriage, car (from Portuguese carreta)
komputer - computer (from English)
kongsi - share (from Hokkien kong-si 公司)
kuda - horse (from Hindi kudh)
kuil - temple (from Tamil கோவில் /kovil)
kurma - date (from Persian خرما/Khurma)
lif - lift, elevator (from English))
limau - lemon/orange (from Portuguese limão "lemon")
lori - lorry, truck (from English)
maaf - sorry (from Hindi māf "forgiveness")/(from Arabic Ma3fu
maha - great (from Sanskrit)
makmal - laboratory Arabic
mangga - mango (from Portuguese manga)
manusia - human being (from Sanskrit manuṣya)
mentega - butter (from Portuguese manteiga)
mee/mi - noodles (from Hokkien miᴺ)
meja - table (from Portuguese mesa)
misai - moustache (from Tamil மீசை/meesai)
miskin - poor (from Arabic miskiin)
muflis - bankrupt (from Arabic muflis)
nujum - astrologer (from Arabic al-nujum)
nanas/nenas - pineapple (from Portuguese or Arabic ananás)
paderi - priest (Christian) (from Portuguese padre)
pau - bun (from Hokkien pau 包)
pesta - party (from Portuguese festa)
pita - tape (from Portuguese fita)
putera - prince (from Sanskrit putra "son")
raja - king (from Sanskrit rāja)
roda - wheel (from Portuguese roda)
roti - bread (from Sanskrit roṭi)
sabun - soap (from Arabic) sàbuun
sains - science (from English)
sama - same (from Sanskrit)
sama-sama - together (derived from sama via reduplication)
sekolah - school (from Portuguese escola)
sengsara - suffering (from Sanskrit saṃsara)
sepatu - shoe (from Portuguese sapato)
soldadu - soldier (from Portuguese soldado)
syariah - Islamic law (from Arabic shāri`ah)
syurga - Heaven (from Tamil சொர்கம் /sorgam)
syukur - thankful (from Arabic shukr)
singahsana - location (from Sanskrit singahsanam)
sistem - system (from English)
suka - happiness (from Sanskrit sukha)
tangki - tank (from Portuguese tanque)
tauhu - beancurd (from Hokkien tao-hu)
tarikh - date (from Arabic tārīkh)
teh - tea (from Hokkien tɛ)
teko - teapot (from Hokkien tɛ-ko)
televisyen - television (from English)
tuala - towel (from Portuguese toalha)
tukar - to exchange (from Portuguese trocar)
Agama - Religion (from Sanskrit agama)
unta - camel (from Hindi ūnṭ)
utara - north (from Sanskrit uttara)
warna - colour (from Sanskrit varnam)
waktu - time (from Arabic waqt)
wira - hero ([[from Tamil வீரா /veera]]
zirafah - giraffe (from Arabic zirāfah)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fishing in Brunei - Merigis


During the weekend, I got into a conversation with one of my older brother in laws and he started telling me all sorts of things that happened when he was still living there. The conversation went around to the subject of fishing.

He described a way of catching prawns called merigis. At that time I could not imagine it but he described as something that you go around in a boat making a noise using an instrument called rigis. Apparently the prawns could not stand the sound and out they will come and jumped into the boat! Your boat has to be appropriately fitted to catch the flying prawns.

I found a photograph of 'merigis' but I am still not sure what equipment 'rigis' is that can make a sound so terrifying to the prawns. More of this in the future.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Brunei Secretariat Building 1960s


This is a familiar photograph of the Secretariat Building taken most probably from the mosque. There has been a few of these photographs. But the most interesting thing about this one is to look at the background and the surrounding of the photograph. In the background, there is no Lapau. The old Istana Sugara can be seen behind the Post Office. Look beyond the Post Office at Jalan Kianggeh. Not much development there. I am not sure what building is on the current Electrical Department branch next to the Post Office. Anyway, next to the Secretariat Building, now the RTB Building, but then there was a government wooden house. So is the government barracks in the foreground. I know the barracks belong to the Royal Brunei Police Force. Surrounding the Padang, then were lots of trees.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Brunei Town 1960s


This is an interesting photograph of Brunei Town taken from the General Post Office Building and looking down towards Jalan Sultan. You can see the Padang on the right and an old cinema. On the left you can see the old HSBC Building, still low rise, no RBA Tower, and all the shophouses on Jalan Sultan still two storeys tall only. You can make out the Customs Warehouse at the end of the road. I am guessing this photograph was in the early 1960s.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Brunei's 'New' Warships


I have always been curious as the three warships that Brunei is supposed to have bought. I know we paid a fortune for it. According to BBC the three ships cost the Brunei Government some GBP600 (about $1.9 billion our money). In 1998/1999, when oil price plunge to about US$10 a barrel, this price was more than what the government was earning in a year. I found two interesting articles. The first written about the ships sometime in 2003 and the second is what is happening to the ships now and written sometime Jun 2007.

