By Waleed PD Mahdini
As the country celebrated its 26th National Day yesterday amid a more muted and prudent fanfare, the people of Brunei Darussalam were reminded and, once again, urged by its monarch to delve deeper into the issues of the day and come to their own self-realisation that these messages are indeed for the benefit of all our future generations.
With each successive year, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has appeared before his subjects with his titahs addressing the main concerns of the previous year and offered his own personal messages of hope on the urgent concerns to those held accountable by the monarch and indeed the people of Brunei Darussalam that required immediate solutions and rectification.
With the theme 'My Country, Brunei Darussalam', His Majesty spoke of the government's motive behind the financial regulations concerning credit cards, as "living a luxurious lifestyle that is built on mounting debts is luxury that is truly unstable and would also bring about much loss in the long term".
The monarch, ever the foresighted statesman and welfare-conscious ruler of his people offered his personal understanding that "during these early stages, this issue may have caused some difficulty and hardship to a section of society and institutions, but the government firmly believes that this measure is exactly the precise reaction in order to safeguard the prosperity and harmony of the people and residents of this country for the long-term".
However, there were two other points that His Majesty stressed upon in his address yesterday that were echoed in previous other titahs. These have continued to revolve around the services rendered by government institutions and the environment.
As the country massed together on Feb-ruary 23, 2005, to celebrate its 21st National Day, themed 'United in Strengthening National Self-Reliance', His Majesty empha-sised the importance of striking the right balance between education and religious propagation in its curriculum towards national development.
"Education and propagation play a crucial role. Just as providing basic infrastructure such as housing, road, electricity, water, buildings and so on, educated souls - people with the right spirit and thinking are also needed by the nation. It should not be found lacking because if religious education is weak, the people would also be weakened," was one of the focuses of His Majesty's titah.
Understandably, fast forward to January 21 this year, the monarch expressed his frustrations and disappointment on the glacial progress by the religious authorities to realise the importance of religious school education. "I want to know why it has not been made compulsory all these years?" the monarch asked. By not making religious education compulsory, a gap would be created between the religious literate and illiterate.
"Why should this happen?" the ruler asked. "This is not a matured approach but rather what the Malay proverb says, 'Melepaskan Batuk Di Tangga' or not serious in doing things." These same words were echoed by His Majesty yesterday when he raised the question, once again, whether the government "is really serious or not?"
The country's development, the monarch rightfully highlighted "depends on the public service machinery" to fulfil the needs and aspirations of the country, which His Majesty underscored must be established with "a strong bond between the government and the people to realise past and future achievements, through balanced physical and spiritual developments", adding: "These should not be neglected."
A year on, as much of the Muslim world took stock of the offence that was generated over the publication of a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), His Majesty praised the people's patience and civility over what the monarch called "needless controversy".
The monarch cited a verse from surah al-hujurat that taught "humans not to fight, nor to insult each other or insult the prophets or messengers of God". The monarch rightfully posed the question: "Which is more honourable and important? The prophets and messengers of God who have been our saviours? Or the freedom of speech?" His Majesty went on to point out what good this freedom provides when it is used to cause pain and chaos around the world.
"Its main aim should be to strengthen relationships among people and not to cause disputes and separations," the monarch advised, tying it to the common global issue of declining natural resources, which His Majesty urged is where "the importance of cooperation and understanding is useful, not just during times of happiness but also during times of hardship and difficulty".
As the people of Brunei Darussalam were urged to 'enhance the nation's competitive capabilities', as the 22nd National Day theme, the monarch highlighted the sacrifice and contribution made by His Majesty's late father, Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, which the monarch pointed out "was without equal".
On the country's 23rd National Day celebration, His Majesty called for "a better deal for the people", as they were urged to improve their 'Commitment to Empower the Nation's Capabilities'.
The monarch advised the government and the people "to be open minded in overcoming weaknesses, as well as developing a proactive attitude to achieving success". His Majesty made particular emphasis towards the private sector, urging them "to contribute to the development of the country, especially in strengthening the country's gross domestic product through more direct and meaningful economic activities".
