LATER HISTORY OF BRUNEI

BRUNEI BECOMES A BRITISH PROTECTORATE

Facing encroachment by European nations and internal disputes, Brunei became a British protectorate in 1888. In 1888, Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei became British protectorates and were separated from the rest of Borneo by British-Dutch agreement. Sarawak and North Borneo were made crown colonies in 1946. Sarawak and Sabah are now part of Malaysia. From 1906-41 A new form of government emerged which included a State Council

According to Royal Ark: “An agreement with the British on 17th September 1888 halted the process of the shrinking sultanate up to a point and established a degree of protection. Alas, not enough to prevent the Brookes from encouraging a rebellion and wresting yet another slice of the sultanate, cutting the remaining territory in two. A new agreement with the British on 3rd December 1905 established a full protectorate, and prevented any further encroachment. The UK became responsible for defence and external affairs and appointed a permanent local Resident to advise the Sultan. Although this advice extended to the finer points of modern administration, the raising of revenue and fiscal control, interference in the internal administration of the sultanate was forbidden. Thereafter, attempts were made to develop the country but progress was painfully slow. Extremely limited resources and meagre revenues, resulted in just a few Malay schools being established, the creation of a police force, and departments of customs, lands and posts. [Source: Royal Ark =]

Reduced to a fraction of its former size and wealth, Brunei saw a revival of its fortunes when oil was discovered in 1929. The resulting wealth was judiciously managed and sustained, even during the nation’s occupation by the Japanese during WWII.

See Separate Article HISTORY OF OIL AND NATURAL GAS IN BRUNEI

Later History of Chinese in Brunei

While there existed already in the 17th century a Chinese community in Brunei, the Chinese minorities established themselves in large numbers after 1929 and the discovery of oil. Between 1931-1947, the Chinese population increased by more than 200 percent, mainly from Sarawak, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Because of the employment opportunities available, the Chinese minorities’ immigration continued to increase until after the World War II., slowing down and even reversing by the 1990s. After independence, only about 9,000 ethnic Chinese were given full Brunei citizenship. Close to half of the Chinese still remain as temporary residents while less than a quarter are citizens. In 1984 the Sultan tightened citizenship regulations, requiring applicants to have resided in the country for twenty-five consecutive years, and to meet language and cultural qualifications as well. The difficulties in obtaining citizenship, and the ensuing restrictions in access to land ownership and certain professions, have led some Chinese to emigrate. [Source: minorityrights.org]

After the Chinese left Brunei after trade declined in 18th and 19th centuries and ships stopped coming to Brunei, they started coming back during the British protectorate period to set up businesses. Most of them were Hokkien from the Island of Quemoy. The discovery of oil in 1929 also helped to expand the number. Most of them were technicians and professionals from Sarawak, Singapore and Hong Kong. And today, it is these two latter groups that formed the majority of the Chinese community in Brunei. [Source: Rozan Yunos, Brunei Times, April 30, 2012 <>]

About a hundred years ago, there was around 500 Chinese in Brunei. According to the report by MSH McArthur written in 1904, he stated that: "... there are probably 500 Chinese in the State. Most of them are registered as British subjects. Their claim to this status is generally based on the payment of naturalisation fees in Labuan. Their numbers would hardly justify their separate mention in this report if it were not for the fact that almost all the trade and practically all the revenues of the country are in their hands, and will be, apparently, for years to come ..." <>

Peter Blundell in his book "The City of Many Waters" published in 1923 writing about Brunei at the turn of the twentieth century wrote that "... the Chinese have been in Brunei for centuries. In days gone there was a big trade direct with China in pepper, gambler, birds' nests, tripang, dried fish, rubber, wax, sago and jungle produce ..." Carrie C Brown in her article entitled "Notes on the First Chinese Temple of Brunei Town 1918 - 1960" noted that "since 1906, the Chinese had responded well to the call of the British Residents to develop the land across the water from the residential kampongs. By 1910, two small streets were cleared and street lamps erected (Brunei Annual Report 1910: 14). Many of the Chinese had opened shops. It began to look like a respectable town, and was a far cry from the rickety shops at Kampong Bakut, where a handful of Chinese had first settled." She said that "the number of Chinese was small. Of the 1,423 reported in the 1921 census, 981 lived in the Brunei/Muara District. Most of them were Hokkien, and most came from the Island of Quemoy ...". <>

