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  • MBRAS Visit to Bandar Seri Begawan
  • Neil Khor

Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of the Sultanate of Brunei, is located on Borneo Island. The Society last organized a visit to Brunei in 1981; the late Tun Mohammad Suffian led that delegation.

Brunei, independent since 1983, is an integral member of the MBRAS. HH Pengiran Muda Mohamed Bolkiah, the country's Foreign Minister, is a patron of the Society. Brunei is represented on the Council by PM Dato' Shariffudin, a Vice President of the Society.

This time, the 11-member delegation was led by our President Tun Hanif Omar and organized by PM Dato' Shariffuddin. The delegation was met at the Brunei International Airport and very generously accommodated at the Radisson Hotel by our Brunei hosts.

On the first night, a welcome dinner was held in the home of Dato' Shariffuddin, in a leafy suburb some 15 minutes from the centre of town. It was a great opportunity for the Council to meet the Society's Brunei members, including Cabinet ministers, senior civil servants, academics and business leaders. The highlight of the dinner, which was a lavish affair, included tropical fruits of a very high quality. This writer, for example, has never tasted better rambutans and pulasan anywhere in the Malaysian region.

The following day started with a tour of the country's important institutions and historical sites. These included the Islamic Museum, which is also the Kathi's office. The museum's collection of the Holy Qur'an is both fascinating and wide-ranging—not only in the physical size but also in its historical production, script, illumination and styles. The exhibition highlights the range and breath of Islamic traditions with a special focus on Southeast Asian Muslim communities.

The visit to the museum was followed by a visit to the Royal Gallery dedicated to HRH the Sultan of Brunei, his coronation and the royal traditions associated with the Brunei court. The exhibits are well maintained with careful descriptions about the history of the Brunei Royal lineage, one of the oldest in the region. Interestingly, gifts from all over the world are elegantly displayed in an extensive gallery on the first floor.

Finally, the tour ended with a visit to the floating village, the proto-typical dwelling of old Brunei. Here, well-maintained houses linked by a series of jetties and a modern sewerage system are another symbol of the peoples' seafaring roots. Bandar Seri Begawan, it must be recalled, began in these humble dwellings before modern town planning arrived in the late nineteenth century.

These visits gave us an interesting insight into the three key aspects of the country's national philosophy, which is predicated upon Malay heritage, Islam and the monarchy. Lunch was followed by a public talk organized by the Society given by HE Pehin Dato Dr Haji Abdul Aziz Umar, Brunei's last colonial Chief Minister and its first Education Minister. He was among the country's 'founding leaders', Western-educated Bruneians who had the opportunity to contribute to their country after independence. [End Page 89]

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Fig. 1.

MBRAS Council members 2012 (From left, back-row: Dr Joseph Fernando, Dr Cheah Boon Kheng, Dato' H.S. Barlow, Tun Mohammad Hanif Omar, Dr. Paul Kratoska, Dr Loh Wei Leng, Dr Neil Khor, Dato' R. Sethu; (front row, from left): Dr Badriyah Haji Salleh, Mr Woo Kum Wah, Ms Patricia Regis, Datin Kobkua S. Pian, Datin Sethu and PM Dato' Shariffudin).

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Fig. 2.

Tun Hanif Omar, MBRAS President, being briefed about the Brunei Royal family by PM Dato' Shariffudin (back to the camera).

[End Page 90]

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Fig. 3.

A replica of HRH Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's coronation carriage in the Royal Regalia Museum, which was built to commemorate the Sultan's Silver Jubilee.

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Fig 4.

A view of the Kampung Ayer that the council visited. This traditional water village is fitted out with modern waste-management systems and features schools as well as other public amenities.

Dr Abdul Aziz's public lecture on the MIB policy is published in this...


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