Cabinet Ministers, Legislative Council members as well as members of the Diplomatic Corps paid their respects to the late United States (US) Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Matthew J Matthews by signing the condolence book at the US Embassy in Brunei yesterday.
The sudden passing of the United States (US) Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam on May 20 shocked the local community and foreign dignitaries in the country.
On behalf of the Government of 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, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Nor bin Haji Jeludin signed the condolence book.
Meanwhile, Minister of Religious Affairs Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Haji Awang Othman, Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abdul Mokti bin Haji Mohd Daud and Minister of Education Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hamzah bin Haji Sulaiman also signed the condolence book.
Legislative Council members Yang Berhormat Siti Rozaimeriyanty binti Dato Seri Laila Jasa Haji Abdul Rahman, Yang Berhormat Nik Hafimi binti Abdul Haadii, Yang Berhormat Khairunnisa binti Haji Ash’ari and Yang Berhormat Iswandy bin Ahmad also wrote their personal condolence messages.
The ambassador presented his credentials to His Majesty on April 15, 2019.
During his time as ambassador, he was a strong proponent of people-to-people ties between Brunei and the US, selecting this as the theme of the 2019 US Independence Day celebration and advocating for exchange programmes such as Fulbright and YSEALI (Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative).
The ambassador also expanded bilateral economic cooperation and security partnership, highlighted by the 25th iteration of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Exercise in 2019.
He often said that the best part of serving in Brunei was being welcomed into friends’ homes, meeting their families and sharing food.
He also enjoyed exploring cuisines of Brunei, sharing discoveries of new dishes and restaurants. He began scuba diving in Brunei and received his certification here.
He read history, including exploring accounts of early Brunei-US relations.
Ambassador Matthews loved sharing US culture with Bruneians and creating opportunities for live performances. He was instrumental in bringing cultural envoys such as the bluegrass band The Henhouse Prowlers and Hawaiian musicians The Daniel Ho Group to Brunei, as well as the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet Band.
His rousing rendition of Country Road, accompanied by The Henhouse Prowlers and members of the embassy, was one of the highlights of the tour. He also enjoyed meeting young Bruneians during visits to schools and other organisations.
A career diplomat, Ambassador Matthews’ first postings included two tours in Beijing, two tours in Taipei, Islamabad, Hong Kong, and Washington DC.
Later, as the Counsellor for Economic Affairs at the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and at the US Embassy in Canberra, Australia, Ambassador Matthews focussed on multilateral trade agreements. From 2013 to 2015, he served as the Foreign Policy Advisor to Commander of the US Pacific Command Admiral Locklear and as the Deputy Principal Officer at the US Consulate General in Hong Kong from 2010 to 2013. From June 2015 to March 2019, Ambassador Matthews served as the US Ambassador for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and concurrently the deputy assistant secretary for Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Ambassador Matthews spoke fluent Mandarin.
He grew up in Portland, Oregon and received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon. He attended the Inter-University Programme for Chinese Language Studies in Taipei, and earned a Master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington DC.
Ambassador Matthews leaves his wife Rachel, two adult children Kristen and Daniel, his daughter-in-law Elizabeth and his granddaughter Emilia, who reside in the US.