Brunei under the Japanese in World War II

Brunei was occupied by Japan during World War II from 1941 to 1945. Japan helped itself to all the resources of the country. By the end of the war, the sultanate was in near ruin. Heavy fighting for control over Brunei Town saw much of it bombed out of existence. Food, materials and equipment were scarce until the late 1940s.

Rozan Yunos wrote in the Brunei Times,“During the Second World War, 10,000 Japanese troops arrived at Kuala Belait on 16 December 1941. Within six days, they managed to occupy the entire country. Despite the Agreement between the British and Brunei, the British did not defend Brunei at all. All they left was a tiny detachment of a Punjab Regiment in Kuching, Sarawak, to protect the three territories of British Borneo. Ironically even though there was no plan to defend the country, there was a contingency plan to deny the Seria oilfields to the Japanese. For that the British did use that tiny detachment of the Punjab Regiment in order to supervise the so called oil denial measures. These measures included the filling in of all the oil wells with concrete and these were done in September 1941. All the remaining equipment and installations were also destroyed. These were done soon after the attacks on Kota Bahru in Peninsular Malaya and also on Pearl Harbour, America. [Source: Rozan Yunos, Brunei Times, June 29, 2008 *-*]

“According to AVM Horton in his paper entitled The British Residency in Brunei 1906 to 1959 published in 1984 by the Centre for South East Asia Studies, Hull University, the Japanese concluded an agreement with Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin regarding the administration of Brunei. Inche Ibrahim (later Pehin Datu Perdana Menteri Dato Laila Utama Awang Haji Ibrahim) who was the Secretary to the British Resident before the war, was also appointed as the Chief Administrative Officer or State Secretary acting under a Japanese Governor. In his book entitled Brunei Days, TS Monks who was one of the first post-war administrators, described how Pehin Ibrahim managed to hide a number of important state documents including documents related to land titles as well as convinced the Japanese of the need to have records of the past. *-*

“During the Japanese administration, the Japanese reorganised Brunei's administration. Brunei became one of five Japanese Prefectures in the former British Borneo or Kalimantan Utara. The Brunei Prefecture included Baram, Labuan, Lawas and Limbang which were all former Brunei territories. This was the only time during modern times that all these territories were recombined to form one Brunei. His Majesty Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin retained his throne during the War and was bestowed with a pension and Japanese honours. However, he had very little to do with the Japanese during the occupation. Together with the royal family, he left Brunei to stay at a temporary palace at Tantuya in Limbang towards the end of World War II. In contrast, most of the Malay government officers stayed put at their posts. According to a Colonial Office paper, they retained their salaries under the Japanese government. They, together with Pehin Ibrahim, tried to provide as best an effective government machinery as they could. *-*

“The Japanese kept control of the coastal areas and riverine settlements. Occasionally soldiers of the 37th Army did send infrequent patrols inland, but they made no real attempt to try to bring the interior part under the Japanese. The Japanese also tried to bring back into operation both the Seria and Miri Oilfields. About 16 wells were successfully operated. By the time of the surrender, they had brought output back to half pre-War productions. In Muara, the Japanese also tried to bring back coal production but these were fairly unsuccessful. *-*

“Dr Reece in his book The Name of Brooke: The End of the White Rajah Rule in Sarawak published in 1982 further described the efforts done by the Japanese. These included creating community councils and women's organisation (Kaum Ibu). A number of Bruneians were trained in Japan including Pengiran Yusuf (later YAM Pengiran Setia Negara Pengiran Haji Mohd Yusuf). Pengiran Yusuf was in Hiroshima when the Americans obliterated the city with an atomic bomb. He survived the bombing and in his latter career became the State Secretary and Chief Minister of Brunei. *-*

