Who buried ‘The Brunei Times’?

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This was back on July 1, 2010 when The Brunei Times introduced a compact version and I was so kiasu that I headed to The Brunei Times office to grab the first copy that entered the office. Photo courtesy of Rano360.com.

More bad news for press freedom in Southeast Asia.

AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY (ANU) CORAL BELL SCHOOL OF ASIA PACIFIC AFFAIRS


THE Brunei Times
, the second-largest publication in Brunei’s small and heavily censored media landscape, has been shut down. The paper was issued an official order to “cease publication and operations on 7 November” just three days prior, leaving 110 employees jobless in face of an economy analysts have describedas “spluttering.

This is a significant loss to journalism in a nation ranked 155th in the world for press freedom, compared to Thailand’s ranking of 136, and Myanmar’s ranking of 143.

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The last issue of The Brunei Times, which has been publishing since mid-2006, contained an announcement stating the closure was due to “business issues, reporting and journalistic standards that should meet the mark set, and also issues relating to business sustainability.”

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However, unsatisfied Bruneians on social media are pointing to a different tale.

An ex-writer for The Brunei Times reported in Pakistani news that the real motive behind the shutdown was a complaint filed by the Saudi Embassy, after The Brunei Times published quotes from an unnamed source in a story published on 26 October. The article covered the increase in Hajj and Umra visa fees for Bruneian residents, with the unnamed embassy spokesperson describing the hike as a result of economic downturn from falling oil prices (click here to view a text archive of the now deleted article).

Although an apology was issued on 4 November, there are angry suggestions circulating on social media that the complaint provided the final incentive for government to shut down the publication, which often toed the line of Bruneian censorship standards — even though they may have annoyed authorities from time-to-time.

According to the report, the anonymous ex-employee source stated, “The government had been angry with the paper for quite sometime for its work but the Saudi Embassy story proved to be the final straw.”

Students and researchers are also mourning the loss of the newspaper, which provides an invaluable source of information on Brunei spanning the last ten years.

In a country where there is virtually no criticism of government and where voices are worn weary under the threat of harsh and repressive legislation, we may very well never know what, or more darkly who, buried The Brunei Times. In an age of wavering press freedom in Southeast Asia, this is deeply troubling, solemn news.

New Mandala

Wed, 9 November 2016

http://www.newmandala.org/buried-brunei-times/  

 

http://rano360.com/2016/11/07/thank-you-the-brunei-times/

 

 

 

 

 

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‘The Brunei Times’ suddenly closes after criticising Saudi Arabia’s Mecca visa price-hike

The unexpected announcement followed an article that suggested Saudi Arabia increased visa prices because of economic troubles

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Photo: Courtesy of Rasidah HAB

LONDON

A LEADING  newspaper has allegedly been ordered to close for linking the Saudi government’s latest visa price rises to its “economic problems”.

The Brunei Times, based in the tiny country, which borders Malaysia, unexpectedly announced its closure of all operations from Tuesday in a front-page editorial.

It followed an article published on 26 October, which reportedly suggested that economic problems in Saudi were the reason for a hike in the price of visas for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages to Mecca.

According to a journalist claiming to be an ex-Brunei Times reporter, it quoted an anonymous official from the Saudi embassy who was said to have been “unauthorised to speak” to the press.

The daily paper apologised for the article on its website on Friday but refused to comment on claims surrounding its mysterious shut-down.

The statement read: “The Brunei Times is ceasing media and publication operations with effect from 8 November, 2016.

It also thanked the Brunei government for “bearing with us” and “extending the licence” despite “issues” surrounding the paper.

The “board of directors” also thanked editorial, management and operational staff’s “dedication, zeal, enthusiasm and tremendous effort they have put into their work at all levels over the years”.

The 10-year-old paper has also shut its Twitter and Facebook accounts.

A spokesman for the publication, which said 110 people were employed there, referred a Reuters reporter to its statement when asked about the reason for its closure.

Brunei, which has a population of around 420,000, is home to predominantly Sunnis Muslims.

The Saudi government recently increased visa charges for anyone completing the Hajj to approximately £410, up from around £75.

Muslims are expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.

Economic troubles in Saudi Arabia have been well documented with oil prices falling as low as £21 a barrel in February.

The Independent

Wed, 9 November 2016

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http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/brunei-times-newspaper-close-saudi-arabia-mecca-visa-hajj-economy-a7404616.html

 

China seeks to put Tomb of King Boni in Nanjing on UNESCO list

CHINA is seeking the Brunei government’s help in turning the tomb of Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan in Nanjing into a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Yu Qing, the vice governor of Yuhuatai district in Nanjing, said China is in the process of applying for the Tomb of King Boni to become a World Heritage Site.

Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan is believed to have ruled Brunei before his passing in Nanjing in the 15th century.

“We are hoping that our Brunei counterparts can give their support and assistance for us to achieve this goal,” she said during Brunei Ambassador to China Datin Paduka Magdalene Teo’s visit to the park yesterday.

Yu said the municipal government in Nanjing in May set up a research centre and a team of experts on China and Brunei historical and cultural relations. The Chinese delegation visited Brunei earlier this month.

She added that the park has an exhibition hall illustrating China and Brunei relations. “We need more photos and materials from Brunei for us to showcase Brunei to visitors here and attract them (Chinese nationals) to visit this historical place,” she said.

After its upgrade with the latest exhibits and materials from Brunei in the next few months, the exhibition hall and the park — which is currently closed for renovation — is expected to reopen in June next year.

The exhibition will showcase Brunei-China ties through the use of “modern technology”.

The park, located at the southern foothills of Tortoise Mountain in Yuhuatai district, signifies the historical relations between China and Brunei since 1408.

The municipal government has high hopes that the site will be accepted as a World Heritage Site before marking the 610th anniversary of historical relations between Brunei and China.

“We are also hoping that His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, will visit the tomb himself before the 610th anniversary to signify the milestones of the countries’ relations,” said the vice governor.

Yu said His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah and HRH Princess Hjh Masna visited the tomb in 1993 and 2006 respectively.

An investment worth $23 million yuan ($4.79 million), the park covers an area of eight hectares since the tomb was discovered in 1958 with restoration and maintenance works being done throughout the years.

ASEAN-China Centre (ACC) Secretary General Yang Xiuping said efficient communication between government agencies in China and Brunei is needed to achieve the goal of making the tomb a World Heritage Site.

“We have limited time in our hands before we reach the 610th anniversary, so we need to have a clear roadmap to achieve our objectives.

“The research centre can also provide a detailed list of the materials they need from Brunei to ease the whole process,” she said.

Nanjing and Bandar Seri Begawan became sister cities in 2011 to mark the 20th anniversary of Brunei and China bilateral relations.

The Brunei Times

Tue, 25 October 2016

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Pictures: BT/Rozan Yunos

Be compassionate, love your parents: Friday sermon

IMAMS yesterday warned congregants not to mistreat their parents or to take advantage of them as parents should be shown respect and affection by their children.

“What’s saddening is that there are some people who solicit money or use their parents’ old-age pension for their own family’s expenses, although that pension (provided by the government) is their parents’ only hope (to be used) for spending if the parents have no other source of income,” said imams in the sermon yesterday.

There are also parents, despite their advancing age, who are ordered to look after the grandchildren, imams said.

Imams added that majority of parents keep hide their feelings to prevent conflicts and being neglected by their own children.

“Parents need care and attention but because of the love for their children, they are willing to take the entire burden and bottle up their feelings.”

The sermon urged Muslims nationwide to fulfil their responsibilities toward their parents by showering them with love and affection and keeping their parents happy.

The sermon added that there are various ways to honour our parents which include speaking and addressing them politely and respectfully, fulfilling their wishes (as long as it does not go against Islam) and most importantly, praying for their wellbeing.

Imams also said that it is the duty of every children to take care of the elders’ needs and welfare and giving their parents financial support as many may no longer be able to sustain themselves in their advancing age.

“In a situation like this, as children we need to be patient in dealing with our parents’ behaviours. Do not lose your temper and patience easily as this will only devastate or hurt them,” imams said in the sermon yesterday.

“This is clearly narrated by Ibnu Umar who said, ‘causing parents to shed tears is among the disloyal (derhaka) and most sinful of acts’.”

Imams advised Muslims to refrain from abandoning their parents due to worldly affairs that keep them busy and causing them to neglect in caring for their own parents.

“Keep in mind that abandoning our parents is prohibited that should be avoided,” warned imams.

The Brunei Times

Saturday, 15 October 2016

 

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http://bt.com.bn/news-national/2016/10/15/be-compassionate-love-your-parents-friday-sermon

Saudi news report on Bruneian with terror links untrue

A NEWS report about a Bruneian man arrested in Saudi Arabia over alleged terror links is not true, said the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

The National Security Committee said yesterday that Jeddah-based newspaper Saudi Gazette has admitted to the error in its reporting and published a correction on its website on September 20.

In its editor’s note appended to an article titled “53 terror suspects arrested during Haj”, the Saudi Gazette said it had erroneously reported that one of the suspects was a Brunei national.

Saudi Gazette’s e-paper reported on September 18 that an unidentified Bruneian man was recently apprehended by security forces in Riyadh on suspicion of terrorism, claiming that a growing number of expatriates living in Saudi were falling prey to ISIS propaganda.

