Her Majesty presents house keys
Hakim Hayat, Siti Hajar & Nazirul Hakeem

In what was described as a historic day for the iconic Kg Ayer in Bandar Seri Begawan, Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha yesterday consented to grace a key plaque presentation ceremony for the proud recipients of new houses and visited the capital's landmark in the Brunei River to take a look at the new houses under a pilot improvement project initiated and funded by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

Her Majesty awarded key plaques to 64 recipients of the new houses at a ceremony held at the Yayasan Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Complex. Sixteen people were awarded Type 'A' one-storey houses while 48 people received Type 'B' two-storey houses. All houses, built specifically for citizens of Brunei, were granted on a perpetuity basis.

Accompanying Her Majesty at the ceremony were HRH Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Zariah, HRH Princess Hajah Rashidah Sa'adatul Bolkiah, HRH Princess Hajah Majeedah Nuurul Bolkiah, HRH Princess Hajah Masna and HRH Princess Hajah Amal Umi Kalthum Al-Islam.

Brunei-Muara District Officer, Awang Haji Jamain bin Momin, in his welcoming speech praised the concern shown by His Majesty to his subjects and described the event yesterday as another milestone.

The pilot improvement project, announced in a titah by His Majesty in April last year during the project's MoU signing ceremony at the Istana Nurul Iman, is part of the caring monarch's vision for a better living standard for Kg Ayer's residents by devising a more organised and carefully planned development for their comfort and safety, for an improved image of the landmark and for its heritage to be preserved for generations to come.

The project to build 65 houses, which began April last year and was completed in July this year, encompasses open spaces in six villages in Mukim Peramu and Mukim Saba as well as a few other locations in Mukim Sungai Kebun.

Equipped with modern facilities that can be typically found at homes on land, its architecture is designed to preserve and reflect Kg Ayer's centuries of heritage and values as well as to maintain the Brunei River's waters and environment. The 130-square-metre Type 'A' house, which has a market value of $65,000, consists of three bedrooms while the 198-square-metre Type 'B' house has a market value of $90,000 that consists of four bedrooms.

Among the new housing area's features are networks of roofed bridges, sewerage system including a treatment plant and sewage pumping station in Sungai Kebun, two platforms for recreational activities, jetties with garden areas, an electrical system and substation, piped water system and fire hydrants. According to the Housing Development Department of the Ministry of Development (MoD), which oversees the pilot project, it will also be extended to other areas in Kg Ayer.

Following the key plaque presentation ceremony, Her Majesty and the royal entourage made their way across the Brunei River for an inaugural visit to the Kg Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery. At the gallery, Her Majesty was given a detailed briefing on the pilot project from the project's Coordinating Officer, Haslinawati Hj Abd Halim, from the Public Works Department, MoD.

While inside the gallery, Her Majesty also consented to receive a pesambah, a traditional 'kain songket', and officiated a painting of Kg Ayer with the Istana Nurul Iman as the background.

Her Majesty later visited two model houses under the project where she was given a first-hand look at the house's interior including its kitchen and bedrooms.

Her Majesty also spoke to some of the new housing recipients and visited the new house of Kg Lorong Sikuna's Village Head, Awang Haji Ahmad bin Haji Bujang before leaving.

Throughout the visit, Her Majesty was also accompanied by Minister of Development Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Suyoi bin Haji Osman; Minister of Finance II at the Prime Minister's Office Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Ibrahim; Acting Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof as well as other members of the pilot project's steering committee. - Borneo Bulletin (29 November 2012)