“The Japanese tried to stir up anti-European sentiments among the students and adults in Brunei. Japanese language was taught in schools and government officers were required to learn Japanese in night classes. There was not much infrastructure development during WWII except for the first airport runaway in Brunei. This was built during the Japanese occupation at the current Old Airport Government Buildings Complex. After the end of the war, despite being heavily shelled by the Allied Forces, that runaway was repaired and improved by the Allies, and a proper airport was built. *-*

“Horton described that the Japanese, despite being occupiers, were not "too much hated" by the people though it was "very dangerous if one did not toe their line". The Japanese were seen as "harsh" and "drove the workers hard", but were "well-disciplined" and "did not molest the local women". During the early stages of the occupation, the Kempetai (Japanese Military Police) did not execute anyone but they were greatly feared. *-*

“In general, the Japanese left the public largely alone. A British Military Administration (BMA), the new body taking over after the war, described that "after the invasion, the Japanese attempted to carry on the former machinery of government, but there was soon a complete breakdown in the methods of administration". The report also described that no attempt was made by Japanese to carry out or maintain public works. They relied on such revenues as they could by granting gambling licenses and monopolies of trade. The Japanese brought in a new currency popularly known by the locals as "duit pisang" (banana money) even though only the $10 note depicted a banana tree. The paper notes ranged from one cent to $1,000. By 1943, when the tide had turned against the Japanese, these notes became almost worthless. Towards the end of the war, the former benevolent Japanese Governor was replaced. The Japanese became increasingly paranoid and life for many Bruneians became harder and many chose to flee into the jungle. Stocks of everything from food to medicine ran out. All Bruneians had to make do, and some were even seen wearing bark from trees as their clothes. They suffered from malnutrition and endemic diseases. *-*

“From 1943, the Allied Forces attacked many ships and trade was at a standstill. As the Allied advanced, the Japanese turned Brunei Bay and Labuan as a naval base. But allied bombing rendered the base useless. On June 10, 1945, the Australians landed at Muara under "Operation Oboe" to recapture Brunei. They were supported by American air and naval units. Brunei Town was captured in three days after a heavy bombing campaign by the Allied Forces which virtually destroyed and flattened the city including the Mosque. The only thing left standing was a Chinese Temple, then located at the river front wharf. The British Military Administration took over from the Japanese and stayed on until July 1946. It was not until September 1946 that the British Resident returned back to Brunei.” *-*

Brunei in the 1950s and Early 1960s

Following World War II, it was Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien, the true architect of modern Brunei, who set Brunei on its course to modernization. Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien reigned from 1950 to 1967. The resumption of civilian rule after World War II witnessed a gradual loosening of Imperial controls. In the 1950s Brunei was declared a self-governing state, while Great Britain took care of foreign affairs, security and defence. An amendment to the protectorate agreement on 29th September 1959, introduced the first written Constitution, ended the residential system and established an elected legislature with modern ministerial government. [Source: Royal Ark]

Although there had been hopes during the late 1950s and early 1960s that Brunei would join Malaysia, the Sultan consistently remained aloof from all overtures. The sultanate advanced rapidly as oil production expanded and revenues increased during the 1960s. This brought unwelcome interest from Indonesia, already engaged in "confrontation" with Malaysia with the aim of annexing the resource rich states of Sarawak and Sabah.

Seria oil field was developed further in 1940 and production had risen to 17,000 barrels per day. Despite extensive damage to the field caused in World War II, post war production peaked to 15,000 barrels per day.

