'Speechless' - and then it's the sultan himself 14
By Syafiq Affendy and Aziz Idris

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam visited the houses of some of the recipients for the Panaga National Housing after presenting a plague representing house keys to 812 people yesterday in the Belait District.

Ramlee Hj Mat Said, a government servant at the Kuala Belait Municipal Board, welcomed His Majesty to his new home, fully furnished with tiling, which completed just the day before the event with a big smile, portraying sincere gratitude and feeling blessed with His Majesty's consent to award the house.

In 1995, Ramlee applied for the housing scheme and after waiting for sixteen years, he was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief after having to stay with a relative for many years.

"Before receiving this house, we used to reside with a relative at a barrack in Jalan Putri Brunei, Kuala Belait. Luck was on our side as I remembered the moment I received the call that informed me that I have been selected as one of the recipients," explained Ramlee.

He also expressed his satisfaction with the condition of the house that had no problems at all, and emphasised the awarding of the house as a blessing to him and his family.

To show his gratitude to His Majesty, Ramlee presented a pesambah in the form of a set of praying beads, which he bought in the holy city of Mecca during his recent Umrah, a shorter version of Haj, which is paying pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca.

Similarly for Awang Ahmad Murad Hj Awg Mohin who works as a News Reporter at Radio Telivisyen Brunei (RTB), there were no words that could describe how grateful he was for being part of the two thousand Bruneian citizens selected to receive the houses.

"I am so thankful to His Majesty for consenting to present the houses to us. I also feel lucky for being selected as I had only waited for 12 years since applying in 1998. Despite minor issues with the condition of the house, the appointed contractors were very quick in fixing them and praise be to Allah, everything has been fixed now," said Ahmad Murad.

Another lucky recipient, Mr Peethambaram Perumal, an Indian local, stayed up late the previous night and tinted his semi-detached house with decorations to welcome His Majesty.

Luck was on his side as the number of years waiting for his application coincides with the number of his house, No 14.

"Me and my family were speechless when the Housing Department called and gave us the good news!" he said with excitement before adding, "The most important thing for me is a roof over the heads of my family."

He added the new home is "just perfect" with a master bedroom and two bedrooms for his two sons.

Mr Peethambaram Perumal is currently working offshore with the oil and gas industry.

His family origins dated back during the Japanese occupation in the 1940's whereby his grandparents settled down in Brunei.

His family is regarded as one of the largest Brunei Indian families in the country.

All the recipients felt honoured as their homes were selected for the monarch's visit.

During His Majesty's visit to their homes, the monarch spoke to them at length, which reflects the monarch's care and concern for his subjects.

All members of the household used the opportunity to have photo sessions with His Majesty in addition to the monarch receiving a 'junjung ziarah' from other recipients in the neighbourhood. - Borneo Bulletin (31st July 2011)