(A) First Article - written by Dave Cullen [European WARSHIPS IFR magazine(*)]

Three new corvettes built on the Clyde for The Royal Brunei Navy.

BAE SYSTEMS Marine is completing contractor's sea trials of NAKHODA RAGAM, the first of a new class of three 95m Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) being built for the Royal Brunei Navy. She is due to sail from Scotland to the Far East by the end of the year.

The ships names are prefixed KDB (as in Kapal Diraja Brunei, which translates as Ship of the Rajah of Brunei) and BENDAHARE SAKAM, the second ship of the class, was launched in June 2001. She has completed diesel generator trials in dry dock at BAE SYSTEMS' Scotstoun yard and is under-going contractor's sea trials with delivery in June 2003.

The third and final vessel, named KDB JERAMBAK, was launched in June 2002 and is scheduled to be delivered in December 2003.

A variant of the generic F2000 series corvette design, Royal Brunei Technical Services Sdn Bhd is procuring the ships under a UK/Brunei government-to-government contract signed in January 1998. The design is a reduced version of the Lekiu Class built by the same yard for Malaysia and they have cost around US $350 million each. With a displacement of approximately 1,500 tons standard and 2,000 tons full load, the new Brunei OPVs have a maximum speed of 30 knots and a range of 5,000 nautical miles at 12 knots.

Endurance will be 14 days and they will have a crew of 62 (including eight officers) and 24 berths for Flag Staff and scientists. They are powered by four Paxman diesels turning two controlled-pitch propellers, and their hulls are fitted with fin stabilisers. One generator is able to meet normal loads. The new ships feature a comprehensive combat system based around the hub of an Alenia Marconi Systems (AMS) NAUTlS II command and fire-control system.

AMS is also supplying AWS-9(3D) E/F-band surveillance and target indication radar and two 1802SW radar trackers.

The vessels are armed with:

· Eight MBDA MM40 Block 2 Exocet Surface-to-Surface Missiles (SSMs).
· An MBDA Vertical Launch Sea Wolf installation containing 16 Surface-to-Air-Missiles (SAMs).
· A single Otobreda 76/62 Super Rapid gun.
· Two MSI-Defence DS 30B REMSlG guns.
· A Close-In Weapons System (CIWS).

A flight-deck aft provides for the operation of a Seahawk-size helicopter, but there is no hangar facility. Other systems include a Radamec System 2500 electro-optical director and TMS 4130C hull-mounted sonar supplied by Thales Underwater Systems (the sonar incorporates a torpedo warning capability). Thales Sensors is supplying its Cutlass 242 ESM and Scorpion jammer, and Wallop Defence Systems is providing the Super Barricade decoy system.

The Royal Brunei Navy

The three new OPVs will be based at Brunei's main naval base in Muara, in the South China Sea and represent a significant enhancement for a small fleet.
The Royal Brunei Navy has a total personnel strength of 800 staff (including 65 officers) and a Special Combat Squadron of six officers and 114 men for river duties.

The main threat has traditionally come from neighbouring Indonesia, although the Chinese are likely to pose a future concern and Islamic terror groups cannot be discounted as a security headache for the oil-rich sultanate. Britain has strong defence links with Brunei, with a Gurkha infantry battalion and an Army Air Corps helicopter flight permanently stationed there. UK Royal Marines regularly train at the UK's jungle warfare school in Brunei. The advent of the new corvettes will no doubt lead to regular exercises not only with regional allies, such as Singapore and Malaysia, but also with the RAN, Royal Navy and US Navy. Singapore maintains 500 troops and a helicopter detachment in Brunei.