Brunei Revolt in December 1962

In the 1960s, Indonesia supported an attempted revolution in Brunei and railed against British imperialism there. In 1962, an armed rebellion linked to Indonesia was put down in Sultan of Brunei. President Sukarno of Indonesia supported a left wing inspired rural insurrection against the Brunei government. Although flying in police units from British North Borneo and Gurkhas from Malaya swiftly put this down, a hidden jungle campaign continued throughout Borneo for several subsequent years. British troops led by a Gurkha contingent together with the Brunei police and the new Royal Brunei Malay Regiment, saw-off these erstwhile "liberators". Unfortunately, the experience proved a watershed for democratic reform. The experiment with democracy was ended and the legislature dissolved.

Prof. Michael Leigh wrote in the New Strait Times, “On the night of Dec 8, 1962, simultaneous attacks were launched against the government and police throughout Brunei, in Limbang and down as far as Sibuti in Sarawak. Why such violence? In the most recent elections, the Parti Rakyat Brunei (PRB) swept all but one of the elected seats in the Brunei legislature, and expected the win would lead to legislative and executive power. The sultan, his British advisers and the Malayan government were not happy with PRB exercising real power in Brunei. So, the sultan kept postponing any meeting of the legislature, and meanwhile, was actively discussing the terms under which Brunei would become part of the proposed Malaysian federation. PRB was opposed to that policy, and firmly committed to a Borneo Federation of Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo, with Brunei’s sultan as the constitutional monarch of “Bornesia”. [Source: Professor Michael Leigh, New Strait Times, September 13, 2014 \~\]

“Frustrated, a number of PRB members commenced military training in the jungles of Brunei and in the Lawas district of Sarawak. Their armed wing, Tentara Nasional Kalimantan Utara (TNKU), obtained a small supply of weapons from various sources. For the PRB, the constitutional path remained blocked, and they feared that security powers would shortly be handed to a new Malaysian government, as was the British intention in Singapore. Influential PRB members then planned to forcibly take over power in Brunei, and adjacent areas of Sarawak and North Borneo (Sabah), and to do so during celebrations on Christmas Eve — when it was assumed that the British would be least capable of responding! Arrests of TNKU leaders in Lawas precipitated the early action and the revolt did not go as planned. Capturing the sultan was key to success, as was his cooperation, but PRB failed to reach him. Instead, the sultan was surrounded by expatriates, and with their encouragement, he requested British military assistance to defeat the rebellion.\~\

“Greg Poulgrain, in his book, The Genesis Of Confrontation, sees that revolt in the context of broader British strategy to undermine President Sukarno. He accords a more manipulative and Machiavellian role to the UK in the abortive revolt, but I think he gives too much credit to British intelligence. However, there is still much to be discovered about the events of December 1962. After some significant casualties, especially in Seria and Limbang, the Brunei revolt was suppressed, but it sent shockwaves throughout Sarawak.” \~\

Impact of the 1962 Brunei Revolt

Prof. Michael Leigh wrote in the New Strait Times, “The government immediately gazetted a range of emergency powers and gave wide publicity to these new threats of violence. Newspapers were proscribed, political activists arrested and held without trial, and the participation in the revolt of many Malay and Kedayan Sarawak United Peoples PARTY (SUPP) members, especially those in the Sibuti area, was widely publicised. Following the crackdown, there was a steady flow of young Chinese communist cadres across to West Kalimantan, training in preparation for armed struggle. TNKU was headed by a highly influential Sarawak Malay leader. [Source: Professor Michael Leigh, New Strait Times, September 13, 2014 \~\]

“This threat to public order had a decisive impact on public opinion in Sarawak and was crucial in swinging Dayak opinion in favour of Malaysia. No longer was it easy to argue that Sarawak should continue as it was, or seek independence just on its own — as SUPP had been arguing. With the welter of government publicity, there was a groundswell either toward active support for the idea of federation or the passive view that Malaysia was a better option than Indonesia.The Sarawak government made much of the links between PRB leader Azahari and Indonesia, even though it has since been shown that top Indonesian security officials had no confidence in Azahari’s ability to work strategically. \~\

