Brunei’s second-largest daily newspaper shuts down abruptly


Rozanna Latiff


BRUNEI’s second-largest daily newspaper, The Brunei Times, published its final edition on Monday, after abruptly announcing plans for closure over the weekend, triggering online speculation about the reason.

The daily, which was launched in 2006, announced on its Sunday front page that it would cease publication the next day.

On Monday, it said in a longer notice that the closure was due to “business issues, reporting and journalistic standards that should meet the mark set, and also issues relating to business sustainability…”

The daily did not address posts on social media that it had been ordered to shut down for publishing an article on Oct. 26 about changes in visa fees imposed by the Saudi Arabian government for Brunei haj pilgrims.

The daily carried an apology for the article on its website on Friday.

A spokesman for The Brunei Times declined to comment on the posts and instead referred Reuters to Monday’s front page statement. He said the newspaper had 110 people on its staff.

The Prime Minister’s Department did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

“The Brunei Times… no longer has sustainable resources to continue its media and publication operations and the company’s Board of Directors has agreed that the best course of action is to close down the paper,” the paper’s notice said.


Monday, 7 November 2016





Sultan of Brunei questions delay in Syariah law enforcement


HIS Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, yesterday ordered authorities to explain the two-year delay in the phased enforcement of Syariah Penal Code Order.

The monarch said the Syariah law has remained “stagnant” without any progress after being actively pursued for a brief period following the launch of the Order in 2014.

Delivering his titah during a meeting with the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) at the Legislative Council (LegCo) building, His Majesty questioned how many of the Syariah law provisions have been enforced.

[Related story: ]

[Related video: ]

“How long has passed since it was launched and gazetted until now? It has already been two years but it is still at the stage where only general offences are dealt with.

“What about the other phases? When will they be implemented? I expect the ministry concerned might respond by saying that the Syariah Penal Code could not be fully enforced at this stage because the CPC (Syariah Courts Criminal Procedure Code) has not been finalised,” the Sultan added.

The CPC outlines the rules for conducting criminal proceedings, from the investigation to prosecution.

His Majesty said authorities might respond by saying they are still waiting for the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) to finalise the vetting of the draft documents.

“My next question is when will the draft law be sent to the AGC? Their response might be that it was already sent in 2014,” His Majesty said.

The Sultan went on to say that if this was the case, it is most regrettable because two years have passed and yet the CPC has not been completed.

“How thick is the draft? The AGC might tell us there are many other legal documents that need to be urgently dealt with too. The vetting of the CPC will only be able to be finalised in June 2016, after it has stalled for two years,” the monarch said.

His Majesty said this is an “unacceptable excuse”.

“It is as if people will be under the impression that the Syariah Penal Code is worthless as a law mechanism. Where is the Minister of Religious Affairs? And where is the Attorney General? Why have they not come forward to remedy this unsatisfactory situation?” the Sultan questioned.

The first phase of the Syariah Penal Code was enforced on May 1, 2014. His Majesty added that before the second phase can be implemented, the country has to wait for another 12 months after the CPC can be gazetted.

“Now two years have gone by, but the CPC is not gazetted yet and the vetting process has not even started. This means that after it is gazetted in 2016, we have to wait another year, until 2017 before the second phase can be implemented.”

He said it will be 2018 by the time the third phase of the Syariah law can be enforced.

“So when will the penal code be ready to be fully implemented? Is it true to say that the officers responsible in vetting the draft legislation could not do so as a matter of urgency? Is it just a matter of vetting or did they intentionally refuse to vet?” His Majesty questioned.

The monarch asked why had the religious affairs minister and attorney general failed to keep tabs on how the work was being done by their officers.

“May I remind all that we did not formulate the law out of whims and fancies but we do it solely for the sake of Allah, not in pursuit of glamour. Working for Allah must be done earnestly,” His Majesty said.

Religious education

His Majesty also raised concerns on the direction and future of Arabic education in the country.