By 2003 the Royal Brunei Navy will consist of:

3 x F2000 corvettes
3x Waspada guided-missile Patrol Craft, armed with Exocet Surface-to-Surface Missiles.
3 x Perwira Class inshore Patrol Boats.
2 x Amphibious Warfare Craft
2 x Landing Craft
17 x Small Armed River Craft (for the Special Combat Squadron)
1 x Support Launch
23 x Marine Police Patrol Boats.


(B) Second Article - from BBC News Website

Brunei warships to go on sale

Construction was completed at BAE Systems in Scotstoun
Three warships built at BAE shipyard in Glasgow for the Royal Brunei Navy are finally to be sold after a long-running legal dispute was resolved.
A £600m deal between BAE Systems and Brunei was signed in 1998, resulting in the completion of three coastal patrol frigates by 2004.

However the Sultan of Brunei claimed the ships were not as he had ordered, and they remained berthed in Scotstoun.

The arbitration dispute ended in May, allowing the ships to be sold on.

Following finalisation of contracts, the ships were able to be handed over to the Royal Brunei Technical Services (RBTS), which is the Brunei's equivalent of the Ministry of Defence.

A spokesman for BAE Systems said that the shipbuilders had been paid for the completion of the ships, and that the ships had now been handed over to RBTS.

He declined to comment on any alleged problems with the specification of the ships or on the company's relationship with Brunei.

A German company, Lurssen, is said to be acting as an agent for Brunei for the sale of the three vessels.

The ships, the KDB Nakhoda Ragam, KDB Bendhara Sakam and KDB Jerambak, were originally destined for the Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) squadron of the Royal Brunei Navy.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Brunei's Currency Notes before 1967

The following article was published in The Golden Legacy column of the Brunei Times on 30th June 2007.

When His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam exchanged the new Brunei’s and Singapore’s $20 currency notes with His Excellency Mr. Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore on 27th June 2007 to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Currency Interchangeability Agreement between the two countries’ currencies, that day marked the first time that the Brunei currency shared a similar currency note design with another country in more than 40 years.

On that day, Brunei and the Singapore issued new $20 notes which shared the same reverse (back) design even though the obverse (front) of the two notes are different. The last time the currencies even shared the same design was prior to the 1967 issuance of Brunei’s very own currency notes.

Brunei’s currency had undergone many changes in the past. Historically Brunei’s ancient history, its long lineage of sultanate, its central strategic position in the trade between East Asia and Southeast Asia had meant that many goods and trades took place in Brunei as well as the circulation of many currencies such as those of China, India, the Arabic countries and the likes.

At the same time, the various Brunei’s Sultans also produced a number of their own coin currencies commonly known as pitis. Numismatists divided Brunei’s many historic coins into three – one made up of issues by known Sultans, a second made up of issues by unknown Sultans and the third made up of issues of flowers and patterns.

The last Sultan to issue his own coin was Sultan Hashim who issued the ‘star coin’ in 1886 which was minted in Birmingham, England.


When Sultan Hashim agreed to have the British Resident in Brunei in 1906, he also acquiesced that the other currencies used by the British in the Straits Settlement (Malaya), Singapore, North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak to be used in Brunei Darussalam.


By the beginning of the 20th century, there were a number of these currencies being used in Brunei. The Straits Dollar issued by the Straits Settlement government then included that of Queen Victoria used from 1889 onwards (together with notes issued by Chartered Bank and Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank); King Edward VII; King George V and King George VI.

Sarawak had issued its own currency too. Between 1858 to 1953, the various Rajahs of Sarawak - Rajah James Brooke, Rajah Charles Anthoni Johnson Brooke, and Rajah Charles Vyner Brooke each issued their own coins and notes. The British North Borneo (Sabah) too issued its own currencies between 1882 to 1953.

In 1939, the Board of Commissioners of Currency Malaya was formed and it issued a new currency for circulation in Malaya (as well as in Brunei and Singapore) called the Malayan Dollar. However the currency originally printed in 1940 was short lived with many of the notes captured by German forces at sea and then in 1942, the occupying Japanese Government had issued its own currency notes popularly known as ‘duit pisang’ even though only one of the currency notes ($10) portrayed the picture of the banana tree.

The Malayan Dollar was revived after the end of the Second World War in 1945, the notes (dated 1941) and coins were reissued. One of the more popularly known coins then was the square ½ and 1 cent coin.

