The Abode of Peace

Asian Geographic - - Heritage -

An­other tiny monar­chy, perched on the north­ern shore of Bor­neo, Malaysia is – to give it its full name – the Na­tion of Brunei, the Abode of Peace. Brunei only be­came in­de­pen­dent from Bri­tain in 1984, and it was then that the cur­rent sul­tan, Has­sanal Bolkiah, be­came head of state.

How­ever, the Brunei sul­tanate has its ori­gins in the late 14th cen­tury, so the 100 years in which the coun­try was a Bri­tish Pro­tec­torate is seen as but a tem­po­rary aber­ra­tion.

Brunei is an ab­so­lute monar­chy, with the sul­tan hav­ing full ex­ec­u­tive author­ity, in­clud­ing emer­gency pow­ers. He is not only the head of state, but also the prime min­is­ter, fi­nance min­is­ter, and de­fence min­is­ter. The sul­tan rules guided by a phi­los­o­phy he calls Me­layu Is­lam­ber­aja (“Malay Is­lamic Monar­chy”), which is a blend of Malay cus­toms and cul­ture, Is­lamic law, and the sys­tem of the monar­chy. The sul­tan and his fam­ily have a ven­er­ated sta­tus within Brunei.

This form of monar­chy may seem ar­chaic, and would not be tol­er­ated in many other parts of the world, but in Brunei it is re­mark­ably sta­ble and ef­fec­tive. Brunei is amongst the rich­est coun­tries in the world (in­clud­ing in per capita GDP), and pub­lic debt is zero per­cent of the GDP. Eco­nom­i­cally, that’s an en­vi­able po­si­tion to be in, and it’s made pos­si­ble by the coun­try’s small pop­u­la­tion and high re­serves of oil and nat­u­ral gas. The sul­tan will mark his golden ju­bilee in 2018. He has only just turned 70, and he is in good health. The line of suc­ces­sion is al­ready se­cured for the next two gen­er­a­tions.

“There is no con­flict be­tween favour­ing Is­lamic and tra­di­tional val­ues and be­ing more open and in­ter­na­tional” – Has­sanal Bolkiah This form of monar­chy may seem ar­chaic, and would not be tol­er­ated in many other parts of the world, but in Brunei it is re­mark­ably sta­ble and ef­fec­tive

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