MTIC comes under His Majesty’s scrutiny

Azlan Othman

Frequent incidences of car fire, flaws in the renewal of road tax and abuse of power were among the issues raised during an unscheduled visit 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 to the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC), yesterday.

In a titah, His Majesty said, “All ministries have their own vision and mission, and it is so with the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications.

“The ministry’s vision is for a smart and excellent society in communications, while its mission is to establish a dynamic environment through safe and efficient communication.

“Both the mission and vision look attractive. To enable the ministry to implement its vision and mission, it has been allocated a budget amounting to BND53,722,753 for the 2019-2020 financial year.

“Under the Strategic Plan of 2020-2025, the ministry is actively disseminating a framework of the digital economy masterplan to ministries, institutes of higher education and other agencies, including the private sector.

“It was under this plan that the Cyber Security Brunei (CSB) was established, as the national agency for cybersecurity. The ministry is also streamlining the structure for the National Road Safety Council, as a step towards improving road safety, besides the use of a Smart Transportation system that is more efficient and reliable.

“All of these convey a positive image of the ministry. However, such developments are dependent on discretionary leadership. If it is fine, then so are the achievements. If otherwise, then the achievements will be hard to obtain.

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 delivers a titah. PHOTOS: BAHYIAH BAKIR
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 being briefed on one of the facilities available at MTIC.

“All ministerial systems are composed of officers and staff. If they are as good as their job criteria, then all will go smoothly. If otherwise, the ministry will become problematic.

“An example of a problematic system within a ministry is when the employees are not chosen according to merit, but with partiality or cronyism.

“If the chosen one is truly qualified, then it is not cronyism. It is crucial to draw a distinction, for the sake of truth and justice. A specific weakness is a leader’s lack of trust in his subordinates or not quite ready to accept the views of other officers, even though they may be beneficial.

“This attitude goes against the concept of consultation. There are four departments under this ministry, namely the Land Transport Department (JPD), the Department of Civil Aviation, the Postal Services Department and the Meteorological Department.

“JPD plays a crucial role in the supervision of transportation so that it is safe, efficient, and satisfactory.

“Safety should never be compromised. It must be upheld, and all that is unsafe must be prevented. Lately, there have been frequent occurrences of car fire in this country. This is a safety risk which is causing alarm among the population.

“In my opinion, these events should not be taken lightly. The relevant parties in the government are obliged to take this into account, rather than just putting out fires when they occur.

“They need to analyse, identify and find out why such incidents occur on a frequent basis in Brunei. There must be a reason or cause behind this. If that has been identified, then what are the steps to be taken? This is the requirement that must be fulfilled to curb or prevent such incidences from happening again.

“JPD also plays a significant role in the regulation of transportation affairs, for increased safety. Among the measures in that direction was the establishment of an online system for the management.

“This system was supposed to be customer-friendly, but is it really so? For example, it is currently compulsory to acquire a vehicle licence by means of the tender process, through the online method. Can this be defined as the best solution?

“Several customers have also complained about encountering difficulties when utilising this system, as they are not IT-literate. They are more at ease and comfortable with the conventional method.

“There have also been instances where the new system resulted in a delayed or complete lack of response from JPD, to those who were unsuccessful. It is my opinion that this matter should also be reviewed.

“On another issue, I was made to understand that the National Road Safety Council (MKKJR) is reportedly lacking in membership, leading to a standstill in the task of updating regulations and adherence to the speed limits. Again, this is not an issue which should be treated lightly.

“Regarding the temporary border control post in Labu, Temburong, which is supposed to begin operations at 6am, there are reports which say that JPD only begins operation at 7.30am or has failed to show up on occasions.

“Lorries or trailers travelling through the control post are not meant to pass across without undergoing inspection by JPD, but JPD regularly gives orders to allow lorries and trailers to pass through, as long as they undergo inspection by the Royal Customs and Excise Department.

“This has caused heavy vehicle from neighbouring countries to easily pass through the border with excessive loads, thereby causing damage to our roads. This also should not be taken lightly.

“There is also a suspicious element in the matter of land transport services. The Inspection Section for the issuance of road tax is seen as negligent in conducting roadworthy vehicle inspection. This has led to the effortless clearance of modified cars, which are then unlisted in the vehicle registration ‘blue card’.”

His Majesty then raised the issue of abuse of power in giving preferential treatment for foreigners to get road tax without going through proper channels.

“The road tax is issued to vehicles owned by foreigners, even though those vehicles are not roadworthy,” said the monarch.

“Worse still, there are cases of counterfeit road tax renewal for vehicles exceeding seven years, without undergoing any inspection.”

His Majesty then raised the issues related to the newly upgraded Brunei International Airport: “There have incidences of floods and leakages over the past few years. Why is this happening? Of course, it stems from a lack of quality in the building structure, including low work quality of the selected contractor in the improvement of the pipe extension during the upgrading work. Apparently, the contractor failed to identify any flaws in the building structure.

“The relevant parties who approved the selection of contractor should not escape from bearing the responsibility.”

“The International Airport should be equipped with proper machinery. The X-ray machine at the Royal Customs and Excise Department for scanning items at the airport, for instance, is a basic necessity. When functioning properly, it emits a green light when the items are permitted goods, and gives out a red light if a prohibited item is scanned.

“However, when I visited the Brunei International Airport in October 2019, the machine was not shown and I was only given an explanation in theory on this. I was made to understand that the machine was deliberately hidden because it has long been damaged and only able to give out a green light, regardless of whether the item is permitted or otherwise.

“If this is true, then it means that all items can be brought in, due to lack of equipment or the use of faulty machinery. If this is so, then it is an act of deceit.”

The monarch also reminded that “All management should be handled efficiently and with caution, so that it will not bring losses, especially with regard to agreements for joint investments with others, such as land lease agreements for large projects to certain foreign companies.

“These companies lease land for 60 years, but the nation will only earn little revenue. The ratio for a 60-year lease period is capable of generating tremendous profits for investors – and this is just the monetary benefit, which does not include the safety factor that should be taken into account in the long term.

“Our task is not merely to serve, but such services must have a mission and should be capable of guaranteeing welfare and protection for the nation.”