The notes were printed in $1 (blue), $5 (green), $10 (red), $50 (blue), $100 (violet), $1,000 (violet) and $10,000 (green) – the forerunner to today’s currency notes’ colours. The coins replaced the paper notes that were issued prior to the war which were originally issued because of the possibility of shortage of metal during the war.

The design on the currency notes had the portrait of King George VI and on the back, it had among others the crest of Brunei Darussalam as well as the crests of the various states making up Malaya and Singapore.

In 1953, the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Malaya and North Borneo was constituted. The currency notes featured Queen Elizabeth II and were issued at the same denomination as the King George VI’s issuance. Brunei’s crest was maintained at the back of the note together with other crests.

This new currency note replaced all the other currencies that had been issued by the Straits Settlement, the Sarawak State Government and the North Borneo Government. This new Board is now responsible for issuing new Malaya and British Borneo Dollar to be called officially as the Malayan Dollar meant for use by Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, British North Borneo and Brunei.

In 1959, the Board discontinued issuing the Malayan Dollar with Queen Elizabeth II on its cover for its $1 notes and later in 1961 the $10 notes.

The new $1 notes had the sailing boat (duit kapal – ship’s money - as some Bruneians called it) and the new $10 notes had a portrait of a farmer plowing with an ox (popularly known as ‘duit kerabau’ – cows’ or ox’s money). The latter can be found for purchase at the Tamu for more than $200 a piece now.


In between those years, the three countries, Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore also signed the Malaya and British Borneo Currency Agreement of 1960.

In June 1967, the single Board of Commissioners was replaced by the three countries’ new bank and boards - the Brunei Currency Board, the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Singapore and Bank Negara Malaysia with each issuing its own currency.

However the Malaya and British Borneo currency continued as legal tender for a few years at a reduced 85 cents per dollar as the British pound which it was based on was devalued in November 1967.

The Brunei Currency Board issued the first Brunei Dollar on 12th June 1967 with the portrait of His Majesty Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III and maintained the same colour schemes as those of the last few issuances. Malaysia and Singapore also issued their own currencies on the same day. All three maintained the same sizes and the same colour schemes of the old Malayan Dollar.

The three countries also agreed to maintain the exchangeability of their currencies but Malaysia left in 1973 leaving Brunei Darussalam and Singapore to maintain its currency interchangeability agreement until today.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

History as a Shelter?


I wrote about a book called 'As the Future Catches You' in my used to be well known blog on The Daily Brunei Resources. Though in that entry I have never mentioned what was written about Brunei. In the book there are only two entries about Brunei. They both hurt. But then truth hurts.

One of the entry is as above. I am guilty of this as sometimes I tend to make a big thing out of history as if it is an achievement when in actual fact, the reality is no matter how much we make out of it, the truth is - we have always been behind other nations when it comes to development and progress. Perhaps if we all realised this, we can move a little bit faster.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Brunei Civic Centre


This is an old postcard showing the Civic Centre before it became TAIB's headquarters. Though with the HSBC building next to it, this photo does not seem as old as it should be. But if you look further towards the buildings in Jalan Tutong, the block of buildings are still just double storeyed and looking at the cars, this photo is about 30 years old.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Kampong Ayer 1949


I bought this photograph on ebay. This photograph was taken on 29th October 1949 by someone called Lim Seng Lee who at that time works for the Sarawak Oilfields Ltd. Sarawak Oilfields was the forerunner to the Brunei Shell Petroleum. He sent this photo to someone called Cheah Thay Cheng who lived in 28 Busurrah Lane in Penang, Malaysia. All these were written at the back of the photograph.

Given that this photograph is almost 60 years old, it is still surprisingly good and very clearly shows the houses at Kampong Ayer then.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Origin of 'Brunei Darussalam'

[Note: The following article was published in The Golden Legacy column of Brunei Darussalam's national newspaper, The Brunei Times, on 23rd June 2007]

As one of the ancient kingdoms of the Malay archipelago, Brunei's historical legacy is long and can be comparable or if not exceeding that of other better known empires in the region.

Among others, its strategic geographical location and well sheltered harbour has made it a safe place for ships that ply their trade in the Southeast Asian region from as early as the 6th Century.


Brunei had been known by many names in the past.