“The government trumpeted clear that the simple choice for Sarawakians was a promising future in Malaysia. Radio Sarawak, beamed throughout the state, gave considerable publicity to resignations of native members of SUPP, and certain government officers pressured influential Dayaks to abandon their membership and support for SUPP, stressing the themes of communist influence and subversion. Just the month before statewide elections in Sarawak, credibility was given to government arguments when Indonesian “volunteers” attacked the Tebedu police station, seizing weapons and killing officers — including the brother of Sarawak’s future first chief minister.” \~\

Brunei Revolt and the Indonesian ‘Konfrontasi’

Prof. Michael Leigh wrote in the New Strait Times, “That was the start of the Indonesian armed konfrontasi against Malaysia. One might well argue that the title Bapa Malaysia should be held jointly by Tunku Abdul Rahman and President Sukarno, for without Indonesia’s support for the PRB and commencement of armed confrontation, it is quite unlikely that a majority of Sarawak’s Council Negri would have supported Sarawak making Malaysia. [Source: Professor Michael Leigh, New Strait Times, September 13, 2014 \~\]

“The actual outcome from the 1963 District Council elections was much, much closer than many care to remember. The actual votes cast gave the SUPP/Parti Negara Sarawak (Panas) coalition 35.7 per cent, the Alliance 34.2 per cent and Independents 30.2 per cent. In 1963, the composition of the Council Negri was based on a three-tiered system, with each district council selecting members of the Divisional Advisory Councils (DAC). They would then chose who would represent them in the Council Negri. At each level it was “winner takes all”. Whether the Alliance would carry the day was actually in doubt until the last minute. That was because Panas and SUPP had formed a coalition, a link based upon pragmatism, not ideology. Panas and its leader, Datu Bandar, were savagely attacked for “selling out the Malays”. \~\

“Intervention of the Malayan Alliance added ferocity to that attack and the intense hostility between the top leaders of Barisan Rakyat Jati Sarawal (BARJASA) and Panas became both personal and political. After polling, the SUPP-Panas coalition controlled the 1st DAC and only needed to win a majority in the 3rd DAC in order to nominate 21 of the 36 elected members of Council Negri. In the 3rd DAC, the Alliance and the coalition had secured 10 votes. The outcome swung on the support of one independent member of the Binatang District Council, who held the pivotal swing vote (see Leigh: Rising Moon p 75-76 for the story of how that vote was won). \~\

“Had the Panas/SUPP coalition then won the 3rd DAC, with the support of just one of four Mukah independents, they would have gained control of the Council Negri. The Panas/SUPP coalition agreement, signed by their respective leaders, stipulated that the United Nations conduct a referendum before the implementation of Malaysia. Had that agreement held, it is doubtful that the Tunku would have waited for a favourable outcome, given the international and domestic pressures bearing heavily upon his government, and his absolute refusal to merge with Singapore prior to the inclusion of the Borneo states.” \~\

Konfrontasi

Indonesia opposed the Federation of Malaysia. For a number of years it supported guerilla attacks against Sarawak, Sabah and Malaya. In 1960, the northern states of Borneo, , which bordered on Indonesian Kalimantan, were somewhat reluctant to join Malaysia. Indonesian President Sukarno saw himself as the true leader of the Malay people. Indonesia supported an attempted revolution in Brunei and railed against British imperialism. The Indonesian army increased its budget. British forces provided assistance to Malaysia in their fight against the Indonesians. A brief war—known as Confrontation (Konfrontasi) —soon involved Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and China and eventually settled rival claims in Borneo.

The Indonesian government led by Sukarno contended that the new federation of Malaysia was a neocolonialist plan to prevent Indonesia and Malaysia from combining into a Greater Malaysia, an entity that Malaysian leaders had previously supported. Soon after the Federation of Malaysia was established, Indonesia attempted to spark a popular revolt in the fledgling country by engaging in acts of terrorism and armed confrontation in various places. However, these actions strengthened popular support for Malaysia, and in 1964 Australia, Britain, and New Zealand sent troops and military aid to Malaysia.