Arabic schools are established to bring forth those who are competent in religious knowledge, with the objective of eventually getting Islamic scholars or ulama. With this in mind, Arabic schools must prioritise religious subjects such as Arabic language, fiqh, tauhid, Quran, hadith and tafsir, he said.

He added that this must be done without ignoring the importance of subjects such as Malay language, English language and Mathematics.

Everything went well since the inception, but Arabic schools introduced the science stream from the 1980s, making it compulsory to take Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Additional Mathematics – subjects that are available in mainstream schools under the Ministry of Education, he said.

This meant that students who took the science subjects are required to reduce the number of religious subjects so that it will not be too burdensome, and thus science subjects came to gain more prominence than religious subjects, he continued.

Science stream classes at Arabic Schools currently only offer classes up to O-levels. After completing their O-levels, the students would have to transfer to mainstream schools if they wish to pursue the sciences.

“At that point, they are no longer considered students of Arabic schools and they completely stop studying religious subjects after their O-levels,” he said.

The monarch said there is a need to review the impact of introducing the sciences in Arabic schools when it was implemented in the 1980s.

“Unfortunately, no such research has been done, we do not know the implications whether good and bad of introducing Science stream classes back in the 1980s,” he said.

The Arabic religious education system is experiencing major changes with the implementation of the National Education System for the 21st Century (SPN21).

Under the education system, Arabic school students will be able to master both religious and Science stream subjects. Year 11 students at Arabic secondary schools will have to sit for two major examinations, including the O-levels for their mainstream subjects and the Brunei Islamic Studies Certificate (SPUB) for their religious curriculum.

In Year Nine, the students will be divided into three streams based on their results: 1) fast track Science stream for students who obtained excellent results; 2) normal track Science stream for students who obtained ‘very good’ results; and 3) Arabic stream for students who obtained ‘good’ results and below.

The Sultan said the grading of the three streams reflects that the Arabic stream is of third class level, not on par with the other two categories.

They are also required to study all subjects for their SPUB and O-level examinations simultaneously, possibly doubling the number of subjects that need to be taken in mainstream schools, he added.

“Wouldn’t such a system make it burdensome for Arabic school students and difficult for teachers to teach and complete the syllabus with that many subjects?”

He added that this can cause students to choose the Science stream over the Arabic stream.

The monarch said it is generally known that religious education subjects are more difficult and taxing compared to the other subjects, a factor that can push students away from Arabic classes in favour of the sciences.

“All these need to be deliberated on as thoroughly as possible to save and popularise religious subjects so that they will be seen as a good choice, more attractive and more appealing than non-religious subjects, not a means to open an opportunity for them to get away or escape from.

“This is a matter of much concern to me – the future direction of Arabic schools. Are their roles fading into irrelevancy or diverting towards another direction. All these call for a thorough reassessment to turn back to its original course. Let it not be changed,” he added.

Islamic propagation

The monarch said da’wah (dissemination of Islamic teachings) in the country is still weak and needs to be strengthened amid uncertain times and social ills affecting the country.

Among the issues raised were the number of propagators at the Islamic Da’wah Centre and whether they were properly trained.

“In addition to having many propagators, we want the da’wah delivered to be effective. Effective da’wah is successful da’wah,” he said.

His Majesty pointed out that one important medium of the da’wah is through the mimbar. The mimbar is a pulpit where the imam delivers the sermon in mosques.

“It is vital to deliver effective messages in the sermons. That is why all aspects must be taken into account, starting from preparation, content, writing, policy guidelines and lastly, the individual who will deliver the sermon,” he said.

His Majesty said it is important to practise discretion in deciding the content of the sermon, adding that the content must be appropriate.

He gave an example of an incident where SEA Games become the topic of a sermon. “The khatib (sermon readers) called upon congregants and Muslims to flock to the stadium to witness the events that would take place. We might say that sports is not something Islamically impermissible, but for a khatib to persuade and herd people to the stadium, in my opinion, is something that needs to be given thorough deliberation.

