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Monday, February 27, 2012
Brunei Smartest, Singapore Smarter, Sarawak Stupid, Sabah Most Stupid Beyond Redemption!! (Part-1. Brunei)
I don't have to be a Malaysian history expert or professor to talk about the formation of Malaysia. Tunku Abdul Rahman "invited" Brunei, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore to form "Federation of Malaysia" with Malaya. Therefore, Brunei, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore could have more privileges and special rights than "any of the states in Malaya", in short, they should not be deemed as just one of the states in the Federation of Malaysia, they ought to be treated as a "treaty-member" with Malaya!
Let's look at Brunei in Part-1:
The Brunei Sultanate would have ceased to exist as an independent state without Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saiffuddien.
In August 1963, Indonesia was opposing the proposed Federation of Malaysia and confronting Malaya and Singapore. Only eight months earlier, on 8 December 1962, Brunei had faced a revolt by Sheikh Azahari of the Partai Rakyat Brunei (PRB) and British forces from Singapore had flown in to put down the rebellion.
It was a time of great peril when the Sultan decided not to join the proposed Federation. Singapore went ahead and joined the Federation. Sultan Omar Ali was under great pressure from the British who had hinted that they would be leaving the region soon. But he stood firm.
He put his position as Sultan and the fate of his people on the line. His judgment was that the British would be responsible enough to give him some time to get his country in better shape before British forces left.
The late Sultan was a modest man. He was soft-spoken, with a frequent smile when speaking to his friends.
He lived a simple and frugal life.
On May 1961, Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Malayan Prime Minister, at an address to the Foreign
Correspondents Association in Singapore, mooted the formation of Malaysia, to include Brunei, Sarawak, North Borneo (subsequently to be named Sabah), Singapore and Malaya.
On 5 December 1961, Sultan Sir Omar Ali described the Malaysia proposal as very attractive. In January 1962, he appointed a Brunei-Malaysia Commission to report on the opinion of the people. On 18 July 1962, the Sultan stated that he accepted the Malaysia proposal in principal, but that did not necessarily mean it was final.
If agreement could not be reached on important conditions affecting benefits to the people and the state, Brunei would not participate in the Malaysia plan.
In August 1962, the Partai Rakyat Brunei (PRB) won a landslide election victory in four District Councils, which in turn would choose 16 members for the Legislative Council (LegCo). The PRB won 54 seats and had all the 16 members required for the LegCo.
But they could not form the government. The 17 government nominees outnumbered the PRB in the 33-member Council. Sheikh Azahari, leader of the PRB, rejected the proposal that Brunei join the proposed Malaysian Federation.
Azahari put forward three motions at the LegCo meeting, for 5 December 1962; first, to reject the proposal of a Malaysian Federation; second, to request the restoration of Brunei's sovereignty over Sarawak and North Borneo and the installation of the Sultan as constitutional monarch of the North Borneo Federation; and third, a request to the British to grant independence to Brunei not later than 1963.
The Speaker of the LegCo disallowed the motions because the issues fell within the purview of the British government under the 1959 British-Brunei Agreement. Sheikh Azahari, the PRB leader then decided to resort to a military solution and staged a rebellion led by its military wing, Tentera Nasional Kalimantan Utara (TNKU).
The revolt began on December 8. It was put down in short order by British forces flown in from Singapore.
On 20 December, Sultan Omar Ali declared a State of Emergency, suspended the Constitution, dissolved the LegCo, and appointed a 14-member Emergency Council comprising four ex-officio members, including the British High Commissioner, Sir Denis White, and 10 members nominated by the Sultan.
Negotiations on Malaysia were resumed in earnest following the end of the rebellion. The sultan did not accept the terms that Malaya offered him. When the Malaysia Agreement was signed on 9 July 1963 in London, Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak signed on. Brunei did not. He was very firm in his decision not to join. As a result, after Malaysia was formed on 16 September 1963, Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, recalled hundreds of Malaysian teachers and government officers seconded to serve the Brunei administration. Their departure caused a temporary dislocation in Brunei.
Several accounts were given to explain the reason for Brunei's decision not to join the Malaysian Federation. One account cited disagreement over oil revenues as the primary cause. Kuala Lumpur wanted Brunei to hand over control of its oil to the federal government after 10 years. Kuala Lumpur also wanted to immediately tax any new oil and mineral finds discovered after Brunei joined Malaysia and to make the Sultan's contribution of $40 million to the federal revenues compulsory rather than voluntary. The Sultan was said to have found these terms unacceptable.
Another account from Kuala Lumpur alluded to the Sultan's unhappiness over the issue of royal precedence.
Sir Omar was neither willing to compromise Brunei's control over its oil revenues nor ready to have his privileges as the Ruler of Brunei curtailed. More to the point, the vibes that Sultan Omar Ali felt during the negotiations were that he would become subordinate to Kuala Lumpur's leaders and he would rank behind Malaysian's nine Sultans in seniority, besides giving up a chunk of this oil wealth to KL. He met Lee Kuan Yuan soon after Singapore was asked to leave Malaysia in August 1965, he nodded with satisfaction that his decision not to join was wiser than Singapore's acceptance of Malaysia.
