Crown Prince lauds Al-Marhum's vision
By Sonia K.

His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, yesterday spoke of the deepest respect and affection he has for Al-Marhum and lauded his grandfather's far-reaching vision, which laid a strong foundation for Brunei Darussalam to prosper.

The Crown Prince said this in a sabda at the launching of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien (SOAS) Memorial Lecture at the ICC.

Calling Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien an exemplary statesman, HRH said, "He had a firm and far-reaching vision of how to transform our nation and prepare it for the future. Al-Marhum was also regarded as a leader of great ability with a diverse range of interests.

"With his wide-ranging policies, he succeeded in laying the foundations of our nation as we know it today, and for this he is rightly regarded as the 'Architect of Modern Brunei Darussalam'."

Apart from being a prolific writer, a passionate artist, architect and keen sportsman, Al-Marhum was also a leader of great diplomatic wisdom and skill, the Crown Prince said adding, "No less important was his lifelong devotion and adherence to the true teachings of Islam.

"I have the deepest of respect and affection for Al-Marhum and his dedication to improving our nation and the lives of all his subjects. I therefore find it most befitting that this Memorial Lecture be dedicated to him," His Royal Highness said.

From the outset, HRH said, it is envisioned that the lectures will bring together scholars, academicians, prominent intellectuals and speakers to discuss the ideas that HRH's late grandfather held most dear.

"I believe that it will also be vital for the Memorial Lectures to evolve to embrace mainstream global issues with a high level of interaction between our local academic and intellectual communities and their international counterparts," he said.

"We now exist in the age of information society where the instantaneous global dissemination of information has become a feature of life that has the power to influence the financial, political and economic decisions of whole nations.

"Now, more so than ever, it is vital for our nation to advance the development of knowledge among our people, by instilling the process of lifelong learning as a fundamental part of all our lives," said the Crown Prince.

HRH hopes that the Memorial Lectures to come will have a role to play in achieving this. Also present at the SOAS Memorial Lecture were His Royal Highness Prince 'Abdul Malik and other members of the royal family.

Dato Laila Utama Lee Kuan Yew, Minister Mentor of the Republic of Singapore, delivered a talk. "I believe that this is the first lecture of its kind to be organised in Brunei Darussalam, and in the years to come, it is hoped that more lectures will be held involving distinguished local and international speakers, with the prime objective of nurturing a life-long learning culture in Brunei Darussalam," the Crown Prince said.

HRH also said the global community faces a multitude of urgent financial, economic and environmental challenges. The people of Brunei Darussalam in turn have also felt the effects of these global crises although to a lesser degree than many others.

"This year alone, we have seen how climate change and the effects of shifting weather patterns have brought about widespread flooding and disruption to many parts of our nation," he said. "We have also seen how the global financial crisis and economic downturn have had a grave impact upon the export oriented industries and economies in our region."

In order to better address these challenges, the Crown Prince said Brunei shall require many knowledgeable individuals and a society that is properly equipped with the skills and knowledge to overcome these challenges through innovation and collaboration. "The far-reaching vision of Al-Marhum for the development of our national education system has been realised and substantially furthered by my father," HRH said and added that these two generations of rulers recognised that human capacity and resources were the prime drivers for sustainable development and made huge investments in modernising the educational infrastructure and human resource development.

"The main challenge that I see for our education system is how it can keep pace with the requirements of our current and future socio-economic development goals," HRH said. "Our people, particularly our youths and our future generations of leaders also face a similar challenge in striving to meet and keep ahead of the demanding nature and pressures of the modern world. As we rise to meet these challenges, we should also not lose sight of who we are as Bruneians, with our core values and culture rooted in the philosophy of the Malay Islamic Monarchy."

He said as a nation, "We are not alone in facing these challenges and I feel there is much that we can learn from the experiences of others in our region and beyond. This perhaps is another area where the Memorial Lecture has a synergistic role to play as a platform for academic and intellectual development."

Before the Crown Prince concluded his sabda, he said Minister Mentor Lee is certainly no stranger to Brunei Darussalam and through his wisdom, diplomacy and understanding, he personally laid the foundations for the very close relations and cooperation enjoyed today between Brunei Darussalam and Singapore. - Borneo Bulletin (26th Feb 2009)