| Azlan Othman |
THE international community’s “big recognition” of Brunei Darussalam’s efforts to protect human rights in the country was highlighted 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 yesterday.
The monarch, delivering a titah at the Audience and Investiture Ceremony to mark the 73rd royal birthday at Istana Nurul Iman, sounded a welcoming note on the positive human rights review on Brunei Darussalam made by the United Nations member countries recently.
His Majesty also urged the nation to tap potentials in the creative industry and digital economy, announced the introduction of a complete database centre to improve the channelling of welfare assistance to the needy, and stated his pleasure at the increase in domestic household income and monthly per capita income.
“Recently, Brunei Darussalam was reviewed in the United Nations on efforts to protect human rights. In this context, many member countries have made positive reviews and praised the efforts undertaken by the Sultanate in such UN human rights review,” His Majesty said.
“Without doubt, this is a big recognition whereby the international community welcomed efforts that we’ve carried out including in eradicating poverty and disease, the provision of quality education, clean and safe drinking water and comfortable place of stay, and strengthening a fair legal system where the protection of rights of the family institution, women, children, the youth, senior citizens and people with different abilities is strongly emphasised.”
The monarch added that all countries including Brunei Darussalam are in a challenging period and the challenges are various and need to be addressed individually.
His Majesty highlighted that Brunei’s domestic challenge is to ensure that the well-being of its citizens and residents can be established through various programmes such as the provision of better services and facilities that cover many areas such as health, education, law, development and communications, among others.
“All these are intended to ascertain a quality lifestyle which is the right for the people to enjoy,” His Majesty said.
The monarch said that economic opportunities in the country are also continuously being explored, including creating potential in the creative industry.
“Such an industry we can develop to gain multiple benefits, not only to consolidate cultural and arts heritage but also to diversify the economy,” said His Majesty. “The potential of digital economy too must also be explored. Toward this, I have consented for the formation of a Digital Economy Council. I understand that a digital economy masterplan is undertaken to support the country’s smart nation drive.”
His Majesty said that besides efforts to improve the economy, steps are also continuously being taken to improve the welfare of the people. Among these is the government plan to introduce a complete database centre to gather data from all agencies involved in channelling welfare assistance. Through the system, welfare assistance can be rendered more effectively to individuals who are really in need of such help.
Efforts are also made to reduce welfare recipients’ reliance on such assistance. These include running empowerment programmes for the welfare recipients to enable them to be independent and self-reliant and get out of the segment of needy groups who require assistance.
The monarch also expressed his happiness on the improvement in the standard of living in the country.
“Based on the Household Expenditure Survey 2015-2016, the average household income in Brunei Darussalam in 2015/2016 had increased by 4.3 per cent per year in the past five years,” His Majesty revealed. “Such increase was also recorded in the monthly per capita income totalling 26.4 per cent. The contributing factors also include the rise in self-employment income and business activities.
“However we must acknowledge that there is still room for improvement. For instance, the implementation of programmes under the national development plan in all sectors needs to be enhanced.
“The nation also needs an implementation of laws, regulations and excellent governance especially relating to financial management. Government agencies are also required to step up the quality of their service in line with public expectations.”
Public servants should also be ready to play an effective role as facilitator and not only as regulator, His Majesty added.
With regard to the international arena, His Majesty said Brunei will continue to respect other nations regardless of their ideology, noting that this policy drives the country “to not meddle with the interests of any party in line with the concept of maintaining and respecting their sovereignty”.
“Brunei also continues to be committed and will not withdraw from cooperating with the international community to tackle core current challenges such as climate change, environmental pollution, terrorism threats and extremism,” His Majesty said. “Brunei is happy as an ‘environment friendly’ nation that never meddles with others’ affairs but consistently lives a religious life and commendable cultural life. Brunei never ignores the privacy of anyone unless pure values are not respected or infringed on.”
Closing the titah, His Majesty expressed his appreciation and thanks to the country’s citizens and residents, civil servants, security personnel and members of the private sector, including those working overseas, for their support and contributions to the government. His Majesty also thanked members of the celebration committee at the national and district levels for their service in making the celebration a success.
“We are grateful to Allah the Almighty for being able to celebrate my birthday in peace and prosperity,” the monarch added.
“I also wish to express my thanks to my special guests for being able to attend this celebration and to all who’ve expressed their birthday greetings.
I pray for the nation and people to enjoy peace and harmony and to be blessed by Allah the Almighty and be under everlasting protection.”
Following the titah, His Majesty presented state decorations and honorary medals to 15 recipients.
Present at the Audience and Investiture Ceremony was Her Majesty Duli Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha binti Al-Marhum Pengiran Pemancha Pengiran Anak Haji Mohamed Alam.
His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Her Royal Highness Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah binti Pengiran Haji Salleh Ab Rahaman were also in attendance.
Also present were His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Malik and Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Raabi’atul ‘Adawiyyah binti Pengiran Haji Bolkiah; His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Mateen; His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Wakeel; His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah and Her Royal Highness Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Zariah; His Royal Highness Prince Haji Sufri Bolkiah and Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Bini Hajah Faizah binti Dato Haji Nasir; His Royal Highness Prince Haji Jefri Bolkiah; Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Rashidah Sa’adatul Bolkiah; Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Majeedah Nuurul Bolkiah; Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Hafizah Sururul Bolkiah; Her Royal Highness Princess ‘Azemah Ni’matul Bolkiah; Her Royal Highness Princess Fadzilah Lubabul Bolkiah; and Her Royal Highness Princess Ameerah Wardatul Bolkiah.
Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Masna, Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Nor’ain; Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Amal Umi Kalthum Al-Islam; and other members of the royal family also attended the ceremony.