In the Chinese historic annals, Brunei had been written about as far back as 1,500 years ago in the Liang Dynasty (502 to 566 AD).

Then the Brunei predecessor state of Poli sent tributes to the Chinese bearing the produce of the country.

Subsequent visits by other Chinese tavellers to Brunei included that during the Sui Dynasty (581 - 618 AD), in the Tang Dynasty (618 - 906 AD) and Sung Dynasty (960 - 1279 AD).

During those years, the name Poni had also been spelled as Bu-ni, Fo-ni, Po-ni and Po-lo.

It was recorded that the King of Po-lo had sent a mission to China in 669 AD.

The differences of the names are said to be caused by the changes of the Chinese dynasties, each preferring its own way of spelling.

The Arabs however called Brunei by other names including that of Sribuza.

It was believed that around the 7th century, Brunei was captured by members of the royal family of Funan who in turn had fled when their own kingdom was attacked by Chenla, another historical empire.

The captured Brunei was renamed Vijayapura which the Chinese referred to as Fo-shih-pu-lo and the Arabs rendered it as Sribuza but would have been pronounced in the tenth century as Srivijaya.

Other Arabic names for Brunei include ‘Dzabaj’ and ‘Randj’.


When did Brunei became Brunei?

According to the local historians as well as transmitted through the centuries and narrated in Syaer Awang Semaun, Brunei’s legendary epic poem, the name Brunei came about when it was discovered.

A group of 14 brothers led by Pateh Berbai and 90 dayaks went in search of a new place to live.

Then they were living in the present Temburong district area called Garang.

They landed at a place called Burit at the Brunei River and found that the place seemed to be the most suitable as it was flanked by hills with ample water supply and the river abundant with fish.

When they found the place, it was said that they exclaimed ‘baru nah!’ which loosely translated into ‘now we found it’.

The Brunei epic poem, Syaer Awang Semaun (translated) described the finding as:

Pateh Berbai then said,
We entered into the country of Brunei River
With a total of ninety in number
All of them were Sakai.

They rowed up the river,
And caught a lot of sharks and rays,
Pateh looked left and right,
For a good place to rest and open a country.

To Damang Sari, Awang Alak says,
After looking left and right with Pateh,
If Awangku agrees with me,
In Brunei we shall build a country.

Each member of the group set up his own house on the Brunei river and eventually more people came to stay there.

It was said that ‘baru nah’ over time became Brunei.

The move and the change in name was said to correspond to Chinese records of the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1643 AD).

It was stated that in the year of 1397, several countries which before then had stopped sending gifts to China had resumed sending gifts to China and included among the few was a country called ‘Bruni’.

It can be summarized that the move to the Brunei river and changing the name to Brunei took place around that time.

The Chinese later described Brunei as ‘Wen-lai’ and ‘Bun-lai”.

In historical annals around the region, in the earlier days, the word ‘Brunei’ appeared in many forms including as ‘Buruneng’, ‘Bornei’, ‘Burneau’, ‘Borney’, ‘Borneo’, ‘Bruneo’, ‘Burne’, ‘Bornui’ and ‘Bruni’.

However the Europeans called Brunei as Borneo.

Hugh Low in 1848 wrote: “… the name Borneo, by which the island has always been distinguished on European charts, and which was probably applied to it by the Portuguese from information received prior to any of their visits to the island, is a corruption of the word Bruni, the name of a kingdom and town on the N.W. Coast of the island – Bruni being called by the inhabitants of the Malay Peninsula …”

In another writing in 1812 by a J. Hunt, he says: “… Borneo was the name only of a city, the capital of one of the three distinct kingdoms in the island, ……. The natives pronounce Borneo, Bruni, and say that it is derived from the word ‘Brani’, courageous …”

However, if one is to trace through history, it is possible that the word Brunei could have come from other sources.

J.R. Hipkins wrote in 1971, that the word Brunei is said to have come from the Sanskrit word ‘Bhurni’ which means land or country.

Brunei could have been called ‘Karpuradvipa’ which means camphor land as camphor was one export which Brunei was well known for in the ancient days.

One J.H. Moor writing in 1871 noted that the Sanskrit word ‘Varunai’ means ‘seaborn’ – again another characteristic of the Bruneian of old – seafarers, mariners and living on water (Kampong Ayer).

