A country will not be as developed into certain point of success they have now without the individuals or important persona who drove the country to what it is now in the present. It is the same case in Brunei Darussalam. In the Kingdom of Brunei Darussalam, there are a lot of historical and current figures who play an important role in contributing to the development of the country such as Sultan Muhammad Shah or known as the first Sultan of Brunei, the 28th Sultan of Brunei Darussalam. This article will describe the Sultan’s life and his astounding achievements.
Other than being famous for the production of oil and gas, Brunei Darussalam is renowned for its national welfare program. Basic necessities such as oil, water, electricity, and rice are heavily subsidized by the government. Medical fees are affordable as well. A Bruneian can get medical surgeries and medicines by only paying BND$1.00. People pay minimal taxes, with land and road taxes as exceptions. Education fees are almost free at all levels. Students are only required to pay admission fees. Education allowance is also given every month to students at university, college and vocational levels. A typical university student will receive about BND$350 per month.
Although most of these benefits are carried out during the reign of current Sultan of Brunei, the notion of having an efficient welfare system was introduced by 28th Sultan of Brunei Darussalam, the late Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien III. Better known as Begawan Sultan Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien III, he started the efficient welfare system that is practiced until today. For your information, Begawan Sultan Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien III is the late father of the current Sultan of Brunei; His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzadin Waddaulah.
He became the 28th Sultan of Brunei on 6th June 1950. He started his rule by primarily focusing on increasing the standard of living of Brunei Darussalam. He approached this by primarily placing importance on education. He realized that in order to dramatically increase the standard of living, the first step was to make sure the people are educated. He ensured that primary and secondary schools would be built throughout the kingdom to enable every citizen to receive formal education. Several welfare programs were also introduced to compliment these efforts like the free-food scheme in rural schools. Furthermore, he carried out the first national development plan with a budget of about $100 million, aiming to improve general education, communication system, medical services, and agriculture.
In 1952, Begawan Sultan Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien III worked hard to draft the constitution, which currently serves as the foundation of the national government. Further discussion with the British government on 29 September 1959 in the signing of Brunei written constitution was held in order to gain independence from Britain. Besides that, Begawan Sultan Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien III was the one who formalized Malay and Islam as the country’s official language and religion, respectively.
As promised by Begawan Sultan Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien III, the Kingdom of Brunei Darussalam achieved its independence on 1 January 1984. Although during this time, the throne was already passed on to his son; the current Sultan of Brunei Darussalam, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzadin Waddaulah, he still led the chanting of “Allahu Akhbar” (literal translation; Allah Almighty) three times after the proclamation of independence. In 7 September 1986, Begawan Sultan Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien III passed away. With the remarkable contribution of introducing an effective welfare system, he is dubbed as “the Architect of Modern Brunei”. The national teacher’s day is celebrated every 23rd September in commemoration of him as he was born on the 23rd of September. He was a great mentor to our current Sultan.
I believe he is the reason why Brunei Citizens including myself can enjoy welfare benefits. That’s why I am honored in commemorating Begawan Sultan Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien III as the historic figure of Brunei Darussalam.
By Mohamad Akmal Fauzan ABU BAKAR, ASEAN Correspondent from Brunei Darussalam