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Take lessons from recent food incident: Sultan

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 urged all parties to take lessons from the recent incident of students and public servants receiving stale rice and maggot-infested food during the recent royal wedding procession of His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Mateen and Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Anak Isteri Anisha Rosnah binti Adam.

His Majesty, chairing a special joint Supreme and Working Committee meeting for the royal wedding ceremony at Istana Nurul Iman, said the matter is highly regrettable especially with netizens expressing their dissatisfaction on social media to an extent of throwing insults that are seditious.

The monarch was grateful that the royal wedding had been held.

“I am made to understand that the Supreme and Working Committee as well as students, teachers and public servants were highly committed to ensuring that the ceremony, especially the Royal Procession, went well.

“I wish to express appreciation on the tireless efforts and pray that Allah the Almighty will repay all the good deeds with multiple rewards.

“However, I was shocked to hear about stale rice and food infested with maggots as well as mouldy bread given to the students and public servants,” His Majesty said.

“I am holding this meeting today as there are people still talking about the incident. I fully understand the despair and commotion among parents. Certainly no one wants their children to consume stale food.

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 on the food incident during the recent royal wedding celebrations. PHOTO: INFOFOTO
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 while His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office looks on. PHOTO: INFOFOTO

Alhamdulillah, Allah the Almighty has given them direction not to consume such food. If they consume such food, certainly they will experience food poisoning and many students will be rushed to hospital,” the monarch said.

His Majesty added that it is not adequate to say that no students had been reported to suffer food poisoning. What should instead be stressed is that all participants received proper meal.

“It is regrettable to note that the matter involved students, who were not able to find alternative sources of food on their own, compared to public servants.

“I am convinced that the root cause of stale rice and maggot-infested food was due to carelessness in food preparation. I was made to understand that the food was prepared a day in advance.”

The monarch asked, “Isn’t it harmful to those consuming it?”

The monarch said several schools also kept food in places with no shades, thus exposed to hot weather and flies.

“The incident also went viral on social media and was irresponsibly exaggerated, as if all the food provided by suppliers were contaminated, whereas I was made to understand that the affected food came from only two suppliers.

“It is highly regrettable, especially when a segment of the public, especially some netizens used social media to air their grievances to an extent of throwing incitement and lashing out at the Supreme Committee, Secretariat and Working Committees.

“Members of the royal family also received such accusations even though we entrusted those involved to ensure all went smoothly.

“‘Nasi sudah menjadi bubur’ (the rice has turned into porridge), meaning it is already too late and can’t be undone. We should instead take lessons from the incident,” the monarch said.

His Majesty also asked, “Was the food supply planned properly?

“The committee should think about worst case scenarios. Did the parties concerned have any alternative methods or plans if the worst case scenario occurred?

“There needs to be an assessment of the companies before determining how much food is expected of them.

“I was informed that there were companies tasked to distribute over 9,000 meal packages, while others over 6,000, over 5,000, over 4,000 and so on.”

The monarch said since the quantity was huge, assessments must be made prior to assigning the numbers to the companies.

“First, evaluate the ability of the suppliers, including the number of staff and equipment.

“All these must be examined first. It is important to remember the risk if the supplier is incapable or does not have the experience and equipment.

“In a large-scale event involving a large number of school students and public servants, if the food is contaminated and there is no other alternative, participants will starve.

“If an event requires participation from more catering companies, then they must guarantee that the service provided is of the highest quality.

“I do not want the government expenditure to harm the government as well as other parties. I do not want to criticise or point fingers. I believe that each party tried their best.

“But I believe there are still aspects that need to be improved to ensure that every event will run smoothly from the start to the finish,” His Majesty said.

His Majesty also asked, “Has the committee held a postmortem regarding the matter? Are there any plans to improve in future events?”

Touching on the transportation issue, the monarch said, “I understand that students had waited for a long time for the bus that never arrived. Where did the buses go? Where were the drivers after dropping the children off at designated spots? Why were the buses not instructed to wait at certain places so that the children could easily locate them after the procession?

“If there was indeed traffic congestion, the parties concerned should have found alternative routes instead of waiting for the jam to subside.

“Was there no other road that could be used, considering that the procession was already over?

“This is what I mean; every event needs to have a main plan and an alternative plan by taking into account the worst case scenario.

“I urge all committee members handling major national events to plan thoroughly.”

Also in attendance was His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office.

The meeting began with the reading of Doa Selamat by State Mufti Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia (Dr) Ustaz Haji Awang Abdul Aziz bin Juned. – Azlan Othman

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