“Have we exhausted all topics and there is no other more important issue other than the SEA Games? This is what discretion is in the choice of topic along with the need to adhere to policy guidelines on sermons,” he added.

The Sultan said khatibs need guidelines on the correct way of delivering the sermon.

“Some readers are too tense and some were repetitive in their presentation. Is this what is expected of them by the Mosque Affairs Department? Where are the mosque affairs officers? Have they not come across incidents like these,” he asked.

Official visits and functions

His Majesty went on to say that it is not necessary for both the Minister of Religious Affairs and his deputy to make visits together as one should stay at the ministry and attend to pressing matters, such as the need to formulate policies for schools and the Islamic Da’wah Centre.

“The minister and his deputy minister should not simply enjoy making visits upon visits, for instance to schools, mosques and elsewhere. In doing so, both of them pay a visit to the same place and enjoy media coverage,” His Majesty said.

The monarch also said there is no need for all senior government officials to attend official functions that were held either in the day or at night.

“It is alright to make a visit and hold a function, but if the events are becoming too many and frequent, what about office work and worse, if too many attend them – the minister, his deputy minister and a horde of other officers! Is it not more reasonable for one of them to make the visit while the other stays behind?

“Is it not true that there are a lot of more pressing matters that need to be dealt with and given serious thought in the office?

He said other pressing matters include formulating policies for schools, Islamic Da’wah Centre, mosques, zakat (tithes), following up on the development of new converts, maintenance and upkeep of Muslim cemeteries and burial grounds, as well as halal certification.

Following the meeting, His Majesty visited the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which houses several units under the Islamic Religious Council before making a stop at the Islamic Da’wah Centre.

The Brunei Times

Sunday, February 28, 2016

bru penal codes

Christians celebrate X’mas in Brunei


THOUSANDS of Christians celebrated Christmas yesterday in multiple services held in churches across the sultanate.

Head of the Catholic Church in Brunei Bishop Cornelius Sim said about 4,000 out of the 18,000 estimated Catholics in the country attended mass on Christmas Day and the night prior at the Church of Our Lady Assumption (COLA) in the capital, Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception in Seria and St John’s Church in Kuala Belait.

The bishop and an Anglican reverend told The Brunei Times that despite international media outlets reporting a blanket ban on Christmas – which continued to be observed as a public holiday in Brunei this year – neither received a notice restricting celebrations.

“To be quite honest there has been no change for us this year; no new restrictions have been laid down, although we fully respect and adhere to the existing regulations that our celebrations and worship be confided to the compounds of the church and private residences,” said Bishop Sim.

In practice, he said the church has continued its observation of daily dawn services beginning at 4am to 5am and lasting about 45 minutes from December 16 up until Christmas Eve with no restrictions. A social gathering for migrant workers at the COLA church was hosted yesterday evening, mirrored by a similar celebration in Seria.

The bishop also echoed Pope Francis’s address on reconciliation within fractured communities experiencing violence around the world, saying that Brunei was fortunate and in a unique position to have seen unhindered peace and prosperity.

“In my experience, the authorities are respectful and considerate towards other religious communities. In comparison to what is seen elsewhere in the world, we are fortunate to have religious harmony.

“Tolerance is part of our country’s constitution and we have always been free to practise our religion,” he said.

He added that the Catholic community, which makes up the majority of the Christian population in Brunei, “were no different” from any other citizen or resident.

Similarly Reverend Johnny Chin of St Andrew’s Church said relationships between the country’s Muslims and those from other faiths continue to be positive, with the restrictions on Christmas decorations in public which made headlines last year not diluting the true meaning of Christmas to Christians.

“I guess with regards to Christmas, we have reminded ourselves to remain focused on how Christmas is not just about the music, the decorations and the Santa hats – which have been emphasised – but that has never been what Christmas is about anyway,” he said.

The Brunei Times

Saturday, December 26, 2015


Ministry of Religious Affairs launches Quran with 9 local languages translation, dictionary

khatmil quran


MINISTRY of Religious Affairs launched a Quran with nine translation of local languages and a Dictionary of Religious Terms. The launch was conducted by Minister of Religious Affairs, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin.

