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Government of Brunei - History

Government of Brunei - History

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Government type:
absolute monarchy or sultanate
name: Bandar Seri Begawan
geographic coordinates: 4 53 N, 114 56 E
time difference: UTC+8 (13 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
4 districts (daerah-daerah, singular - daerah); Belait, Brunei and Muara, Temburong, Tutong
1 January 1984 (from the UK)
National holiday:
National Day, 23 February (1984); note - 1 January 1984 was the date of independence from the UK, 23 February 1984 was the date of independence from British protection; the Sultan's birthday, 15 June
history: drafted 1954 to 1959, signed 29 September 1959; note - some constitutional provisions suspended since 1962 under a State of Emergency, others suspended since independence in 1984
amendments: proposed by the monarch; passage requires submission to the Privy Council for Legislative Council review and finalization takes place by proclamation; the monarch can accept or reject changes to the original proposal provided by the Legislative Council; amended 1984, 2004, 2011 (2017)
Legal system:
mixed legal system based on English common law and Islamic law; note - in May 2014, the first of three phases of sharia-based penal codes was instituted, which applies to Muslims and non-Muslims and exists in parallel to the existing common law-based code
International law organization participation:
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
citizenship by birth: no
citizenship by descent only: the father must be a citizen of Brunei
dual citizenship recognized: no
residency requirement for naturalization: 12 years
18 years of age for village elections; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Sultan and Prime Minister Sir HASSANAL Bolkiah (since 5 October 1967); note - the monarch is both chief of state and head of government
head of government: Sultan and Prime Minister Sir HASSANAL Bolkiah (since 5 October 1967)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed and presided over by the monarch; note - 4 additional advisory councils appointed by the monarch are the Religious Council, Privy Council for constitutional issues, Council of Succession, and Legislative Council
elections/appointments: none; the monarchy is hereditary
Legislative branch:
description: Legislative Council or Majlis Mesyuarat Negara Brunei (36 seats; members appointed by the sultan including 3 ex-officio members - the speaker and first and second secretaries; members appointed for 5-year terms)
elections/appointments: appointed by the sultan
Judicial branch:
highest resident court(s): Supreme Court (consists of Court of Appeal and High Court, each with a chief justice and 2 judges); Sharia Court of Appeal (consists of judges appointed by the monarch); note - Brunei has a dual judicial system of secular and sharia (religious) courts; the Judicial Committee of Privy Council in London serves as the final appellate court for civil cases only
judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court judges appointed by the monarch to serve until age 65, and older if approved by the monarch; Sharia Court of Appeal judges appointed by the monarch for life
subordinate courts: Intermediate Court; Magistrate's Courts; Juvenile Court; small claims courts; lower sharia courts
Political parties and leaders:
National Development Party or NDP [YASSIN Affendi]
note: Brunei National Solidarity Party or PPKB [Abdul LATIF bin Chuchu] and People's Awareness Party or PAKAR [Awang Haji MAIDIN bin Haji Ahmad] were deregistered in 2007; parties are small and have limited activity

The Government and Political System in Brunei Darussalam

Brunei Darussalam is one of the few countries left that still adopts an absolute monarchy system of government in the guise of a constitutional sultanate. Having an absolute monarchy system means that the all power is centrally coming from one figure, in this case, the Sultan.

The Sultan of Brunei is the most powerful man because he is both the head of state and the head of government concurrently. He appoints and dismisses his ministers. The subjects of Brunei give reverence to their sultan at the highest level as they treat His Excellency&rsquos words as edicts. No one can say no or question the words of the Sultan because it could become grounds for treason. The current sultan, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah keeps five councils and 9 Ministers to assist him in running the country.

The legislative branch of Brunei is currently on a consultancy basis after it was dissolved in 1962, the only election held in Brunei. In 2004, the Sultan has announced that 15 of the 20 seats will be up for grabs, but to date, no date has been earmarked for the said democratic exercise.

