THE struggle for the restoration of Brunei Darussalam’s sovereignty and MIB values was taken up by KMB and BARIP after World War II. Bruneian nationalists explored various means of direct confrontation with the British Empire, but Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam decided to take a diplomatic approach and negotiate with the British government for the restoration of Bruneian sovereignty.
Al-Marhum was aware of the desire to achieve independence through forceful methods. At the same time, he was contemplating several alternatives, as Bruneian youths lacked the necessary experience and skills in modern administration, politics, economics, diplomacy, education and religious matters.
Al-Marhum realised that reforms were needed, and that it was up to him as a leader to face the imposing task of modernising Brunei.
As a visionary leader with strong ideals, Al-Marhum’s efforts were well received by the citizens of Brunei, particularly on the importance of education and how it could lead to positive changes in the country.
With the ascendancy of Al-Marhum to the throne on June 4, 1950, several policies were put into place to restore Brunei’s status as a country with MIB values. Through the First National Development Plan (RKN) of 1954-1959, the development of the country’s infrastructure – mosques, schools, community halls, offices and governmental housing, healthcare and communication – was among the first steps taken towards that goal.
Socio-economic and politic development were the main initiatives of the First RKN, which was carried out with the help of Eric R Bevington, from the British Colonial Office in Fiji and appointed as the Development Commissioner to Brunei in 1954. Nearly $100 million was invested for the implementation of the First RKN.
With the country’s welfare and prosperity in mind, the programme was engineered to raise the standards of physical and spiritual development in Brunei. It paved the way towards independence, and even tapped into social, religious and cultural aspects as well.
Al-Marhum’s rationale helped him to shape a strategy that could unite the people and raise Brunei’s socio-economic status. This in turn led to the advancement of education, by sending local youths to Singapore, Malaysia, Egypt and the United Kingdom, to acquire the skills and knowledge for government posts once Brunei was fully independent.
In his youth, Al-Marhum pursued further studies at the Kuala Kangsar College in Perak, from 1932 to1936, and later served at the Forestry Department in Kuala Belait for three months. It gave him the opportunity to learn and experience the life of a commoner, in addition to understanding the nature of Brunei’s rainforests and vegetation. The experiences drove him to build a policy for the improvement of the people and the country.
As observed by an article on Al-Marhum:
“His Royal Highness Prince Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien, now officially known as Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, returned from the Malay College Kuala Kangsar in Perak. He immediately joined as a cadet officer in the Forestry Departement. During his service, he undertook manual tasks such as digging trenches and cutting forest undergrowth. For his first assignment, he was sent to Bukit Puan where he took the working tools for himself to join ranks with the labourers.”
Al-Marhum’s working experiences, before assuming the formal duties of a Sultan, had helped him to understand the complexities and limitations faced by ordinary people. During the Japanese Occupation, Al-Marhum was assigned as an analyst for the ‘Civil Procedure Code And Criminal Procedure Code’, a regulation based on the state laws of Kedah and Terengganu.
Al-Marhum also worked together with Ibrahim bin Mohammad Jaafar, to manage the welfare of the people in Kampong Sungai Kedayan, an experience which shaped his ideals in the development of post-war Brunei. Similarly, the dark days of the Japanese Occupation formed his leadership methods as ‘the Sultan with the common touch’ (Sultan yang berjiwa rakyat).
Al-Marhum’s focus on welfare began in 1953, with the introduction of the Brunei Written Constitution (Perlembangan Bertulis Negeri Brunei) to ensure the security and preservation of Brunei as a country with Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) values.
The initiative was supported by R H Hickling, an expert in British law, who prepared a paper on the need for political development in Brunei, based on reports compiled by members of the ‘Tujuh Serangkai’ Committee.
For the past 60 years, many policies have been put into place, which is the enduring legacy from Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien for the people and residents of Brunei Darussalam. These policies were established to guarantee peace, harmony and prosperity for the people, as stated in the titah of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, on October 5, 1967:
“…As Sultan, I will continue to strive towards achieving the ideals of my father in preserving the country’s peace, harmony and stability; in ensuring the prestige of Brunei Darussalam, by raising the living standards of the people through various schemes and projects which were started by my father. By the grace of Allah the Almighty, I will also protect and defend the religion of Islam, and Brunei’s traditional values.”
We should never forget that Al-Marhum and His Majesty have defended these ideals since World War II. This move was accepted by the British Government in the talks leading to the 1959 Constitution of Brunei (Perlembagaan Negeri Brunei). It was also agreed that Brunei should maintain her status as a Malay Islamic Monarchy, in 1957.
To ensure the integrity of the country’s main pillar, His Majesty has announced that MIB is and will always be Brunei’s philosophical basis. His firm conviction of MIB as a gift from Allah the Almighty, for the citizens and residents of Brunei, is currently being implemented towards achieving Brunei Vision 2035.
The MIB concept has been the basis of all Al-Marhum’s policies, including those on education, free healthcare, monthly allowances for the underprivileged and housing projects.
These privileges are still being enjoyed by the people of Brunei, under the leadership of His Majesty who has spent 49 years on the throne, continuing the legacy of his late father for the good of the people, as pledged 32 years ago in a titah:
“With the guidance and leave of Allah the Almighty, I will continue to work for the peace, security, welfare and happiness of my subjects.”
As citizens and residents of Brunei, we should always be thankful for what has been granted upon us from Allah the Almighty and the judicious leadership of His Majesty.
Dr. Haji Muhammad Hadi bin Muhammad Melayong
Senior Special Duties Officer