However, subsequent investigations by the governments of Brunei and Saudi confirmed that no Brunei citizen was arrested.

The statement issued by PMO added that the National Security Committee, together with other security agencies in the country, will continuously monitor any activities that pose a threat to national security. Brunei citizens and residents were also reminded to abide by the law and warned against taking part in any terrorist or criminal activities in the country or abroad.

The Brunei Times

Thu, 22 September 2016

 

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http://bt.com.bn/news-national/2016/09/22/saudi-news-report-bruneian-terror-links-untrue

 

 

 

Brunei, the first Southeast Asian Muslim kingdom?

WHEN did Islam come to Brunei? Most western historians argued that Brunei Darussalam only began to accept Islam in the 16th century, that is, after the fall of the Malacca sultanate in 1511.

A number of historians such as K G Tregonning in his book “From Earliest Time to 1511” (1957), D G E Hall in his book “Sejarah Asia Tenggara” (1979), J F Cady in his book ‘”South East Asia: Its Historical Development” (1963) and Nicholas Tarling in his book “South East Asia: Past and Present”’ (1966) all wrote that Brunei replaced Malacca as the new centre to spread the teachings of Islam.

Robert Nicholl in his book published by the Brunei Museums entitled “European Sources for the History of the Sultanate of Brunei in the 16th century” (1975) compiled a number of European sources, which also suggested that the Brunei sultanate was still not a Muslim nation during the early 16th century.

Pg Dato Seri Setia Hj Mohammad Pg Hj Abd Rahman, the former Minister of Religious Affairs, in his book entitled “Islam di Brunei Darussalam” (1992) noted that western historians did not seem to take into account that Islam had spread widely in Southeast Asia even before the 16th century. Gravestones found in Brunei indicated that Muslims had been buried in the cemeteries with the stones dating a few centuries earlier than the 16th century.

One of the earliest known was a Chinese Muslim by the name of Pu Kung Chihmu, who died in 1276 A D. Therefore, there must be a Muslim community in Brunei which enabled him to be buried as a Muslim when he died. This, according to Pg Dato Hj Mohammad, was not impossible.

He noted that evidences in a number of places in Southeast Asia showed that Islam was already being accepted much earlier. In Leran, East Java a gravestone bearing the name of Fatimah Maimon Hibatullah was found dated 1082 AD; in Champa, Vietnam, a gravestone belonging to Abu Kamil Ahmad was dated 1039 AD; and in Pasai, it was a gravestone belonging to Sultan al-Malik al-Saleh dated 1297 AD.

An article, which recently came to light in support of this, was found in a book published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 2000 entitled “The Silk Roads Highways of Culture and Commerce”, which contained a small selection of papers from the international seminars organised during UNESCO Silk Road expeditions.

One of the articles was written by a Chinese scholar by the name of Chen Da-sheng entitled ‘”A Brunei Sultan of the Early Fourteenth Century: A Study of an Arabic Gravestone”, which comprised Chapter Eight of the book.

We are very fortunate that the paper was included, as Brunei at that point in time was not a member of UNESCO. Chen Da-sheng sailed on the expedition ship, the Fulk-al-Salamah, visiting several countries including Brunei. He was from Quanzhou and was interested in the gravestone of Pu Kung Chihmu, who was also from Quanzhou. During his visit, he visited various cemeteries in Brunei.

In his research, Chen Da-sheng was attracted to an article in the Brunei Museums Journal (1987), where two former senior Museum officials, Metassim Hi Jibah and Suhaili Hj Hassan wrote about “Tomb of Maharaja Brunei”, which was found at the Dagang Cemetery at Jalan Residency. He was very surprised that the undated gravestone was very similar to the gravestones that had been found in Quanzhou.

Quanzhou was an important trading harbour during the Song Dynasty. The Ashab Mosque or the Qingjing Mosque is a mosque found in Quanzhou constructed in 1009 AD, and this remained as the oldest Arab-style mosque in China.

In the city, there is also the Yisalangjiao Sheng Mu or Islamic Holy Graves built on the Ling Shan, the mountain of spirits on the East of Quanzhou city. The Yisalangjiao Sheng Mu graves are the resting places of early Islamic missionaries of the 7th century.

Chen Da-sheng immediately recognised that the gravestone belonging to the Emperor of Brunei was similar to the Muslim gravestones that were once used in Quanzhou, and he deduced that the gravestone in Brunei was made in Quanzhou as the material for the gravestone which was ‘diabase’ was not found in Brunei. Diabase or also known as dolerite is a subvolcanic rock similar to volcanic basalt.