Sukarno was backed by the powerful Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI). Indonesia backed a Communist insurgency in Sarawak, mainly involving elements of the local Chinese community. The Indonesian army mounted offensives along the Kalimantan–Malaysia border and the PKI demonstrated in the streets in Jakarta. Indonesian irregular forces were infiltrated into Sarawak, where they were contained by Malaysian and Commonwealth of Nations forces.

On September 23, 1963, Sukarno, who had proclaimed himself President-for-Life, declared that Indonesia must "gobble Malaysia raw." Military units infiltrated Malaysian territory but were intercepted before they could establish contact with local dissidents. When the UN General Assembly elected Malaysia as a nonpermanent member of the Security Council in December 1964, Sukarno took Indonesia out of the world body and promised the establishment of a new international organization, the Conference of New Emerging Forces (Conefo), a fitting end, perhaps, for 1964, which Sukarno had called "A Year of Living Dangerously."

The period of Konfrontasi—an economic, political, and military confrontation—lasted until the downfall of Sukarno in 1966. An abortive coup attempt in 1965 forced Sukarno to step down, and on August 11, 1966, Indonesia and Malaysia signed a peace treaty.

Brunei Before Independence

Brunei's 1959 constitution provided for a 33 seat parliament with 16 directly-elected members. The elected body was disbanded in 1962 by the present Sultan's father after voters backed the left-wing Brunei People's Party. After that the sultan declared a state of emergency that is still in place. Subsequent demands for greater democracy and the abolition of the monarchy were rejected and the armed revolt that followed was crushed with British military help. [Source: BBC]

In 1967, the 28th Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Omar 'Ali Saif ud-din, the architect of the modern revival of Brunei's fortunes, abdicated in favour of his eldest son. According to Royal Ark: “However, as in the sultanate of old, the Begawan Sultan as he was known after his abdication, continued to wield considerable power and influence until his death. His son, the 29th Sultan of Brunei,Sultan Hassan al-Bolkiah, only gradually emerged from his father's guidance in the 1980s. Nevertheless, the two Sultans negotiated complete internal self-government on 23rd November 1971. The British would have preferred to see the sultanate join Malaysia or else become independent, but neither sultan were keen to see them go quite yet. [Source: Royal Ark]

In 1967, Brunei issued its own currency. In 1967, the 28th Sultan, His Highness Sir Muda Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien (Al-Marhum Sultan HajiOmar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien) voluntary abdicated. In 1968, the coronation of His Majesty The Sultan Hassan al-Bolkiah and Yang Di-Pertuan took place. In 1970, the state capital, Brunei Town, was renamed Bandar Seri Begawan. In 1971, the 1959 Agreement was amended and brought up-to-date. In 1974, Brunei International Airport opened. In 1975, the launch of Royal Brunei Airlines. In 1979, Brunei and Britain signed the Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation

Brunei Becomes an Independent State

Brunei was originally supposed to be part of the Federation of Malaysia along with Malaysia, Singapore, Sarawak and Northern Borneo. Brunei withdrew from the Federation of Malaysia in 1963 to form its own state. One problem with the defection was the recently crowned Miss Malaysia, Catherine Loh, was from Brunei and she was expected to preside over independence ceremonies.

Brunei became a fully sovereign, independent state on January 1, 1984 as the sultanate somewhat reluctantly agreed to full independence from Britain and became a full member of the Commonwealth. Sultan Sir Hassanal Bolkiah, celebrated the event on a monumental level by building a US$350 million palace. He declared Negara Brunei Darussalam ("Brunei, The Abode of Peace") as a sovereign, democratic and independent Malay Muslim Monarchy (Melayu Islam Beraja) which would be administered according to the teachings of Islam. Brunei was under a decades-long state of emergency before and after independence.

In 1984, Brunei joined ASEAN, OIC and the United Nations. In 1985, the University of Brunei Darussalam was formed. In 1986, Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, His Majesty's father, the 28th Sultan, died.