Brunei&rsquos judicial system has been mainly copied from the English Common Law legal system. Currently, there are 10 Magistrates that hear out civil and criminal cases, higher than the Magistrate Courts are the Intermediate Courts. Brunei&rsquos judicial system currently has 2 Intermediate Courts. Then, the highest court in the land is called the High Court, which is a council of two local Judges and one from Hongkong. Brunei also has a Court of Appeals, and the 3 Judges sitting in Brunei are all retired British Judges.

Like most court cases, a Magistrate or Judge doles out the verdict as opposed to a panel of jury. What&rsquos unique about Brunei&rsquos judicial system is that the High Courts try out all capital punishment cases instead of it being the final arbiter.

Brunei also has the Shariah Courts. The Shariah Courts deals with Muslim divorces and other matters that may be more of a religious matter rather than a constitutional one.

In terms of succession of power, Brunei is the only country that did not follow modern trends as the Sultanate can only be passed on to the Sultan&rsquos next of kin. Other countries may have retained their royal families but Brunei has somehow managed to have mandate from its constituents.

Brunei Darussalam - Politics, government, and taxation

Brunei has long been ruled by sultans (kings), though for much of its modern history those sultans have ruled in cooperation with European colonial powers. Spanish and Dutch colonists began arriving in Brunei in the 16th century. English colonists came during the 17th century, and the country was made a British protectorate in 1888, which meant that Britain provided military and economic assistance. During World War II (1941), the Japanese occupied the country. The British returned after the war, and negotiations began for Brunei's eventual independence. In 1959 a written constitution was introduced granting Brunei internal self-rule under British protection. In 1984 Brunei achieved full independence and became an independent sovereign sultanate governed on the basis of a written constitution.

The 1959 constitution granted the sultan full executive authority, but called for an elected legislative council. A limited effort to meet this requirement with a partially elected legislative body was tried but quickly abandoned. In 1962 the Partai Rakyat Brunei (Brunei People's Party, PRB) won the election for the legislative council but was denied access to office. The party's ensuing uprising was rapidly crushed by the ruling sultan and the PRB was then banned. Since that time the legislative council has been an appointed body. Currently, the Brunei Solidarity National Party (PPKB), with closer allegiance to the government, is the only legal political party. In 1995, for the first time in 10 years, the PPKB was permitted to hold its national assembly, but its activities were circumscribed, and the party has had little influence.

Brunei is an Islamic sultanate. The hereditary sultan is the head of state and holds ultimate authority. He is also the country's prime minister, minister of finance, and minister of defense, and presides over a council of ministers, a religious council, a privy council, and a council of succession, all of whose members he appoints. There are no popular elections and the Legislative Council functions in a purely consultative capacity. The concept of Melayu Islam Beraja (Malay Muslim Monarchy, MIB) was introduced as a state ideology, invoking Brunei's history of monarchy, Brunei Malay culture, and Islamic values, in order to justify absolute monarchy.

The government plays a large role in the economy. In the 1990s the government has made concerted efforts to diversify the economy from oil and gas. Industries promoted by the government are agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, commerce, and banking. In the Seventh National Development Plan (1996-2000), the government allocated more than B$7.2 billion for the implementation of various projects and programs. Thanks to such commitments, the non-oil sector's contribution to the GDP rose from 24.3 percent in 1991 to 66 percent in 1998. The government actively encourages more foreign investment. It extends "pioneer status" to aircraft catering services as well as the cement, textile, furniture, glass, plastics, and synthetic rubber industries. Pioneer status companies can get exemption from the 30 percent corporate tax.

One of the government's most important priorities is to encourage Brunei Malays to move into the private sector from the public sector where most are employed. The government policy of ȫruneisation" of the workforce encourages Brunei Malays to work in the private sector. The Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP) company and the 2 largest foreign banks, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and Standard Chartered Bank, have had to increase the number of Brunei Malays on their staffs under this policy. The Bruneian government also boosts private business to nurture Brunei Malay leaders in industry and commerce.