Interestingly enough, one Leon de Rosny writing in Paris in 1861 noted that when the ‘Po-ni’ characters were transposed into Japanese Hira-Kana script, Po-ni became ‘Borneu’ or ‘Bornerei’.


And ‘Darussalam’?

It was said that the word Darussalam was used by the third Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Sharif Ali which is the Arabic word ‘abode of peace’.

However, according to Groenvelt writing in 1960 that in the Ming Shih, it was said that Emperor Yung-lo conferred upon the mountain range (Kinabalu) behind Po-ni the title of ‘Mountain of Lasting Tranquility’.

Lasting Tranquility translated into Darussalam and that in the Chinese records in 1408 Po-ni had been known as ‘Chang-ning Chen-Kuo’ or ‘City of Lasting Tranquility’ thus ‘Brunei Darussalam’ of today.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Old Airport Brunei


This is another photograph of Brunei's old airport at the Old Airport Government Offices Complex in Berakas. This is of course now the headquarters of the Brunei Government Printing Department.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Brunei's Philatelic History

[Note: The following unedited article was published in The Golden Legacy column of Brunei's national newspaper The Brunei Times on 16th June 2007.]

Brunei surprisingly, was the last among the Borneo states to have its own postage stamps.

The Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) which included Kalimantan first issued theirs in 1864, Sarawak in 1869, the British Colony of Labuan, despite not being a state, in 1879 and North Borneo (now Sabah) in 1883.

We, in Brunei, only issued our first postage stamps in 1895 and even those were considered by the early stamp enthusiasts as unofficial.

Prior to that 1895 issue, the first postage stamps used in Brunei were the Sarawak stamps which were used in Muara, then known as Brooketon, as Rajah Brooke ran the coal mining operations there and used those stamps for the postal service in the community from 1893 to 1907.


The first Brunei stamps in 1895 were considered as controversial and known in the stamp world as the 'Brunei Locals'.

Printed in Glasgow by the Manager of the Central Borneo Company of Labuan, a John Robertson who managed to get a monopoly concession from His Majesty Sultan Hashim, (the government gets all internal revenues but he gets all external revenues) was considered as purely speculative.

According to a book about Brunei entitled “On the Fringe of Eastern Seas: The City of Many Waters” written by Peter Blundell, published in 1924, John

Robertson ‘persuaded the Sultan to accept payment for the monopoly with stamps at their face value which he got printed in Germany for a trifling sum.’

The stamps could only be used in Brunei and were unfortunately labeled 'bogus' in its early history.

For Brunei letters to be sent abroad, they had to have additional Labuan stamps as Brunei then was not a member of the Universal Postal Union (UPU).

The Brunei/Robertson’s postal services were also described at best 'spasmodic' during its life but it was the first postal service for the country nevertheless – it ended sometime 1902/3 when John Robertson was transferred to Taritipan in Marudu.

In 1906, the Brunei government started to operate its own postal service.

However the first postage stamps that were due to arrive in Brunei from United Kingdom did not arrive on time and the solution was to overprint the Crown Colony of Labuan postage stamps with the word BRUNEI in Singapore.


The first of these stamps were used in the inauguration of the Post Office located in the Customs House on October 11th, 1906 (some historians argued that it was on October 15th).

In the beginning, the stamps were scarce as collectors and dealers were heavily speculating on the value of the stamps by buying up quantities of the mint stamps for investment.


By 1907, the first official Brunei stamps had arrived known as the Brunei River Type as the stamps depicted a typical Brunei river scene.

A London company, Messrs De La Rue & Co Ltd printed the 1907 stamps and interestingly enough this same company carried on printing other Brunei stamps until about the 1970s.

Between 1908 and 1920, the stamps colours conformed to the UPU requirements of three standard colours - one for printed matter, another for postcard and the third for single letters.

In those days, unlike today's multicoloured and multi-image stamps, the colours were standardised to help assist international recognition of the three classes of mail.

Uniformity of colours was also carried out under the colonial colour scheme so the colours also conformed to their counterparts under the Straits Settlement.

However for today’s stamp collector, it can be quite confusing as there was a proliferation of colours with a number of the stamps undergoing changes in colour – for instance, the 1 cent stamp originally appeared in black and green in the 1907 issue but in subsequent years, in other colours such as all black and all brown.