Brunei Under the Sultan of Brunei

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the 29th ruler of his line, has led his nation into the forefront of regional and Islamic states. According to to Royal Ark: “His people enjoy a standard of living, educational, health and other benefits, unrivalled almost anywhere on the planet. The former Brunei Town, renamed Bandar Seri Begawan in honour of his revered father, has changed out of all recognition from the sleepy water-town of old. It now boasts some magnificent buildings and monuments of world architectural merit. In recent years, the experiment in democracy that had been abandoned after the rebellion of 1960, has been revived. The Asian financial crisis of the 1990s has long passed, and the recent sharp rise in world oil prices has returned the sultanate to a period of economic boom. [Source: Royal Ark]

During the reign of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the 29th Sultan of Brunei, a fast-paced modernization program, building upon the nation’s oil wealth, has resulted in a noted improvement in quality of life for all Bruneians. Now leading the nation into the 21st century, His Majesty’s government is responsible for the booming construction and infrastructure expansions which have turned Brunei into one of Southeast Asia’s most developed nations. Attracting foreign investment, improving the nation’s human resources base, and tourism development are all measures that His Majesty and the government are promoting to prepare the nation for the challenges of the future, when oil and gas reserves will have been depleted and a diversified economy will be needed to maintain the high standards of living currently enjoyed by the Bruneian people. [Source: Brunei Tourism ~]

In 1998 the sultan’s son, Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah, was proclaimed heir to the throne and began preparing for the role as Brunei’s next ruler and 30th sultan. That preparation included the 30-year-old prince’s wedding in September 2004 to 17-year-old Sarah Salleh, in a ceremony attended by thousands of guests. While Brunei may not be facing the same promise of prosperity that existed when the current sultan took the throne in 1967, it’s clear that the sultan sees the crown prince’s careful apprenticeship as crucial for the continuing (and absolute) rule of the monarchy.

There was a whiff of reform in November 2004 when the sultan amended the constitution to allow for the first parliamentary elections in 40 years. However, only one-third of parliamentarians will be publicly elected and the rest will still be hand-picked by the sultan, when and if the election ever happens (Bruneians are still waiting). In February 2007, Brunei joined Malaysia and Indonesia in signing a pledge to conserve and/or sustainably manage a 220,000-sq-km tract of rainforest in the heart of Borneo.

In 1987. University of Brunei Darussalam opened. In 1988, the Malay Technology Museum opened. In 1989, the first convocation of University Brunei Darussalam took place. In 1990, the first Al-Hafiz of Brunei Darussalam occurred. In 1991, the Brunei Islamic Trust Fund (TAIB) was set up. In 1992, Brunei joined Non Aligned Movements (NAM). In 1992, the Silver Jubilee of the reign of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam was celebrated.

Sultan of Brunei Reopens Parliament

In 2004, the Sultan of Brunei reopened Brunei’s parliament—the the Legislative Council—for the first time in 20 years. Brunei has not had an elected body since 1962. The BBC reported: “Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah described the move as a "cautious" reform and warned the legislative council against making "mistakes". "Its existence is not designed to spark chaos and apprehension among the community," the Sultan said in a speech to the 21 appointed members. He abolished parliament in 1984 after Brunei gained independence from the UK. [Source: BBC, September 25, 2004 >>>]

“The Sultan said he had reconvened parliament to "enhance co-operation" with the people. But he warned: "Any mistakes carries risk that takes time to ameliorate. As such, we begin this process with caution. " There was no reference to elections. The council was also expected to discuss changes to the state's 1959 constitution. >>>

“The nature of the constitutional amendments has not been disclosed but the BBC's Jonathan Kent in Kuala Lumpur says the Sultanate has to plan for a future without oil, the country's main source of wealth. Experts predict the state's reserves could run out in around 20 years. The country also faces rising unemployment as its population grows.” >>>

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vanity Fair magazine, Brunei Tourism, Prime Minister's Office, Brunei Darussalam, Government of Brunei Darussalam, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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