“Hopefully with the launch of a translation of the Quran, the communities who are still using local languages, ​​can understand the contents of the Quran,” said Lukman, Wednesday (3/12).

The Quran has been translated into nine local languages. The first phase covered the launch of translated Quran in three languages, namely Minang, Javanese with Banyumasan dialect, and Dayak language.

Translated Quran in local languages, Lukman added, was more specifically intended for people who did not use Indonesian language as an everyday language.

In addition to facilitate the people who still used the local language, local language translation of the Quran was also an effort to preserve endangered languages.

“This is also a form of intellectual level that could touch all levels of society in Indonesia,” he explained.

The Ministry also launched a Dictionary of Religious Terms. This dictionary consisted of religious terms that included six official religions, namely Islam, Catholic, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and Confucian.

Dictionary of Religious term was launched to minimize misunderstandings meaning in religious terms. There are approximately 9,000 words in this dictionary.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Prof Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan: “‘Wasatiyyah’ (moderation) is an important part of Islamic identity that has been forgotten”

A NEW breed of leaders is needed to reconstruct a civilisation based on wasatiyyah or moderation, a Malaysian scholar said yesterday.

Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan, eminent visiting professor of the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies, said new leaders are those who possess moral excellence and technological brilliance.

In his public lecture “Malay-Islamic Civilisation: Its Birth, Development and Wasatiyyah Identity” at Universiti Brunei Darussalam, he said wasatiyyah is an important part of Islamic identity that has been forgotten.

“But now Alhamdulilah, people are coming back to the term wasatiyyah,” he said.

Wasatiyyah means a sense of justice, excellence and balance between extremes, he said.

The source of the term wasatiyyah is derived from Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 143: “And thus we have made you a justly balanced community that you will be witnesses over the people and the messenger will be a witness over you”.

There are three pillars of Al-Wasatiyyah, he said. First is justice — which includes strength, power and dignity — followed by goodness and excellence, and third, balance/moderation.

He said all three are connected, not separated, and that Muslims are supposed to represent these qualities. Religious identities of Muslims that uphold justice, moral excellence and upholding the principle of balance and moderation in certain aspects, he added.

In his lecture, he talked about major civilisational transformation and intellectual revolution of Malay culture brought about by the worldview of Islam.

Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan

Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan

“The worldview of Islam consists of mainly three parts: aqidah (belief system), syariah and akhlak (character). The worldview of Islam represented by aqidah of tauhid (Oneness of Allah SWT), syariah and the morals of Islam brought about cultural and intellectual revolution with a new tradition of learning, learning by the book and not learning on the basis of myth, superstition and wrong beliefs,” he said.

With this change in the culture of the Malays, we have the development of what we called the tradition of Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah, he added.

The whole of South East Asia came under the influence of Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah (people who followed the sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) and the practices of Muslims who are the companions and followers of the Prophet (PBUH).

This tradition of Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah also brought together three major branches of knowledge known as Ilmu Tauhid (Oneness of Allah), Ilmu Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and Ilmu Tasawwuf (focuses on the spiritual development of the Muslim), he added.

He said the Malay world, which includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Muslims of Philippines, Thailand and Singapore, still preserve this integration of these three branches of knowledge.

Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Kamal is presently a professor at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation, International Islamic University Malaysia.

The Brunei Times

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

‘SE Asia set to lead Muslim world’: Malaysian Muslim Scholar

Quratul-Ain Bandial

THE “centre of gravity” of the Muslim world will shift from the Middle East to Southeast Asia in the next 20 years, a well-known Islamic scholar said yesterday.

Speaking during a public lecture titled “Islam and the New ASEAN Community” at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD), Tan Sri Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan said the economic, political and social resources of the Middle East are drained.

Tan Sri Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan

Tan Sri Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan

“I feel that given the chaos, the turmoil in the Middle East, the uncertainties and atrocities after the Arab Spring. What we have is not a spring but an eruption which has destroyed so much,” he later told The Brunei Times in an interview.

