Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The Sultan of Brunei

Sir Muda Hassanul Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaaaulah (1946-) or better known more simply as the Sultan of Brunei, has ruled the Oil Rich Microstate in Southeast Asia since 1967.

He provides free education and healthcare for the citizens of his country, has waived income tax and continues to encourage and invest in further projects in the improvement of social welfare of his people.

Although small in population (340, 000 people), Brunei Darussalam as it is officially known, is made up largely of Brunein Malays (68%) and Chinese residents (20%), and is the richest country among the Southeast Asian Muslim nations.

The per capita income is 22, 000 [Brunei ‘Ringgit] Dollars. Life expectancy is 74 years, the literacy rate is 86%, every fourth person owns a car and all basic amenities of life and necessities are provided for, free of cost by the State.

Although, no longer the World’s richest man (Bill Gates was the first to eclipse him in the 1990s), he remains the World’s richest royal, Asia’s richest man and the World’s wealthiest oil tycoon.

His wealth is generated from oil and gas. His personal wealth is said to be a fortune of approximately $38 billion (23.1 billion Pounds Sterling) and continues to fluctuate alongside that of American corporate magnates with similar assets.

In addition to being an absolute monarch, the 29th Sultan of Brunei is also Prime Minister and Defence Minister as well. He has held all three positions since 1984, upon independence from the UK.

Today, he retains the Finance and Home office ministries as well, most other cabinet positions are held by relatives. It was only in 1986 non royals were permitted to have key cabinet roles.

As a financial investor and business entrepreneur abroad, his assets and properties outside the country include the Dorchester and Beverley Hills Hotels in London and Los Angeles. Profits from Brunei’s overseas investments now exceed the revenues generated by oil and gas, its chief exports.

On a personal level, he traces his family back seven centuries to 1363, the earliest date for the Brunei monarchy and claims descent from Hasan, the son of Ali and the grandson of the Prophet of Islam.

He is married and has six children; four daughters and two sons. The Crown Prince and heir to the Brunei Throne, Haji Al-Muhtadee, was born in 1974.

Educated in Malaysia and later at Sandhurst Military College in England in 1966, he cut short his studies to assume the throne left vacant by the voluntary abdication of his father, Sir Omar, the following year, who remained his chief advisor until his death in 1986.

The then 21-year-old monarch, as the eldest son, set about reforming the administration (which was then under a British mandate), although a decree whereby political parties banned since 1962 under his father, remained in force.

During his reign, internal self-government was awarded in 1971 and a UN resolution called for independence in 1975. Full independence followed nine years later in 1984, the seventeenth year of his reign.

In light of the prevailing circumstances however, it was fitting plans for a regal architectural splendour be launched to celebrate the occasion. The Istana Nurul Iman; the private residence and palace of the Sultan of Brunei in the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. The palace was successfully completed in January 1984 at a reported cost of $422 million (300 million Pounds Sterling).

It has 1, 788 rooms and 257 lavatories and is the largest private royal residence in the World. The underground garage houses the Sultan’s 153 cars, which is itself believed to be the largest collection of Rolls Royce’s.

Politically, he is also very active and in 1985, the Sultan relaxed an earlier policy of containing political parties. The ‘Brunei National Democratic Party (BNDP) was legalised that year (the only one allowed to exist).

Spurred on by the relative success of the BNDP, he gave his consent to another, the multiethnic Brunei National United Party (BNUP). Both parties were banned in 1988 and remains so to this day.

In 1991 he helped Brunei join the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and introduced an ideology called the Malay Muslim Monarchy, which presented himself as ‘Defender of the Faith’ (since ‘Head of Religion’).

The Sultan later held the World’s most expensive party ever in July 1996. The occasion, that cost an estimated 17 million Pounds Sterling, included a funfair and three Michael Jackson concerts. The latter alone cost 10 million Pounds Sterling.

Since the 1990s, he has assumed a low profile although he is committed to the US ‘War on Islam’ since 2001 and hosted the Asian Southeast Nations Conference the following year.

Dubbed by his people as the ‘Caring Monarch’, the Sultan is said to be deeply concerned over his subjects, is quite accessible, encourages advice and comments from ordinary people and works full time for their comfort and security.     



Anonymous said...

Bruneian Malays are not Malaysians... they are purely Bruneian Malays.

Cosmic Prince said...

Thanks for enlightening me on my error. I will amend the article in light of your comment.