The sole tax levied by the government of Brunei is the corporate tax, generally 30 percent. Otherwise, everything that is normally taxed in other countries— capital, gains, import and export, sales, manufacturing—is free of tax, and there is no personal income tax . The huge government revenues from oil and gas are sufficient to finance government expenditures, and Brunei is the least taxed country in the region and perhaps in the world.

Historical Figures

Sultan Bolkiah (1473-1521): The fifth and probably most powerful Sultan of Brunei. He was known for his sea exploits and was able to expand Brunei’s sphere of influence to the whole of Borneo and as far as Manila for a short period. The period of his rule is considered to be Brunei’s golden period.

Sultan Hassan (1605-1619): The ninth Sultan, Hassan was known for changing the complex structure of the royal court, which is followed even today. However, he succumbed to the royal succession battles, which led to Brunei’s period of decline.

Sultan Omar (1967-1986): Best known for abdicating and letting his son, Hassanal Bolkiah become the 29th Sultan of Brunei. After abdicating, Sultan Omar took the title of Seri Begawan and he is memorialized in the name of the capital of Brunei, which was changed in 1970 from Brunei Town to Bandar Seri Begawan.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah: The 29th and current Sultan of Brunei. He is the head of state and government and has been an important ruler, bringing wealth to Brunei by selling Brunei’s oil and gas to international markets.

A Resilient Monarchy: The Modern Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam

The Sultan of Brunei (Yang Di-Pertuan Negara) is part of a long line of hereditary Sultans ruling continuously for 600 years. The present Sultan, Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, is the 29th ruler. Brunei has a small population of around 400,000, comprising 66% Malays, and is divided into two enclaves, each surrounded by the East Malaysian state of Sarawak. After reaching its peak of power in the sixteenth century, the Sultanate declined and in the nineteenth century, its territory dwindled under pressure from the Brooke Rajahs in neighboring Sarawak. Threatened with extinction, the establishment of a British residency in Brunei in 1906 provided a much-needed reprieve. At the end of the residential period in 1959, internal self-government was extended to Brunei and the Sultan has given executive authority. A new constitution was promulgated in 1959 which provided for a partially elected Legislative Council. 2Subsequently, the Brunei Rakyat Party (PRB) won all the elected seats to the Legislative Council however, armed resistance to unification with Malaysia by the PRB in 1962 prevented the elected candidates from taking office. The uprising, which was swiftly quelled by the British, was a decisive event in Brunei’s political history it engendered a sense of vulnerability and insecurity that has prevailed until today. It also provided the then Sultan, Omar Ali Saifuddin III, with a raison d’être to impose emergency regulations, postpone constitutional changes, and also influenced the Sultan’s decision against joining Malaysia. Refusing to bow to British pressure to institute constitutional changes, the Sultan abdicated in 1967 in favor of his son, Haji Hassanal Bolkiah. Consequently, one can argue that British colonization breathed life into the weak and fragmented monarchy, transforming it into a centralized autocracy.

Fashioning a Neo-traditional State

Many scholars have questioned the viability of absolute monarchies. Modernization theorists, such as Huntington, argue that monarchical regimes are not able to withstand the pressures of modern state-building. Monarchs are confronted with what Huntington and others have described as the “king’s dilemma” modernization undercuts the king’s power and authority, requiring monarchs to share power with important new groups such as the expanding urban middle class. According to modernization theory, the middle class pushes for change and greater political participation and this ultimately causes the downfall of monarchies. However, oil-dependent Gulf monarchies in the Middle East and Brunei have been able to avert this eventuality and have instead evolved and flourished as neo-traditional states. These monarchies continue to be conservative, paternalistic, and highly authoritarian. They employ a legitimacy formula predicated on religion, culture, and tradition. Additionally, in response to rapid socio-economic development, they have expanded their legitimacy formula to include economic performance supported by generous welfare programs. Rulers seek to build strong and lasting bonds with their citizens.

