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Introduction to Brunei Darussalam
(Brunei the Abode of Peace)


Brunei Darussalam is an independent sovereign Sultanate which is governed on the basis of a written Constitution passed in 1959 (recently amended in 2004). Its long history can be traced back to almost a thousand years ago when it existed as one of the oldest kingdoms in the region with documented evidence that it existed as a Hindu-Buddha city state in the year 414.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien, the 29th Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam is the supreme executive authority in Brunei Darussalam. His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan also has occupied the position of Prime Minister since resumption of Brunei Darussalam's full independence in 1984. He is also the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Finance.

Brunei Darussalam's administrative system before its full independence in 1984 was centred around the office of the Chief Minister (Menteri Besar) and the State Secretariat and after independence is centred on the Office of the Prime Minister and a political and administrative sturcture based on a full ministerial system with specific portfolios.



Despite the earliest documented evidence that Brunei existed as a Hindu-Buddha city state in the 3rd century, not much else was known about Brunei. It probably became a vassal state of the Chinese Empire. It is only when it became a Muslim country in the middle of the 14th century with the first Muslim Sultan Muhammad Shah, it became a powerful nation in the region.

Thus from the 14th to the 16th centuries Brunei Darussalam became a dominant power and an empire engulfing the whole of Borneo Island and some of the southern Philippines islands. The Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan represents one of the oldest continuously ruling dynasties in the world.

By the 19th century, the Brunei Darussalam Empire had been whittled away by wars, piracy and the colonial expansion of the Spanish and English powers.

In 1847, the sultan concluded a treaty with Great Britain and in 1888 Brunei Darussalam officially became a British protectorate. In 1906, the Residential System was established in Brunei Darussalam. A British Resident was nominated as a representative of the British government to advise the sultan in all matters except Malay customs, traditions and Islamic religion.

The 1959 Agreement established a written constitution which gave Brunei Darussalam internal self-government. In 1971, the agreement was amended and revised to assert full internal independence except defence and external affairs.

In 1967 His Highness Sultan Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien abdicated in favour of his son Pengiran Muda Mahkota Hassanal Bolkiah. On January 1, 1984 Brunei Darussalam resumed full independence and the Sultan took office as Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Home Affairs Minister, presiding over a cabinet of six.

In October 1986, the cabinet was expanded to 11 members, with His Majesty relinquishing the portfolios of Finance and Home Affairs and taking over the Defence portfolio which his late father had held since 1984.

In 1988 another reshuffle brought about the creation of the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources designed to boost the country's development.

The last major reshuffle was on 24th May 2005 where the posts of Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office and Minister for Energy was created. In addition, the posts of the Attorney General and the State Mufti were also elevated to Ministerial status. At the same time, a Deputy Minister post at the Prime Minister's Office was created and two non-former government officers were appointed to be Deputy Ministers.



Under the Constitution, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam is the Head of State. Currently as the Prime Minister, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam is also the Head of Government.

A number of advisory councils are also appointed under the constitution to exercise their authorities in their respective areas. These include the following:

  • Succession and Regency Council
  • Privy Council
  • Legislative Council
  • Council of Cabinet Ministers
  • Religious Council


Brunei's current list of Cabinet Ministers and Deputy Cabinet Ministers (as of 25th May 2005) are as follows:

Cabinet Ministers

  • HM Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah - Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Minister of Finance
  • HRH Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah, Crown Prince - Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office
  • HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah - Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Pehin Dato Abdul Rahman Taib - Minister of Education
  • Pehin Dato Md Zain Serudin - Minister of Religious Affairs
  • Pehin Dato Ahmad Jumat - Minister of Industry and Primary Resources
  • Pehin Dato Abu Bakar Apong - Minister of Communications
  • Pehin Dato Adanan Yussof - Minister of Home Affairs
  • Pehin Dato Abu Bakar Apong - Minister of Education
  • Pehin Dato Suyoi Osman - Minister of Health
  • Pehin Dato Abdullah Bakar - Minister of Development
  • Pehin Dato Gen (Rtd) Mohammad Daud - Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports
  • Pehin Dato Yahya Bakar - Minister of Energy, Prime Minister's Office
  • Pehin Dato Abdul Rahman Ibrahim - Second Minister of Finance
  • Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng - Second Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Dato Kifrawi Kifli - Attorney General
  • Pehin Dato Abdul Aziz Juned - State Mufti

Deputy Ministers

  • Dato Eusoff Agaki - Deputy Minister, Prime Minister's Office (and Director of Internal Security)
  • Pehin Dato Col Yasmin Umar - Deputy Minister of Defence
  • Pengiran Dato Dr Mohammad Rahman - Deputy Minister of Education
  • Pehin Dato Badaruddin Othman - Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs
  • Dato Hamdillah Wahab - Deputy Minister of Industry and Primary Resources
  • Dato Yusof Hamid - Deputy Minister of Communications
  • Pehin Dato Dani Ibrahim - Deputy Minister of Home Affairs
  • Pehin Dato Hazair Abdullah - Deputy Minister of Health
  • Dato Dr Mat Suny Hussein - Deputy Minister of Development
  • Dato Yakub Bakar - Deputy Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports


Legislative Council

The Legislative Council after a hiatus of two decades was revived in 2004 and the full list of members including their titles and their speeches as reported in Hansard are available separately. That legislative council has now been replaced by a new legislative council as of September 2005 and the new list of members is available separately. top


Brunei's culture mainly derived from the Old Malay World, which encompassed the Malay Archipelago and from this stemmed what is known as the Malay Civilisation.

