Royal displeasure on the location of airport surau
Azlan Othman

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam made his displeasure known as the ruler pointed to the surau (prayer hall) at the new airport building being located in a corner and at the basement away from the visitors' attention and the placing of the monarch's portraits for the royal birthday celebration that was inappropriate while many of the photos looked similar.

His Majesty said the country's Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) philosophy should not be neglected in the modernisation of the airport terminal building. The monarch also urged the birthday committee members not to put up too many of the monarch's portraits.

The ruler delivered a titah at the meeting with the National Executive Committee for the 66th Birthday Anniversary Celebration yesterday at the Ministry of Home Affairs building in the capital. Also present was His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office.

The monarch said the nation is carrying out an important project, which is the upgrading and expansion of our international airport. The airport has undergone two phases of expansion.

But this time, it is a bigger project to provide additional space besides giving it an iconic design and better infrastructure. A foreign consortium has been appointed to provide the concept design of modernisation of the terminal building.

"I was made to understand that the decision to appoint the consortium was made following a thorough assessment comprising the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB), Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), Ministry of Communications and Ministry of Development by taking into account competitive tender pricing, experiences and capabilities of the consortium.

"It is expected that with the completion of the project at the end of 2014, it would uplift the country to become a more competitive logistic centre in this region and able to contribute to tourism, trade and investment.

"It could also be seen as a benchmark for effective operation and fit to be listed as one of the many strategic infrastructure projects in the Asia-Pacific region. I hope this project runs smoothly and I also take note of the planned modernisation. However, I wish to remind that the Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) concept should not be neglected," said His Majesty.

"Take for instance the function of the airport itself, is it not the main gateway to the nation through which people enter and exit? We want a truly Bruneian pattern which is prominent for us to have our own identity.

"What is the meaning if an airport has no surau or if the surau is located in a corner or at the basement, like it is now. In the expansion programme this time, it was mentioned that the surau would be located at the basement as stated in the press statement (which we read) making it difficult for people to visit and perform religious obligations.

"If we want to embrace Bruneian values, the surau should not have been in the corner or be hidden from the public's view but be made more conspicuous for the visitors. Passengers who disembark from the aircraft should be able to see it clearly through its MIB design. If it is just an ordinary room and a place in the corner, who is going to see and be able to find out after one enters the airport?

"In Islam, it is called Islamic eminence, the indication and sign of Islam. Mosques and suraus are part of such eminence. Islam encourages mosques and suraus to be visible and not hidden or in a corner. Hence, it is appropriate for the airport surau to be more eminent and visible. The airport is a gateway to the country and should be given a genuine Bruneian characteristic," His Majesty said.

"All things important need highlights including big celebrations like the National Day. The highlights of the National Day among others include coming up with a theme, flag-raising, congregation and reciting of thanksgiving doa at mosques and suraus. Without these, a celebration becomes meaningless," said His Majesty.

"This also applies to my birthday celebration, which also follows similar highlights just like the National Day with the difference being the installation of my big portraits at certain places. Sometimes, they are erected without considering the suitability of the place and some are put up at inappropriate places like junctions. The purpose would probably be for all motorists to see it, resembling an advertisement.

"Why I say so is because the place that I refer to has an advertisement (hoarding) and when the birthday celebration is nearer, the advertisement is removed and replaced with my big portrait.

"This has been repeated for many years, not a year or two. Why do we choose such an option to place my portrait that is also used for an advertisement? Don't we have other appropriate and strategic places?

"In my view, a celebration is not an advertisement and not intended to attract customers' attention. It is solely a landmark to inject the spirit of nationalism," said the ruler.

The monarch also pointed out other weaknesses including deliberately putting up more portraits and advertised by various parties and companies. "But many of these portraits are similar. What is the purpose of putting up many but similar portraits? Is it not a waste? Is the committee aware of this and whether any assessment has been made before these portraits are put up? Or is it left entirely to the sponsors?

"I am not happy for things that we don't need and are a waste. I am not going to deliberate more on this as the committee has been set up and comprises officers that hold positions and crucial roles in the ministries and agencies that they represent," His Majesty said.

Earlier, His Majesty was greeted upon arrival by the Minister of Home Affairs, Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Awg Othman and committee members. - Borneo Bulletin (10 May 2012)