Reminiscing Brunei's independence proclamation

Historic: His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam (C), the late Sultan Omar Ali 'Saifuddien (3rd L), and members of Royal Family, at the proclamation ceremony on the night of December 31, 1983. Picture: Courtesy of Information Department

Thursday, January 1, 2009

ON THE night of December 31, 1983, thousands of citizens and residents of Brunei congregated at the Taman Sir Omar 'Ali Saifuddien for the proclamation of full independence on January 1, 1984, after the end of British protection for 96 years.

The independence meant a reinstatement of power to rule itself in defence and foreign affairs which was previously handled by Britain.

Hj Matali Jumat, 63, recalled how he stood and prayed in the rain at the Sir Omar 'Ali Saifuddien (SOAS) mosque in the capital to rejoice the occasion.

"We prayed under the rain as thousands of people from all corners of the country flocked to the mosque and asked for guidance and blessings from Allah Subhanahu Wataala that Brunei will face as a free and independent country," he said.

The beat of hadrah (traditional drums) together with the thousands of voices of excitement and gratefulness from citizens will be etched in his memory forever, he said.

Suhaili Amat, who was 13-years-old then, said that thousands of students joined adults at the National Stadium to release doves and balloons into the sky at the crack of dawn to celebrate the nation-state's independence.

"Thousands of youths joined in the event. We had a marvelous time celebrating our nation-state's independence and history in the making. I am sad that the unity shown by the youths of our time is not reflected in the youths nowadays," he said, adding that youths must not undermine and forget this historic event.

"Remember that our forefathers worked very hard to achieve independence and we must always remember the significance of being an independent nation."

Hj Rozan Yunos, a senior government official, who was in the United Kingdom (UK) during the proclamation, commented that sadly, he could not attend the historic event. However, he said that the Bruneian students in the UK got together and pondered over expectations on how they could contribute in Brunei.

"I could remember vividly how proud I was when the Brunei High Comission called us to collect our brand new passport. I arrived in the UK with a British passport and returned home in the summer of 1984, proudly, on a Bruneian passport," he said.

"That, to me was the most important symbol of independence. I do not have to rely on another country's passport to travel freely throughout the world," he said, adding that the development of the country has changed immensely for the better ever since.

"I remember coming home every summer to see something new in Brunei. There were new houses being built for the Lambak Kanan Housing Scheme and new buildings keep popping up all over the place. We have developed tremendously since those early independence days," he added.

The proclamation, which was read by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, states that "Brunei shall be forever a sovereign, democratic and independent Melayu Islam Beraja (Malay Islamic Monarchy) philosophy based upon the teachings of Islam according to Ahli Sunnah wal-Jema'ah..."

This was followed by chants of Allahu Akhbar, led by the late Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien, and 21 cannon shots were fired. The ceremony ended with a recital of prayers by then Mufti Pehin Dato Seri Maharaja Datu Seri Utama Hj Ismail Umar Abdul Aziz. The first cabinet ministers led by His Majesty was also announced to ensure the execution of the country's administration and development plans.

Brunei will celebrate its National Day Silver Jubilee this year and celebrations will be held at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium on February 23.

The Brunei Times