The Brunei Flag is yellow with two diagonal bands of white (top, almost double width) and black starting from the upper hoist side; the national emblem in red is superimposed at the center; the emblem includes a swallow-tailed flag on top of a winged column within an upturned crescent above a scroll and flanked by two upraised hands.

Based on historical facts, various cultural elements and foreign civilisations had a hand in influencing the culture of this country. Thus, the influence of culture can be traced to four dominating periods of animism, Hinduism, Islam and the West.

However, it was Islam that managed to wound its roots deeply into the culture of Brunei hence it became a way of life and adopted as the state's ideology and philosophy.Brunei Darussalam is richly endowed with cultural heritage steadfastly maintained until today.The setting up of the Arts and Handicraft Centre in 1975 is a living testimony as to the preservation and the proliferation of the arts and crafts of the bygone days which Brunei was renown for such as boat making, silver-smithing, bronze tooling, cloth weaving as well as mat and basket weaving.Relics and other various artistic heritage of Brunei Darussalam besides the ones mentioned above include Malay weaponry, wood carvings, traditional games, traditional musical instruments, 'silat' (the traditional art of self defence) and decorative items for women.

Some of these are kept in the Brunei Museum and the Malay Technology Museum; not only for the world to see but most importantly for today's generation to admire and be proud of, for future generation to emulate, perhaps and something to remind us of our forefather's natural skill, creativity and innovativeness which over generations has been ingrained as one of the richest traditional culture in the Malay world.


People and Religions

The population of Brunei Darussalam in mid-year 1999, was estimated at 330,700 persons, an increase of 7,600 persons or growing at 2.4% over the mid year population estimate 1998. Of the said total, 175,200 (53.0%) are males and 155,500 (47.0%) females.

  • Malay, Kedayan, Tutong, Belait, Bisaya, Dusun, Murut 67.2%
  • Chinese 15.0%
  • Other races 11.8%
  • Iban, Dayak, Kelabit 6%

Ths estimate includes all people residing in Brunei Darussalam. Malay, which also included Brunei Indigenous communities of Malay, Kedayan, Tutong, Belait, Bisaya, Dusun and Murut, constitutes the major population group numbering at 223,500 (67.6%). Other Indigenous group namely Iban, Dayak and Kelabit accounts for 19,600 persons (5.9%), Chinese at 49,300 persons (14.9%) and Other races not specified at 38,300 persons (11.6%).

The percentage increases of population in each ethnic group over that of 1998 are Malay 2.7%, Other Indigenous 2.1%, Chinese1.9% and Others 1.1%.

The population distribution by district shows that Brunei/Muara District still has the largest share with a total of 218,800 persons (66.2%) while Belait and Tutong Districts have 66,800 persons (20.2%) and 35,700 persons (10.8%) respectively. Temburong District has the smallest population of 9,400 persons (2.8%).

The population by age grouping shows that about 107,600 persons (32.5%) are below 15 years, 211,900 persons (64.1%) are at the working age group of between 15 and 64 years while 11,200 persons (3.4%) are over 65 years of age.

Islam is the official religion of Brunei Darussalam as stated in the Brunei Constitution, with His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan as the head of the Islamic faith in the country. Thus Islam plays a central role in the life of every Muslim in Brunei Darussalam. Other faiths practiced in the State include Christianity and Buddhism.

Demographic Indicators (1997 est.)

  • Crude Birth Rate per 1,000 in 1998 - 22.9
  • Crude Death Rate per 1,000 in 1998 - 2.9
  • Life Expectancy At Birth (Years): Male 72.1 Females 76.5

Geography and Climate

Brunei Darussalam is situated on the north-west of the island of Borneo, between east longitudes 114 degrees 04' and 11 degrees 23' and north latitudes of 4 degrees 00' and 5 degrees 05'. It has a total area of 5,765-sq. km. with a coastline of about 161-km along the South China Sea. It is bounded on the North by the South China Sea and on all the other sides by Malaysian State of Sarawak.


Physical Features

The land surface is developed on bedrock of tertiary age comprising of sandstone, shale and clays. The terrain in the western part of Brunei Darussalam is predominantly hilly lowland below 91 metres, but rising in the hinterland to about 300 metres. The eastern part of the state consists predominantly of rugged mountain terrain, rising 1,850 metres above sea level at Bukit Pagon. The coast has a wide, tidal and swampy plain.



Brunei Darussalam has an equatorial climate characterized by a uniform high temperature, high humidity and heavy rainfall. Temperatures range from 23 - 32 Degree Celsius, while rainfall varies from 2,500 mm annually on the coast to 7,500 mm in the interior. There is no distinct wet season.


Capital and Towns

Brunei Darussalam is divided into four districts namely Brunei/Muara, Tutong, Belait and Temburong. Bandar Seri Begawan is the capital of Brunei Darussalam with an area of about 16 sqkm and a population of about 46 thousands (1991 census) including Kampong Ayer (Water Village).

It is located in the Brunei/Muara District, and is the center of government and business activities. Other towns are Muara, about 41 km to the north east of Bandar Seri Begawan where the chief port is located,

Seria which is the seat of oil and gas industry, and Kuala Belait, Pekan Tutong and Bangar which are the administrative centres of Belait, Tutong and Temburong Districts respectively.




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