Once again, His Majesty called for more improvements and upgrades to the service delivery by the government sector "with more appropriate ethics".
As a small country with limited resources, the monarch highlighted that Brunei undoubtedly needs more innovative abilities to manage it and that only with such abilities could the country provide and maintain the added value that is required, which His Majesty pointed out was "obviously the resource called human ability that must become our main focus", adding: "This must be properly planned to produce experts and intellectuals in their respective fields as without it, it would be impossible to progress further despite our wealth in other resources".
This year that His Majesty had already highlighted the urgency of establishing proper and responsible measures to maintain our environment, which is "another quality resource".
But the monarch conceded that managing the environment "is complicated as it is related to the inner traits of humanity. Control and order can easily be made but it is impossible to see them followed through properly".
His Majesty called for the need that "we must have an orderly mechanism, which includes expert resources that are thorough in tackling these issues", by drawing urgency to the numerous examples of catastrophic natural disasters around the world. "Everyone must develop a sense of responsibility in preserving the environment."
As the country rallied for the 24th National Day celebration in 2008, which was centred around the 'Nation's Youth', His Majesty remarked: "Youths are the country's greatest asset", as they carry the hope of the current generation as "leaders of our future". But the monarch listed out the focus of his concerns by highlighting the worrying trend of rising criminal statistics in which "the most shocking fact was that the majority are Malays", and "that there had been a 100 per cent increase in serious crimes such as robbery, which were made up of males and females aged between 19 and 35, including 57 students".
His Majesty questioned the point of celebrating the country's 'greatest assets' if the "nation's youths have become criminals. Is this what our nation's youth have become?"
Combating crime should be the focus of the youths' involvement and not being lured in as accomplices, "in whatever form for the peace and prosperity of the country and its people, so that tourists and investors would not be afraid to come to our country".
This His Majesty said is truly the meaning of "pure patriotism".
The monarch called on all "agents of change such as family institutions, educational institutions, religious leaders and the media to look into this matter with profound concern" so that the country could collectively focus on curing these social ills and only then could the country subsequently produce "quality human beings".
During the grand celebrations of the country's Silver Jubilee National Day, as the people revelled in achieving its 'Matured Nationhood' status, His Majesty continued to call for the improvements in the efficiency of the roles of the public service.
"It is vital that we possess the determination and the preparedness to implement changes based on observations and actions," the monarch urged.
Another year on, His Majesty included in his address the need to "identify knowledgeable human resources and how vital it was for a country with a small population", by explaining: "A quality human resource is the determining factor towards the nation's long-term progress."
The monarch went on to say, "Because of this, we should not neglect education as the country aspires to produce intellectuals with knowledge in various disciplines, with which we hope to produce leaders, thinkers and authoritative entrepreneurs." Once again, the ruler made the reminder that the principles of the country's education system "should never overlook the pure religious values, as well as the nation's noble customs and traditions".
His Majesty further urged that in order to stimulate further progress, more efforts must be made "to change our mindset and attitude, as well as strengthen our moral standing and good ethics to reach the necessary level of excellence".
The monarch stressed the fact that "such questions require accurate and factual solutions and not be made solely based on theories".
As we come to the close of the first decade of the 21st century, the advices, messages of hope and the urgent emphasis for improvements and change made by our beloved ruler, His Majesty should be truly, deeply and sincerely be taken to heart by each and every citizen of the country. For whom else should we listen and take heed the meaningful words of advice from, if not our monarch?
As we have seen, His Majesty has patiently and diligently come forward with his reminders and instructions for improvements in the way we think, work and do more good for our beloved country and all our future generations. Isn't it way past the time for us to already do away with such labels as 'complacent', 'robots', 'indecisive', 'irresponsible', 'uncaring' and many more? Otherwise how else would we really evolve and progress? Each and every Bruneian, deep down at heart, is rightfully proud of our country Brunei Darussalam, but the change and improvements that we wish to see can only come from our own minds, our own hands, our own actions and our own will.
- Borneo Bulletin
(24th February 2010)