By M K Anwar
Forty years ago today could easily be the most historic day in Negara Brunei Darussalam. It was the day when this country, still in its infancy, saw a ruler being given the task to oversee its development that later led to its present prosperity. The ruler who is now called the Caring Monarch became the gatekeeper of the heritage, the guide of the nation and the savior of its citizens.
His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, the eldest son of the then ruling monarch and who became Crown Prince in 1961, ascended the Throne on October 5, 1967, following the voluntary abdication of Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien.
With it saw the continuation of the royal genealogy that dates back 600 years when Sultan Muhammad Shah, the first Islamic Sultan of Brunei, held the throne.
Forty years since, Brunei under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Hj Hassanal Bolkiah has grown exponentially into prominence.
"I shall endeavour to carry out the policies laid down by my father and make every effort towards maintaining peace, tranquility and prosperity of the country as well as enhance the quality of the life of the people," said His Majesty in his first ever titah on his appointment as the Sultan. He was only 21 years old.
The responsibilities entrusted to him at an early age were enormous. Yet His Majesty courageously mastered these over the years, thanks to the guiding hands of his father who helped him during the early years of his reign.
Brunei gained Independence in 1984 and from then on the policies and efforts by His Majesty's Government have done valiantly for the people of this tiny kingdom.
In an age of ever increasing modernity and advancements, the targets were multifold, improving relationships in the international arena and most importantly for the welfare and standards of the people in the country; His Majesty has promoted a vision which far exceeds his previous ancestors.
One cannot truly imagine the progress the country has achieved. We are now members of regional and international associations and organisations. Bilateral relations with foreign countries have been strengthened and enhanced at the same time.
The legacy left by his father who was known, as "The Architect of Modern Brunei" was not forgotten.
During the titah to commemorate the 22nd National Day this year, the monarch highlighted the efforts by Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien in developing the nation and country.
The efforts by Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien to develop the nation has no comparison and that it was made without thinking about himself or even any pressure from any parties.
"The path towards generating prosperity must be continued," His Majesty often said.
His Majesty's concern over the well being of his subjects is even more evident. Countless visits, many of it unannounced, at Government ministries and departments have shown the high priority of the ruler to ensure efficient machinery is in place to support good governance.
Something unique that is present in His Majesty is the willingness to "turun padang" and see for himself any complaints that might have come about.
Every visit made by His Majesty have borne fruit and further improvement followed. It is this attention to minute details sparked up by His Majesty that always earns the highest respect and honour from the people.
In an increasingly competitive era, His Majesty's concern towards the welfare of the nation continues. This is even more evident especially in the field of employment.
Citing statistics, unemployment among the locals in the country should not exist, the monarch once noted.
Touching further on the issues of unemployment, the concerned Monarch said that the government has given the chance to everyone to acquire working skills and entrepreneurial experience that will improve their mobility. This is an important investment that can provide a whole range of benefits.
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in his New Year 2006 Titah said that the nation should explore more possibilities in the field of employment.
"Brunei, like the rest of the world as a whole, is not spared from facing economic challenges. To answer such challenges, my government will continue to diversify the country's economy whilst at the same time stepping-up efforts to increase private sector revenues," he said.
And in January last year, His Majesty consented for the allocation of $250 million to establish a special fund to implement various programmes to strengthen the human resource development in the country.
The special fund called the Human Resources Fund Project is the first of its kind in the country and will compliment and complete the National Development Plan, which only focuses on the country's physical infrastructural development.
Another important aim is to achieve full employment and lowering unemployment as well as reducing the country's dependencies on foreign workers.
In January, to welcome the new year 2007, His Majesty announced the establishment of an Islamic University called the Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali which in effect will be the second university in the Sultanate.
The establishment of this university is expected to be a symbol of Islamic glory in the country and hopefully will also play a role in producing Muslim scholars and intellectuals that the nation needs.
Meanwhile, welcoming the new Hijrah 1428, His Majesty announced the upgrading of Seri Begawan Religious Teachers College to that of a University College.
The religious teaching institution said His Majesty is very crucial to the nation and that it, should not be neglected, but nurtured and widened.
"In this country, one of the teaching institutions that needed to be upgraded and developed was the Seri Begawan Religious Teachers College, judging by its age, which reached more than 30 years.
"The objective of its establishment is to produce a local religious teaching workforce, for us not to be dependent on foreign workforce".
On July 15, 2004, in an exciting moment in the history of Brunei, His Majesty in his birthday Titah announced that the Legislative Council would be revitalised after it had been suspended in 1984.
At the same time, His Majesty stated that a committee to review the 1959 Constitution had identified some amendments to be made to the Constitution and other laws.
During the reconvening of the meeting, His Majesty noted that it was a beginning of a process that His Majesty had dreamed to see.
The reconvening brought back a new dimension in the government and also the management of its people.
This is only just some of the achievements made within the 40-year time span. Indeed Brunei has come a long way to what it has become now.
Infrastructures have been widely developed. There now more schools, and health and public facilities than ever which all contribute to the welfare of the nation as a whole.
Education has tremendously improved and is being provided free for everyone.
This indeed has produced immense benefits. For instance Brunei enjoys a literacy rate of over 95 per cent, which is among the top countries in the world in terms of education.
To reminisce over His Majesty's first ever titah, his words certainly resounds with greater meaning today.
His Majesty has kept his word, in thought and deed. And we are most grateful.
- Borneo Bulletin
(5th Oct 2007)