Ambassadors, High Commissioners convey Hari Raya greetings
Danial Norjidi

AMBASSADORS and High Commissioners conveyed their best wishes and festive greetings to His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, the royal family, and the people of Brunei during a reception held for VVIPs on the first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri at Istana Nurul Iman.

Speaking in interviews with the Bulletin, a number of ambassadors shared their thoughts and opinions on Hari Raya, while at the same time sending out fond festive greetings to the Sultanate.

The Ambassador of Thailand to Brunei Darussalam, Apichart Phetcharatana, is now starting his fourth year in Brunei, and this is also his fourth Hari Raya here.

“First of all, Selamat Hari Raya to the readers of the Borneo Bulletin and people of Brunei Darussalam,” he said. “This is one of the most important occasions of the year in the country.

“What I have been looking forward to most is this informal gathering here with His Majesty, after which we move on to meet with His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah. These are the highlights.

“The most impressive moments during Hari Raya are getting to greet and meet with members of the royal family, ministers and senior officials,” he added. “I think that the Hari Raya celebration is very unique in Brunei because you welcome foreign guests, and not only friends or relatives, unlike in other countries.”

Meanwhile, the Ambassador of South Korea to Brunei Darussalam, Choi Byung-Koo, highlighted that his favourite part of Hari Raya is “the joyous mood of the Bruneian people”, which he said brings him “great happiness”, as “everyone is smiling, and is very friendly with each other”.

He likened the festivities in Brunei to that of South Korea’s thanksgiving celebration in autumn, which he said has a similar atmosphere.

Sending out a message, he said, “On this very happy and auspicious occasion, I very sincerely wish your people continued happiness and, of course, progress in national development. I wish His Majesty continued great, great success in the years to come.”

Victor A Seleznev, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Brunei Darussalam was another ambassador to share his thoughts during the reception.

“Frankly speaking, it is always wonderful to see the sincere festivity and national unity among all the people of Brunei. It’s really fantastic,” he said. “In Brunei, Islam is not only a religion, but a way of life, and it is wonderful to see how people enjoy it, how people are all getting involved and participating, how everybody is devoted to strengthening the wonderful family ties in Brunei. This is both remarkable and very, very charming.”

He also shared how Russia celebrated “with a great, great festivity” for its 30 million Muslims – two million of which are in Moscow.

Adding on, the Russian Ambassador said, “I would like to send my heartfelt greetings to the people of Brunei Darussalam. I am happy that we are living in very friendly relationship. On behalf of the Russian Embassy, we would like to wish you all the best, peace and stability.”

Another view came the from French Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam, Jean Yves Berthault, who said of Hari Raya, “Of course, we French people know what it is because we have a strong Muslim minority in France which is growing, so I am happy to wish everyone a very happy Hari Raya.

“It is the ending of a period of meditation and spirituality, which is very important time of the year. It is also a time of solidarity, compassion and forgiveness.

“I think what the world needs more than ever – perhaps because we are living in a troubled world with a lot of conflicts, a lot of geopolitical complicated situations – what we need is a period which is dedicated to forgiveness and better understanding is to pray for having a better world,” he added.

On the other hand, the Australian High Commissioner, Todd Mercer, described Hari Raya as being very unique. “This is the first Muslim country that I’ve served in, so it’s new to me. It’s a fantastic celebration. It’s good to see the whole country getting into it.

“It’s fantastic, and really good to see how families get together to celebrate an event like this.”

Asked what he is looking forward to most this Hari Raya, he answered, “Getting to see all the people I work with, but seeing them on a personal level, so you really get to see the human side.”

The Malaysian High Commissioner, Datuk Awang Sahak Awang Salleh, is also celebrating Hari Raya in Brunei for the first time this year.

“The big difference here is it started from day one, where all over the country, you are reciting the Al-Quran and also Khatam Al-Quran. That is one of the standouts for me,” he said.

“Brunei is a beautiful country, very peaceful, so I would say this is probably one of the best countries in the world, after Makkah and Madinah,” he added.

The Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Brunei Darussalam, Zheng Xianglin, was another to comment on the ongoing celebrations, highlighting that Brunei has “very good traditions”. He said that he is looking forward to visiting open houses as part of the celebrations.

“I would like to express to His Majesty and the people of Brunei our warm congratulations and best wishes,” he said.

Additional thoughts came from the High Commissioner of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Brigadier (Rtd) Muhammad Zareef Malik, who described the Hari Raya celebrations in Brunei in one word: “Beautiful”.

“It is the first time that I am attending such a festivity. It has tremendous amount of colour and a lot of dignity in it, and it is a festival which befits the people who fast in the month of Ramadhan, and I must say that the people of Brunei have prepared themselves very, very well for this important festivity.”

He added that what he is looking forward to most is “the people”, because “at the end of the day, that’s what really matters.

“I wish for the people of Brunei is Selamat Hari Raya,” he added. - Borneo Bulletin (31 July 2014)