As half of ASEAN’s 600 million people are Muslims, countries like Brunei and Indonesia can lead the shift in moral and intellectual authority to Southeast Asia, he said.

“Brunei can be moral exemplar. How I see the possibility of Brunei playing a leading role is because religious values are being integrated, and corruption is low,” said the International Islamic University Malaysia professor.

“Although the sultanate is small, it can still lead because it is blessed with political and economic stability. A larger country like Indonesia can complement this by providing intellectual and academic leadership.”

Dr Mohd Kamal added that corruption and a culture of complacency are problems that plague the Muslim world, but what distinguishes ASEAN is its inter-communal relations.

“We have always lived with non-Muslims as our neighbours… there may be some political problems but we still respect people of other religions.”

“The cultural qualities of Southeast Asian people – the tolerance, the dynamism – Middle Eastern people should be looking at Southeast Asian people as the carriers of the humanitarian promise of Islam.”

Dr Mohd Kamal will be delivering a second public lecture at UBD’s chancellor hall today on Malay Islamic civilisation.

The Brunei Times
Tuesday, November 3, 2015


8th International Islamic Borneo Conference: ‘Da’wah must be carried out more aggressively in Borneo ‘

ISLAMIC da’wah efforts should be supported by all levels of society in order to preserve the glories of Islamic civilisation in Borneo, said the rector of Universiti Teknologi Mara Sarawak.

Professor Dato Dr Jamil Hj Hamali highlighted this during the adjournment of the eighth International Islamic Borneo Conference (KAIB VIII) yesterday at the Rizqun International Hotel which was coordinated by Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA), Universiti Teknologi Mara Sarawak and Islamic Da’wah Centre Brunei.

Twelve resolutions were made following the two-day conference held at UNISSA.

Among the resolutions, Professor Dato Dr Jamil highlighted that da’wah activities must be carried out more aggressively in the communities within Borneo through methodological approaches and monitoring.

“Especially the youth; they should be given strong religious knowledge and awareness of the importance of the relationship between ethnic and racial solidarity,” he said.

“All parties must play their role to create interaction and positive social integration in the society for the purpose of preaching,” he added.

Professor Dato Dr Jamil said in regards to the economy and education among Muslims in Sabah and Sarawak, they must be strengthened as a medium to enhance the position and continuation of the Islamic communities of the two states.

He highlighted that Brunei has been successful in strengthening the implementation of Islamic values in its community, especially through the collaboration between UNISSA, the State Mufti’s Office and the Islamic Da’wah Centre embolding Islamic da’wah within the sultanate.

Muslims in Borneo should also ensure that the ASEAN community in Borneo fulfils the Maqasid Syariah(noble objectives of Islamic Law) concept by taking into account the needs, stability and sensitivities of all parties, Professor Dato Dr Jamil said.

Professor Dato Dr Jamil then highlighted that the development of Information and Communication Technology and media should also be harnessed as a means of making da’wah activities more effective and proactive.

He added that dai’e (inviters to Islam) and academic experts should also work together in maintaining the Islamic education system in Borneo by maximising the efforts of relaying knowledge and understanding of Islam to the community, especially in rural areas.

The rector also touched on the verification of halal statuses in the food industry, consumables, cosmetics and other products, as it should be streamlined among the authorities across Borneo.

Reviews of the arrival of Islam in Borneo manuscripts in connection with the preachers and Islamic civilisations should also be expanded, as there are many manuscripts that have been collected but have not been studied, he said.

Professor Dato Dr Jamil added that mosque structuring organisations should also be strengthened and expanded as one of the Hisbah institutions that realises the objective of zakat and wakaf institutions in Borneo.

He said the conference has resolved to maintain and strengthen the good relations and cooperation between the Brunei, Sarawak and Sabah governments.

He concluded by thanking His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, for his consent to organise the seminar.

The Brunei Times

Friday, September 4, 2015