Youth crime, dismal job prospects for Pusat Bahagia students and the welfare of volunteers involved in managing the COVID-19 outbreak were among the issues raised 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, in a titah during an unscheduled visit to the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) yesterday.
“The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports is responsible for cultural, youth and sport matters, in addition to dealing specifically with community development,” said His Majesty.
“Because of its wide-ranging role and responsibilities, the ministry was allocated a budget of almost BND94 million for the financial year of 2019-2020, which is an increase of 22.8 per cent, compared to the previous financial year.
“The ministry should be truly alert and continuously assess its proposed schemes, particularly character development programmes for youth. The current situation is a cause for concern, with youth more prone to unacceptable behaviours.
“Issues, such as drug abuse, theft and smuggling, are frequently perpetrated by youth. There are even reports of mosque youth being involved in criminal activities, which include the disgraceful act of breaking open mosque donation boxes.
“This poses a challenge for the relevant parties, particularly the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports. Youth issues should not be neglected. Projects for the development of character among youth need to be precise on what they are about, or the areas which need to be prioritised and in what form,” said His Majesty.
His Majesty added, “If they are just formed for recreational or entertainment purposes, then it is my view that these are far from adequate for developing great character.
“Apart from character development programmes, measures for addressing social issues must also be arranged. In this respect, has the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports developed any strategies yet?” asked His Majesty.
Among the current steps being undertaken by the ministry are the administration of Pusat Bahagia in Kampong Pulaie, which is responsible for looking after the interests of children with special needs and people with different abilities (OKU).
“Some of the students at the centre are undergoing skill acquisition courses, as an initial step towards finding appropriate jobs. But it has come to light that this group is not favoured by employers, whether in public or private sector.
“This matter deserves serious attention from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports. We need to find out why this is happening. Are the courses on offer yet to attain the required level, or are there any other reasons such as unskilled guidance officers, or because the atmosphere at the training centre is hardly a conducive environment?
“Compared to a conventional school, the centre is a fenced-in enclosure which more resembles a detention centre. Have these factors been examined or looked into by the ministry?
“I would also like to inquire whether the volunteers involved in managing the coronavirus outbreak carried out their duties suitably. This includes not neglecting their welfare, and they should be provided with allowances as volunteers.
“I also note that this ministry has various plans, such as reviving the Youth Centre in the capital. To oversee this project, the ministry has assigned a group of youth, together with a budget allocation.
“The programme was already in progress, even before the COVID-19 epidemic, with activities being organised on Saturday nights and the road in front of the Youth Centre closed to motorists, to allow local youth entrepreneurs to carry out commercial operations, live concerts, busking and religious activities on certain months. The Youth Hostel is also used as a chargeable accommodation.
“I wish to remind that this programme should not be conducted improvidently. We should think of its appropriateness in all aspects, especially in terms of culture and religion. According to its true definition, culture is not all about entertainment and amusement, but civilisation, which is of a much larger scope. I hope that the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports understands this.
“One of the ministry’s roles related to civilisation is performed by the Language and Literature Bureau (DBP), which is responsible for the promotion and development of language, particularly our country’s official language. It is a mechanism for the development of civilisation among the people.
“I have yet to see bold efforts being made in that direction. Even routine efforts such as the Language Month campaign, if any at all, are just half-hearted attempts.
“Other projects which are still being called into question include the renovation and refurbishment of the Brunei Museum in Jalan Kota Batu.
“I was informed that the renovation work has been carried out long enough, but has yet to be completed. In its early days, the museum was an attractive place, which captivated both local and foreign visitors. But all of this changed with the times and a line of new administrators in charge of the museum.
“The new era and administration were supposed to bring about improvements. But what has transpired? The museum has been closed for an extended period of time. I urge for this matter to be looked into, as to why the situation has deteriorated, and for solutions to resolve it.
“In the realm of sports, what matters here is the country’s readiness for regional and international meets such as the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. Are our athletes being prepared by solid training or is the ministry still doing last-minute selections? Aside from that, facilities owned by the ministry, such as sport buildings or complexes, must be managed according to the requirements.”