Postal services in Brunei’s other major towns began son after 1906 with the Tutong Post Office opening in 1908, Bangar in 1909, Belait in 1910, Seria in 1933 and Labi not until 1956.

During the First World War, for the third time in its history, (the others being the Sarawak stamps in Brooketon and the Labuan overprints) Brunei used a different country’s stamps – the Sarawak stamps were used in Brunei as the stock of stamps in Brunei ran out.


In March 1924, a new design was introduced as well as a change in size.

The new stamps showed a panoramic view of Kampong Ayer with Brunei Town in the background.

The designs were adapted from a sketch made by Mr. LA Allan, a former British Resident who in turn took it from a photograph taken by the Mr. Pretty, another former British Resident with the view from Bubungan Dua Belas, then used as the official residence of the British Resident.

When the Japanese occupied Brunei during the Second World War, the Japanese government found and used unused Brunei stamps in 1942 and overprinted them with the words Imperial Japanese Government in Kanji characters.

These stamps were originally sent to Brunei in 'changed colours' and were deliberately unused until the existing stocks had run out.

During the British Military Administration after the end of the Second World War, the three Borneo states used the stamps of Sarawak and North Borneo overprinted "B.M.A." until 1947.

The first commemorative stamps were those that were used to commemorate Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin's Silver Jubilee on 22nd September 1949 (it was supposed to be released on 20th September 1949 but delayed due to public holidays).

The design was similar to the 1924 stamps but with the portrait of His Majesty Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin, the 27th Sultan of Brunei, marking the first time a ruling monarch of Brunei appearing on the stamps of Brunei.

Another release in 1949 was to commemorate that of the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Postal Union.

It wasn't until 1952 before the government issued the first Brunei stamps with the portrait of His Majesty Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saiffudien, the 28th Sultan, thus beginning the modern era of Brunei postage stamps.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Our Mosque


Study this photograph. Look at it. What's wrong with this photograph?

Most people don't realise it. What's missing from this photograph is the stone bahtera or astaka in the middle of the lake. From this angle, the astaka would have loomed large in any photograph you take. Many don't realise that the astaka was actually built about 9 years later after the completion of the mosque. The mosque was completed in 1958 whereas the Astaka was built in 1967.

The Astaka was actually to commemorate the 1,400 anniversary of the relevation of the Al-Quran - Nuzul Al-Quran. Some literature make a mistake by saying it's the 1,400th anniversary of the Hijra. It is the Nuzul Al-Quran which is some years before our Prophet Nabi Muhammad SAW made the historic hijrah to Medina.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Old Brunei Wharf


I guess I don't update this blogsite often enough. Anyway, I found this interesting old photographs of the Brunei Wharf. I am guessing that was the original wharf on the right hand side of the photo. What do you think?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

APEC at Mount Coolum, Australia


Greetings from Hyatt Regency at Mount Coolum, Queensland, Australia. I had photographs but apparently I did not have the most important USB link to my camera so no uploads. The photo up there is that of Mount Coolum Golf Course - home of the Australian PGA Tour. Played there yesterday with my colleague and we found it to be an easy course. Nearly got a couple of pars but my colleague got 6. Later on we found other people who played there and says that the course is challenging. Huh? My colleague figured that we have played too much golf at RBAGC and Empire which are more challenging that even Australian PGA Tour course is not challenging anymore.

Coolum is one of the many small beach towns along the Sunshine Coast which runs from Colundra up to Noosa. Coolum is somewhere halfway. There are three counties - Colundrashire, Maroochyshire and Noosashire and Coolum is in Marcoochy. The nearest town to Hyatt Regency is either Coolum Beach or Mudjimba but the biggest is in Maroochydore. The stretch of the beaches of these three shires make up the Sunshine Coast which is to differentiat from the Gold Coast further south. The Sunshine Coast looked at the moment not as crowded as the Gold Coast and there isn't as much entertainment. But I guess it's worthwhile to have a holiday here.

Two of our meetings are over - the drafting committee and the deputies. Tomorrow will be the start of the ministers. Friday evening, we would be on the flight back to Brunei.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Kampong Ayer Photographs



Every now and then a new old photograph of the Kampong Ayer appears. These two are fairly new and I don't think have been seen here or in any of the entries I have written over the last year. The top one is taken sometime in the early 1960s and the lower one sometime in the early 1950s.

