Lest We Forget


Compiled by Faruq Aiman Bostaman

Brunei has been independent for centuries

JANUARY 18, 1958 – His Highness the Sultan explained the difference between a British Protectorate and a British Crown Colony to the people of Labu during a special visit he made there last Sunday.

“A British Colony,” said His Highness, “is a country which is controlled one hundred per cent by the British Officials and whose policies and laws are made by the British Government.

“Brunei is NOT a British Colony,” emphasised the Sultan. This country is your own country and I am your own Sultan and as such I am responsible for the country’s policies which concern the welfare and prosperity of the State.

“Those who assist with the administration of the country are my officials who are mostly local born. There are also British officials seconded from Sarawak and other places who, before being employed in Brunei, must obtain my sanction and the approval of the State Council and also the recommendation of the Public Service Committee.

“The British Government is our good friend, and this friend will always protect us from invasion from outside countries as well as advise us in the administration whenever such advice and assistance is required. The British Government i, in sending its officials to serve in Brunei, does not intend to gain advantage for its own ends, but to help us in running and developing the country. It is no necessary for me to expand on the great progress we have made since we became a firm friend of the British Government.

“The policy of the British Government is not to enslave the citizens of our country; on the other hand the British Government protects us so that we may always live in peace.”

The Sultan said that when the high posts in Government were vacated by the British Officers, well-educated, clever local citizens would fill them.

Don’t blow your top – spin it

JANUARY 9, 1988 – KAMPONG Tanjong Nangka gasing (top-spinning) teams came close to winning the double crown in Brunei’s first national gasing championships in Bandar Seri Begawan.

Taking seven weeks to complete, the inaugural event put on a national footing a game which until recently had been played only in friendly matches between rural kampongs.

Even within Brunei, top-spinning is not common in all parts of the state, and internationally Brunei’s version of the game differs from, say, Malaysia’s.

Kampong Tanjong Nangka has long been a major gasing centre, as has been Kampong Mulaut.

Both villages featured prominently in the championships, with Tanjong Nangka taking the senior title and narrowly missing out on winning the junior crown as well.

Mulaut’s Under-15s beat Tanjong Nangka in the final, while the Tanjong Nangka seniors beat Kampong Kupang for the top spot.

Players during teh waiting game which is played with consummate skill

Brunei’s ‘Indung Gasing’, Haji Bakir bin Haji Jumat won the individual 50 and over title, narrowly outlasting Bungsu Kasum by a mere five seconds to win a time of 38 minutes and six seconds.

Third placed was Haji Burut bin Raya with 33 minutes and 56 seconds.

The best player award went to Azahari bin Haji Dagang with 24 points, and Karim bin Haji Bahar clocked 48 minutes and 17 seconds to be declared the best ‘bergurau’ player.

Bergurau is the second stage of a contest between two opposing players.

The first stage begins with one player throwing his gasing, followed by his opponent who will try to hit his spinning top.

If he misses, or both tops continue to spin, the players will scoop up their tops and take them – still spinning – to another arena where they will try to outlast each other.

This is called ‘bergurau’, and this waiting game can occasionally last a very long time.

This is where not only the individual’s skills count, but also the skills of the man who made the top.

Not many people make gassings, and the good ones are in great demand.

In Brunei, teams can consist of between two and 15 people, and gassings are thrown two at a time – one from each team.

In Malaysia, teams have four players, with one team throwing their four tops in quick succession. The opposing four players will then throw their tops, with each player trying to hit his corresponding opposing number.

And in contrast with the Bruneian method, the gassings are not scooped up to be taken away. The players leave them where they are and they will ‘bergurau’ in the same arena.

The Malaysian gasing (and those in Singapore where they play the Malaysian version of the game) is two-thirds smaller than the Brunei model, which is also much heavier.

As part of the championships, the organisers introduced an invitational event with teams from Malaysia and Singapore as well as Brunei A and Brunei B.

This event was unexpectedly won by Singapore, with a team of players who have been spinning tops only since 1980.

The Brunei national championships were organised by the newly founded National Gasing Federation and the Welfare, Youth and Sports Department.

They were officially opened by the Deputy Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Ali bin Haji Mohd Daud. – Tarmizi Mansor