Brunei free from poverty
By Waleed PD Mahdini

"Today, a historic chapter is being written tinted in gold for our country, as we now move towards freeing ourselves from poverty," said His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday.

His Majesty delivered his titah during the ceremony to distribute documents of Zakat funds to the poor community (asnaf Fakir Miskin) and those who suffer from debt (al-Gharimin) at the International Convention Centre, Berakas.

"I see this ceremony not only magnificent in its aim, but also representing an important history that is very meaningful to us all and for the country," said the monarch, who earlier in the year had made a call to eradicate poverty in the Sultanate, which was dubbed the 'Vision 2035'.

"This is not just being done for the sake of doing so, but through a carefully thought out plan, which has been coupled further with hope and with our capability of doing so," the monarch added.

"Should what is to be carried out shortly truly fulfil the complete requirements for the poor community? Once I have duly distributed the Zakat financial documents to the recipients, the country, in that particular moment, can truly be labeled as free from poverty," His Majesty said.

"Praise be to Allah, let us all together now accept this as reality and no longer a dream. Allah the Almighty knows of our intentions, which are in line with His teachings, and will therefore fulfil our intentions, much more than our expectations."

But His Majesty, ever the caring monarch and benevolent ruler, underscored the possibility that there may still be among his subjects, those that have yet to be accounted for in the list of the poor.

"If there are still any individuals that have been left out, who consider themselves eligible, then their plight must be brought forward to the respective authorities for consideration. These respective authorities will determine whether they fit the criteria of Fakir Miskin or otherwise.

"It would be normal after this ceremony that there would still be grievances from the aforementioned individuals, and this would not be seen as a black mark to dampen this new history that we are achieving today."

However, the monarch also lay particular emphasis on "the respective authorities that are carrying out the collections and distribution of Zakat must take on a more in-tuned and proactive attitude in monitoring and evaluating the needs of the community that are considered to be eligible for Zakat".

His Majesty warned them that they should not just simply wait for the applicants to come forward, "as not all of them are capable of doing so, or that even some of them might possibly not be aware of how or who to go about it".

This, the monarch pointed out further "would no doubt add further emphasis to the roles and responsibilities of our community leaders, such as the appointed legislative members, Penghulus and village leaders".

But as the supreme head of religion in this Islamic state, the monarch also called for patience "to those that are still being processed and evaluated, whether they came forward to apply on their own or otherwise, must therefore fulfil and accept each assessment by the concerned authorities, because those assessments have been carried out based on the proper guidelines and measures".

To the more than 4,000 recipients of the Zakat financial documents, His Majesty had these simple words of advice: "We hope that you will utilise your respective shares wisely and purposefully, by avoiding an extravagant and wasteful lifestyle. Those shares are meant to help you provide for a better and more comfortable life. You are now no longer labeled as Fakir Miskin, at least for the specified time."

The monarch also urged them to use this golden opportunity to the fullest, not just for their own sake but also for the sake of their children and their children's children. "And it would also be conceivable that amongst their numbers there will be some of them that will no longer want to look back, but with new-found determined ambitions, as well as with wise planning, they can continue to prosper without requiring the support of Zakat.

"Let us all give thanks and prayers to Allah the Almighty that we and our country continue to receive His blessings, live in peace, safety and prosperity, full of faith and penitence for all time," His Majesty said before wrapping up his momentous titah that has paved the way forward for making his personal dreams and hopes of eradicating poverty for all present and future generations of Bruneians a tangible reality. - Borneo Bulletin (8th October 2009)