PS. My wife says "the 1st pic looks to me more like Kg Masjid Lama in Muara and the houses really reminds me of that area where I used to walk there to buy fish, crabs and dry food like belacan and etc. The 2nd pic definitely reflects kampong ayer in Bandar!" So, I stand corrected. The first picture is not Kampong Ayer.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Our Brunei Language

I found this really interesting site/post about the Brunei language. This is a good read especially those of you who are curious about the fast and weird slang we Bruneians have.

Do you ever notice that Brunei is always pronounced as Brun-ai?

Please check at the sound of vowel "a" at this webpage if you are unsure of what I meant, grrrr!

Only three vowel soudns are available in Bruneian Malay -- a, i, u. Wan's little head starts to experiment -- Brun-a-i, Brun-i-i or Brun-u-i...of course, Brun-a-i sounds better for the oil-rich kingdom that once ruled the whole of Borneo island.

Eh, then what happen to imbuhan such as "me" and "ber" ? Well, they become "man" and "bar".

That is to say, "memasak" becomes "mamasak" and "berjalan" is theoretically " bar + jalan" then evolves into "bajalan". No...I didn't make a typing mistake...it's "bajalan" alright as omission of the letter r is a characteristic.

"Ber...i" is an extinct imbuhan for standard Malay but very much alive in the form of "Bar...i". Examples: " basirai" which is the equivalent of "dibubuh garam" and, "babaki" which is " dibaiki".

Here's one imbuhan that I'm fond of...imbuhan sisipan "-la-" ( imbuhan sisipan is infix ). Nowadays schools teach you that armpit is "ketiak" but we kids love to joke about " kalatiyak". In fact, we prefer "kalatiyak" to "ketiak".

By now you should know that I didn't accidentally type an extra "y" for kalatiyak. Yeap, a letter is inserted to smoothen the pronunciation of words such as ..."katiak". Another example is "tiyang" for "tiang".

The most popular export word of Bruneian Malay is "-bah". Bruneians use "bah" a lot to invite, agree, get attention and prohibit. Apparently their neighbours the Sabahans love the usefulness of "bah" so much to the extent of adopting "bah" to their Malay.

When a Bruneian asks: " Siapa nama kita?" He is asking to know YOUR name. They use " kita" instead of "awak" as a gesture of respect. Would you like to hear how they say it? Go to this website to hear the sound files.

Bruneians also add prefixes to personal pronouns, such as "kadi-", therefore you see kadiaku, kadikita, kadikamu and kadidia. To denote plurality, they add "bis-" such as for "biskita" and "bisdia".

Bruneian Malay is abundant in expressions of kata ganda. "Merisik" ritual in a Malay wedding is " berjarum-jarum" for them. They call their fish "pila-pila", "aur-aur", "alu-alu", "kurisi-kurisi" and "tingkur-tingkur". Their insects are "sambah-sambah","suruk-suruk" and "budu-budu". Their plants are " ungguh-ungguh", "uduk-uduk" and "saga-saga". If you come to a village called "Patau-patau", then you knowlah its origin!

From the ancient cradle in Kampung Ayer at today's Bandar Sri Begawan, Bruneian Malay extends its influence to the neighbouring borders of Sabah and Sarawak. That's why in these areas you hear "Kamu tuli!" instead of " Kamu pekak!". I hope nobody calls you "palui" because it means "bodoh". Ha ha...

Don't worry if you think you cannot speak Bruneian Malay. Apart from the few aspects of differences mentioned above, it is very much like standard Malay.

Source: http://www.bahasa-malaysia-simple-fun.com/brunei.html

Friday, July 27, 2007

Royal Wedding - Perdana Wazir

A colleague of mine was telling me a story about how someone came over asking for money. He told him that he will not give money but he is willing to give him money for something. So this guy came back with a bag full of 'ayats' and a few photographs. I asked him about the photographs and there were three of them, two on the wedding of Duli Pengiran Perdana Wazir and the other on the wedding of Princess Masna.

The Princess Masna one was interesting but it is a photo of a wedding she does not want to remember. So I will just post the two about Perdana Wazir's weddings. I asked my colleague where he thinks that guy gets the photographs from. He said he doesn't know. Anyway, I thought I will share DPPW's wedding photographs for you all to compare with today's grand weddings.