Brunei considers parole system

James Kon

As of November 28, 2020, there were 841 detainees and prisoners in prison institutions in the country. This exceeded the maximum capacity of 585. The number of inmates is on the rise and overcrowding in the system will surface. Additionally, the inmates are still experiencing stigmatisation within the society.

There are several efforts under review to address the problem of overcapacity in the institutions. Among the solutions based on other countries’ experience and best practices include the parole system, which is the conditional release of inmates to serve the rest of their sentences outside of prison.

This was revealed by Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong during a dialogue between the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) and Legislative Council (LegCo) members at the Brunei-Muara District Office yesterday.

The Prisons Department is also planning to establish a Community Service Order Division to supplement a community service system.

Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong. PHOTO: YUSRIN JUNAIDI

The minister believed the rehabilitation and reintegration of the inmates into the society rest on the shoulders of the Prisons Department and the community.

The minister also shared other initiatives to be implemented this year, among which are Immigration and National Registration System (INRS) and National Labour Management System (NLMS).

The minister said 2020 was a challenging year. Brunei and the rest of the world are still fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Brunei has also been affected by floodings, especially in low-lying areas since April 2020. But with the wise leadership 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 and concerted efforts by government and non-government agencies, people in Brunei are largely spared from the worst of COVID-19.

To maintain public safety, the MoHA is one of the frontline agencies. The National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) has contributed face masks and hand sanitisers to frontliners and enforcement agencies as well as assisting in coordinating venues for mandatory self-isolation.

The Immigration and National Registration Department (INRD), along with other agencies has ensured land, sea and air immigration control posts are under strict control to make certain health procedures are adhered to. The department is also working with Steering Committee on Cross-Border Affairs to control the borders to ensure the safety and well-being of Brunei residents.

On the unpredictable weather causing floods and landslides, the minister said, “The Fire and Rescue Department (FRD), NDMC and other agencies are always ready to manage disasters and ensure the safety of victims and the public.

“The responsibility in addressing a disaster is not borne solely by the government. We have seen synergy with the community to jointly address the flood issue. Mukim Tanjong Maya, through its Mukim and Village Consultative Council had set up a disaster action group by preparing a standard operating procedure (SOP), as well as rounding up four-wheel drive drivers, boat owners and volunteers including youth ready to provide assistance. This effort can be emulated by other mukim and village consultative councils.”

The minister believed that the community awareness programme organised by FRD and NDMC is a significant initiative to become a resilient community. Up until December 2020, 21,108 people participated in community awareness programmes organised by FRD and 1,164 individuals trained through programmes like the Community-Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) and School-Based Disaster Risk Management (SBDRM).

In efforts to foster a community that lives in unity, he said, “The ministry is carrying out initiatives aimed at improving mukim and village institutions. Among them is the filling of the post of penghulus and village heads. Taking into account the importance of penghulus and village heads as grassroots leaders, the E-Vote Project – intended to speed up the processes of filling the posts – is expected to be implemented in the first quarter of this year.”

Regarding youth participation in the mukim and village consultative councils, the minister said, “We appreciate the proactive actions taken by several consultative councils to include youth members. We hope that more efforts will be made to attract youth participation in the mukim and village consultative council so that they can help in economic and socio-cultural developments at the grassroots level.

“We have witnessed mukim and village residents implementing initiatives such as opening up hiking trails for public use in several locations such as Kampong Masin and Kampong Tungku. We would like to convey our gratitude for the efforts and hope more such activities will be organised.”

On the socio-economic front, the ministry has lined up projects to revitalise Bandar Seri Begawan’s business centre with the cooperation of Syarikat P Cube Sdn Bhd.

Meanwhile, in One Village, One Product (1K1P) business catalyst efforts, he said, “The ministry worked with Bank Islam Brunei Darusalam (BIBD) last year to carry out a 1K1P transformation programme where 19 entrepreneurs from four districts introduced products in two categories – 1K1P classic products and 1K1P premium products. Among the objectives of the programme was to raise the competency of the entrepreneurs and create quality 1K1P products. The classic products with the concept of grab-and-go are targetted for daily use and fast-moving consumer goods while premium products are meant as corporate souvenirs and are available at selected outlets. Insya Allah, the second transformation programme will be held next month.”

Permanent Secretary (Safety, Welfare and Law) at the MoHA Mohd Amir Hairil bin Haji Mahmud, Permanent Secretary (Municipal and District) at the MoHA Salminan bin Haji Burut, Deputy Permanent Secretary (Municipal and District) at the MoHA Abdul Walid bin Haji Matassan, Acting Permanent Secretary (Security and Welfare) at the MoHA Azmi bin Haji Hafneh and senior officials were also present at the event yesterday.