Just over two months after Malaysia was formed, on 1 December 1963, the British Colonial Office cut its long-term connection with Brunei. The British High Commissioner in Brunei, no longer called the British Resident, henceforth would deal with Secretary of State for Commonwealth.
When the Labour Government took office in 1964, it became clear that sooner or later they would withdraw their forces from east of Suez. This would jeopardise Brunei's secure position as a protectorate. British advisers pressed the Sultan to hasten the implementation of constitutional reforms so that there could be a democratic government in place. In March 1965, a second general election was held for District and Legislative Councillors. 36 candidates contested for 10 LegCo seats in the 21-member LegCo that would comprise six ex-officio members and five members nominated by the Sultan. 88 candidates fought for seats in four Districts Councils. A large number of candidates contesting under political parties were defeated by independents because the political parties were weak.
On 4 October 1967, Sultan Omar Ali, then aged only 53, abdicated in favour of his 21-year-old son, Hassanal Bolkiah, born on July 1946. It was a strategic move he made to buy time before a British withdrawal. Protracted negotiations with the British on Brunei's future continued following the abdication. The Sultan, now the Seri Begawan, dragged out the discussions. He wanted the son to get familiar with the administration. Moreover, his son was only 21 years old. He deflected pressure to adopt the British adversarial Parliamentary system.
He argued with the British that he needed a few years for the young Sultan to learn the ropes and strengthen the domestic situation ahead of any constitutional changes. He bought time from 1963 to 1983, over 20 years, when the British finally withdrew, and Brunei became an independent state. Without the skilful and determined stand taken by Sultan Omar Ali in the full knowledge that he was risking the future of his Sultanate if the British were to leave precipitately, he saved his dynasty, delayed majority rule before Brunei was ready, and secured Brunei's continued defence by an agreement to pay for one British Gurkha battalion that would stay in Brunei but under British control. A discreet presence remained.
The Seri Begawan has preserved Brunei's oil wealth. He left the bulk of his country's reserves with the Crown Agents to manage. He was fortunate that Britain acted with responsibility. Most of all, the Seri Begawan played his hand with considerable skill. He pleaded for time to educate enough local Bruneians who could manage the administration of the country.
Less than three years after independence, on 7 September, 1986, he passed away. He was deeply mourned by the people of Brunei. They knew that he had saved their independence and are able to live as they wish, keeping their oil wealth. It was Sir Omar's statecraft. He built the infrastructure of state. By the 1980s, he had given the sultanate's 200,000 people a high per capita income of US$20,000, among the world's most privileged. He strengthened Brunei's Islamic institutions.
Sultan Omar Ali took calculated risks with courage. He has a keen sense of what was politically possible. During the 17 years from 1950 to 1967, he brought economic, social and political developments to Brunei. With two Five-Year Development Plans, he provided for an education system throughout the state.
He built schools to teach English, gave scholarships to promising young students to study in overseas institutions. He provided school children with at least one free meal a day. Religious schools were given high priority. Hospitals, clinics were set up and dental services to schools were provided.
He eradicated dysentery and malaria. He provided electricity for the whole state. He developed the roads and telecommunication system. He reclaimed swamp lands and resettled people.
He set up the Royal Brunei Malay Regiment in 1961, which evolved into the Royal Brunei Armed Forces.
The Currency Board was established in 1967. Sultan Omar Ali has ensured the survival of an independent Malay Muslim monarchy at the end of the 20th century.
He has built a strong foundation before passing the mantle to his eldest son. His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has guided Brunei since independence in 1984, a 25-year period, during which Brunei has progressed in material and social terms.
The old Sultan would have been happy to know that an independent Sultanate in Brunei has progressed in the quarter century after independence. His son, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, has preserved his heritage. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has continued to expand the numbers of abler Bruneians who are educated abroad, and created a thicker layer of the higher educated and well-informed elite.
In December 1964, a year after Malaysia was formed, the Malaysian government decided to terminate the Board of Commissioners of Currency and to issue a new currency for Malaya, Singapore and the Borneo territories, including Brunei.
The Malaya-British Borneo Currency Agreement was terminated two years later. The Malaysian government in Kuala Lumpur declined Brunei's request that it be given a seat on the policy-making body. Also, Malaysia opposed Brunei's request that the portrait of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia should not appear on the new notes. Hence, Brunei enacted legislation in January 1967 to form its own Currency Board.
During one of the Sultan Haji Omar Ali visits to Singapore after independence, he had smiled broadly and, with his eyes twinkling and his moustache twitching, saying to Lee Kuan Yew, "You are now like Brunei. It is better for you."
If Brunei joined the Federation of Malaysia, the state of Brunei would be poorer, much much poorer! And we the West Malaysians would be much much happier to have another obedient and stupid natural resources supplier, at cheapest cost! sigh, we failed to con them into our "Malaysia Plot" and now better known as "1Malaysia Plot"...
Please stay-tuned for Part (2): Singapore