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Published: February 24th 2007
The 23rd National Day, Brunei
The ceremony was on the 24th of February rather than the 23rd which is the date of the National Day in Brunei. The event was moved because the 23rd was a Friday, a non working day. Brunei is an Islamic monarchy. Brunei got independence from Britain in 1984.
In Brunei all that glitters is gold. Nagara Brunei Darassalum (Brunei: the abode of peace) is a welfare state but it has no income tax and is the only country in the world that hasn't held any elections at all since 1962. (Why bother rigging elections?)
The GDP per person in Brunei is $US23,600 (2003 estimate. CIA FACTBOOK
) It is one of the worlds smallest countries with a welfare system that includes free health care, education and even help from the government with buying a house. The reason for this wealth is that gold that doesn't glitter - black gold:oil.
IF VOTING CHANGED ANYTHING...
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, whose title has passed within the same dynasty since the fifteenth century doesn't bother with things like elections. His father tried it once.
(BBC NEWS WEBSITE, Brunei country profile: time-line.)
1962 - Legislative Council election results annulled after leftist Brunei People's Party, which sought to remove the sultan from power, won all 10 elected seats in the 21-member council; sultan declares state of emergency and rules by decree.
At the time Brunei was a British colony. As a result the Parti Rakyat Brunei, launched an armed uprising, which Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin (the father of the current Sultan) put down with the help of British forces. Even now there are 1,500 Gurkha troops in the Sultanate.
I've always said that if voting changed anything
they'd make it illegal. Well, that's what the Sultanate did.
Brunei shares the island of Borneo with Malaysia and Indonesia. It only has a very tiny part of the island. Brunei was once a powerful state. The peak of its influence was reached under the reign of Sultan Bolkiah
(1485-1524). At its peak the Sultanate controlled coastal Borneo and much of the Philippines.
THE CITY JUNGLE
Modern Brunei is wealthy but most of this small country is untouched virgin tropical rain-forest. It has a huge potential for Eco-tourism. The capital city BSB (Bandar Seri Begawan) is a small, pleasant, green, low rise city. It is very quiet, it has no nightclubs, alcohol is illegal. (Actually foreigners are allowed to bring in a small amount for personal use, but the sale of alcohol is illegal in the Sultanate).There is a park within 1 km of the city centre which is basically a slice of rain-forest in the urban area of the city. The city park has jungle walks... if you are lucky you can see Proboscis Monkeys. Although I went on an early morning walk in the city jungle, I wasn't lucky.
I arrived in the Sultanate from the city of Miri in Sarawak (see my last blog)
. It is a one and a half hours taxi ride from Miri to BSB. I decided to stay a few days in order to see the Brunei National Day events. It is 23 years since Brunei gained independence. I found the people of Brunei extraordinarily friendly and helpful.
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