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The front of the gravestone had Arabic inscriptions and these were translated to read:

This tomb belongs to the late martyr

Sultan, a learned and just man

a protector and conqueror. He was called

Maharaja Bruni. Forgive him

Allah with His grace and Pleasure

May Allah bless Muhammad

and all his descendants

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The back of the stone had this engraving:

Every soul must taste of death,

and ye shall only be paid your hire

upon the resurrection day

But he who is forced away from the fire

This stone was not dated, and neither was the king who died identified other than as the Maharaja Brunei. As such, this king could not be cross referenced to the royal genealogy of the Sultans of Brunei; and the genealogy began with Sultan Muhammad said to reign from 1363 AD.

Chen Da-sheng noted that in Quanzhou, when excavations were made of these ancient Muslim graves, the majority of gravestones were made from diabase. In the 1920s and 1930s, a great number of these gravestones were excavated when the ancient wall of Quanzhou was demolished. The current collection of Arabic and Persian stones inscriptions of the Quanzhou Foreign Maritime Museum is the richest of all museums in China.

After studying and cross referencing with the gravestones that had been recovered in Quanzhou, Chen Da-sheng discovered that the inscriptions on the Brunei gravestone were very similar to another gravestone belonging to Fatimat Naina Ahmad, who died in Quanzhou in 1301 AD.

Chen Da-sheng believed that the two stones were inscribed by the same people as the writings were identical. No other similar stone has been found in Brunei. Upon discussion with the Brunei Museum officials, it was also confirmed that all the inscriptions for subsequent sultans were written in Jawi with the exception of this gravestone, which was written in Arabic.

With regard to the age, Chen Da-sheng explained that the Muslims in Quanzhou were massacred after they lost a war known as the Ispah Rebellion in 1366 AD, and the winning army killed all the Muslim population they could find. After 1366, it was very hard to find any Arabic inscriptions on any gravestones in Quanzhou. The few that could be found in the outlying villages are different in style, shape and paleography.

Chen Da-sheng argued that based on the facts above, this provided evidence that the Muslim kingdom established in Brunei was certainly during the late 13th and early 14th century. In Chen Da-sheng words, “the Arabic gravestone of Sultan Maharaja Brunei presented evidence that a Muslim kingdom already existed in Brunei about AH 700 (1301 AD). It sheds new light on the study of the early history of the Muslim kingdoms established in Brunei and even in Sumatra.”

If this is true, and supported with the written records of the Boxer Codex, this means that the official date of the first Brunei Muslim sultanate of 1376 AD needs to be adjusted, and that Brunei could be one of the early Malay Muslim kingdoms, or there is even the possibility that Brunei could even be the earliest in the Southeast Asian region.

Currently, Pasai in Sumatra is considered to be the earliest Muslim kingdom because a gravestone belonging to Sultan al-Malik al-Salleh dated 1297 AD was found there. Who knows when exactly did the Brunei Muslim sultanate began? It could be earlier than that of Sultan al-Malik al-Salleh.

The Brunei Times

Sun, 18 September 2016

 

http://bt.com.bn/features/2016/09/17/brunei-first-southeast-asian-muslim-kingdom

 

Brunei gov’t yet to receive verified info on arrest of Bruneian man in Saudi

THE Brunei government has yet to receive information confirming a news report of a Bruneian man recently arrested in Saudi Arabia over alleged terror links, said the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

In a press statement issued yesterday, PMO said its National Security Committee together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade are working closely with the relevant authorities of Saudi Arabia to verify the authenticity of the news report.

A story that appeared on the Saudi Gazette website quoted unnamed sources claiming security forces have apprehended a Bruneian man in Riyadh on suspicion of terrorism.

The Jeddah-based English newspaper said the unidentified man was arrested last Saturday without resistance and is being investigated for his involvement in terror operations that took place in Saudi as well as connections or support for terrorist organisations.

However, the sultanate’s National Security Committee has not received any information to date confirming the news report.

The Brunei Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulate General in Jeddah did not report any involvement of registered Bruneian citizens in suspected terrorist activities, while the Ministry of Religious Affairs through its Haj Management Department confirmed no Bruneian pilgrims were involved.

Saudi Gazette did not state which terrorist organisation the accused Bruneian was affiliated with, but reported that a growing number of expatriates have joined ISIS in the past two years.

Its security sources said ISIS was focused on recruiting expatriates particularly those who have lived in Saudi Arabia over a long period, during which they acquired knowledge of the local towns and cities.

The Brunei Times

Saturday, 17 September 2016

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http://www.bt.com.bn/news-national/2016/09/17/brunei-gov%E2%80%99t-yet-receive-verified-info-arrest-bruneian-man-saudi