Sultan calls for improvement in RBAF

Aziz Idris

The surge in disciplinary issues among personnel within the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) was spelled out in a titah by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during a working visit to the Bolkiah Garrison yesterday.

Recent figures show that between 2016 and August 2019, a total of 338 cases of military offences were reported, followed by 182 for drug offences, 138 for misconduct, 107 for financial crimes, 100 for civil cases and 38 for Syariah offences.

“Why do these violations occur?” asked the monarch, in delivering the titah before some 2,000 RBAF personnel at the garrison’s gymnasium. His Majesty then said, “It is imperative for the RBAF to look for the reasons behind these violations. There must be reasons for this. Perhaps the leadership did not reprimand their subordinates firmly enough, or failed to reprimand them on a constant basis, causing them to take discipline very lightly. Or it could be owing to a lack of clarity, causing them to be ill-informed on the RBAF Act and the Laws of Brunei. Taking care of disciplinary matters means taking care of the welfare of RBAF personnel, which are undoubtedly the main asset within the military force.”

His Majesty also cautioned that the moral standards of each personnel should be maintained, not diminished. “If the morale is low, then it will have negative effects on their contributions to the defence organisation.”

To counter this, His Majesty suggested military personnel to engage in welfare projects which would greatly benefit themselves, as well as the rest of the country and society. “Conducting activities is not detrimental, but beneficial…Normally, an organisation bereft of any activities is a weak one. I do not want this to happen. Defence organisations are by no means intended to display weaknesses even among themselves,” said the monarch.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam inspects the guard of honour. PHOTOS: RAHWANI ZAHARI
His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in a group photo.
His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during a tour to RBAF facilities.
Photos above and below show His Majesty in a group photo during the visit to the military residences quarters.

ABOVE & BELOW: His Majesty mingles with teachers and staff of Pantai Berakas Primary School; and His Majesty being greeted by students and staff of the school.

His Majesty also focussed on security breaches, which rose from 33 cases in 2014 to 82 in 2018. “The increase is indeed alarming, as the violations include the smuggling of contraband items such as liquor, cigarettes and gambling equipment. As I emphasise here, none of these should be condoned.”

Earlier in the titah, His Majesty referred to the RBAF’s military prowess, which as the main security agency, requires firm and strong qualities.

“The RBAF’s strength must be determined, as to the degree of its competence or whether it still needs improvement,” said the monarch.

According to the latest statistics, the strength of the RBAF consists of 757 officers and 8,925 personnel of other ranks, totalling 9,682 individuals.

Of these 67 per cent are from Royal Brunei Land Force (RBLF), 64 per cent from Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) and 57 per cent from Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAirF).

From these figures, His Majesty acknowledged that “RBAF is still short of staff, and these deficiencies can affect management effectiveness across all units. As a result of this shortage, there are officers who hold more than one position, which caused them to focus less on the key role of their positions. Meanwhile, several personnel were forced to do extra work leading to a deficiency in their primary roles of maintaining safety and defence security.

“These deficiencies should not be ignored. The leadership needs to be aware of them, and we cannot afford to be silent in allowing these shortfalls to persist.”

The monarch also expressed concern on the level of capability in RBAF’s major assets, “I was made to understand that the RBLF, RBN and RBAirF have failed to reach the 75 per cent optimum stage.

“Moreover, there have been disturbing incidents, such as grounded RBAF vessels and issues with the RBAirF’s CN235, which affected the overall state of the major assets within the force. There have been reports on the unsatisfactory level of the assets, which are caused by several factors such as a lack of spare parts; delays in asset maintenance; lack of specialist engineers; lack of research, details and supervision at the design stage; and asset acquisition and acceptance. I see that all these factors require the attention of all sides, especially from the leaders,” said His Majesty, adding, “Don’t just read about them on paper, but try to study them carefully. Are they true and supported by those factors or reasons? If true, then look for a way to resolve them.” The monarch then mentioned other logistical issues which also required attention, such as the shortage in stationery and office supplies, as well as the provision of homes for military personnel.

In concluding the titah, His Majesty urged those in positions of leadership, including Minister of Defence II Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof, to take the lead in addressing all issues that were raised during the working visit.