Explore other resources to avoid foreign dependency
By Azlan Othman & Lyna Mohammad

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday spoke on the need for the nation to explore and develop sectors like agriculture and not to be dependent on outsiders in the wake of uncertain political climate and natural factors.

In delivering the titah at the first session of the second leg of the State Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting at the International Convention Centre yesterday, the monarch said the state budget expenditure would be one of the main agendas of the meeting.

Also present were His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, and HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"For the first time in the session, the Council will discuss the state budget expenditure. This will be an opportunity for members to air their views. I am confident they are capable of carrying out their responsibilities. As members, they should not be afraid.

"Instead they should position themselves for the interest of the people and the nation. If they are able to do this, then it will be a big achievement for the nation and for the future of the Council, which we are hoping for.

"Hence, hopes are high on members, not only as good deliverers for the government and the people but also as exemplary thinkers for the society," the Sultan said.

His Majesty said the State Legislative Council brings an open message that the government and the subjects are working hand in hand in upholding the elements of the system.

"This method brings many benefits. Through consultation, we actually open up ways and enrich ourselves with new ideas and experiences.

"This is the platform that I prefer, because from it I get the inspiration to make numerous visits to districts and villages. Through this, I am able to get close to them and share their experiences and hopes.

"The State Legislative Council plays a role like any other council. It serves as an advisory body for me on matters relating to the interest of the people and the nation. Views and opinions expressed by the members should be in a constructive manner to achieve consensus," the Sultan added.

"Today is the first session of the meeting for the State Legislative Council members who have just been appointed. It houses 29 members, with five representatives from the four districts.

"The expansion of members is in line with the constitution and my aspiration to give ample opportunities to the subjects to express their views. I am confident that the appointed members will play their roles rightly," said the ruler.

Touching on the subject of Council members, His Majesty said the people and the nation will always focus their attention on them as they have become the representatives for national unity and good ethics. They are the front liners in upholding religion, laws as well as customs and traditions.

"The constitutional development is a process that needs to be reviewed from time to time, while implementing it properly. I would also monitor its process and decide the direction and authenticity as stated.

"I would also monitor the flow of the State Legislative Council while at the same time review its effect on the life of the people. One of the main agendas is to discuss the state's budget expenditure that will be viewed from different angles, especially financial planning and the country's source of income," said His Majesty.

Speaking on the country's income, His Majesty said, "We are blessed with oil resources and have been an exporter through which we prosper and to which we should be thankful. However, we should not be complacent but be alert and practise the habit of saving.

"Efforts towards diversifying the country's economy are very crucial in the wake of global uncertainties. Besides oil and gas, we should explore other resources such as agriculture.

"We should not forever be dependent on outsiders. It is a big mistake when we take into account the unforeseen political and natural factors. In this context, the government and private sector should jointly support government efforts to diversify the economy. We should not be left behind further. We must be brave enough to explore and determined to avoid loss causing sluggishness," said the monarch.

The monarch hoped that the Council members would discuss diligently and earnestly so that decisions could be achieved as required.

Earlier, His Majesty received a royal salute and inspected a guard of honour mounted by personnel from the Royal Brunei Police Force. The Council will convene daily until March 22.

Earlier, the 29 members comprising 11 Cabinet Ministers, two from the nobility and one from the aristocracy, seven prominent figures who have achieved distinctions in business, religion and society, and five representatives from the four districts were sworn in. - Borneo Bulletin (16th Mar 2006)