After achieving independence in 1984, Brunei was confronted with the arduous task of institution-building. The Sultan exercised absolute power, but at the same time, he understood the importance of developing professional institutions of government which would aid in coping with the demands of governing a modern state. A ministerial form of government was announced in 1984, but the Sultan continued to wield enormous power, simultaneously becoming the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Home Minister. To alleviate the “king’s dilemma,” the Sultan absorbed new well-educated elites in his government so as to reduce discontent among emerging new social groups. By allying himself with these new elites, the Sultan was also able to reduce his dependence on the royal and traditional elite. Technocrats and the educated elite were brought into important positions in government. The Sultan’s son, Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, was appointed the Crown Prince in 1998 and elevated to Senior Minister in 2005. He has been given a more prominent role in the last decade, often deputising for the Sultan, officiating at public events and hosting foreign dignitaries in order to ensure a smooth transition of power. Since independence, there has been hardly any attempt to introduce meaningful representative government, and the Sultan and his close relations have continued to centralize power.

Apart from absorbing the well-educated elites in the executive and the government bureaucracy, the Sultan also appealed more broadly to the rest of the population by providing generous and comprehensive welfare programs. Brunei’s economy is heavily dependent on natural resource extraction it relies on oil and gas for 90% of its export revenue and more than half of its Gross Domestic Product. The state is the largest employer, currently employing 25% of Bruneians and the government provides a high standard of living, with a GDP per capita of US$51,760 ranked among the highest in Asia. The Sultanate has experienced steady economic growth with a 2.6% rise in GDP in 2011 due to higher oil prices. Inflation is low and there is no personal income tax. The ability of the Sultanate to provide generous welfare programs confers the state much-needed legitimacy in a political environment without political representation and any meaningful participation.

Brunei society is strictly regulated and the media is tightly controlled. Emergency regulations have been renewed biennially although there has not been any serious challenge to the monarchy since 1962. Any challenges have been met with swift and strong response. One of the earlier political parties, the Brunei National Democratic Party (BNDP), founded in 1985, called for the eventual establishment of a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy, a repeal of emergency laws and the reintroduction of elections. The party was swiftly de-registered in 1988 under the Societies Act and its leader, Abdul Latif Chuchu, was arrested under emergency laws. A number of other political parties have also emerged but their membership has been small and they have avoided public criticism of the royal family. In spite of their moderate stance, these political parties were also de-registered. The only political party remaining in Brunei today is the National Development Party.

The 2004 Constitutional Amendments

As Brunei enters the 21st century and matures as a nation, many in Brunei were expecting the re-institution of elections and opportunity for participation in government. However, a series of constitutional amendments announced in 2004 have given the Sultan greater power. Although the once partially elected Legislative Council was resurrected in 2004, its members were all appointed and included the Sultan, his brother, Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, the Crown Prince, Cabinet ministers, prominent members of society as well as representatives from various districts. The resurrected Legislative Council was given the task to pass the 2004 constitutional amendments including new legislation designed to entrench the Sultan as an absolute sovereign. The new amendments clarified the powers of the Sultan, giving him supreme authority and placing him above the law in both his official and personal capacity. The constitutional amendments also undermined the role of the Legislative Council. Despite provision for elections, the Council has thus far comprised only appointed members and meets annually in March to raise questions about the budget and governance issues of concern to the public.

According to the 1959 constitution, the Council has an advisory role, and needed to give consent before any law could be passed. However, the 2004 amendments did away with this provision, thus effectively making the Legislative Council a “meaningless rubber stamp chamber.” It is unlikely that direct elections for Legislative Council members will be held in the near future. They argues that the 2004 constitutional amendments have resulted in the Sultan becoming the foundation or Grundnorm of the legal system in Brunei. Horton maintains that the constitutional amendments show “a desire to wrap the kingdom in some of the clothes of a liberal democracy without actually being one.”

Promoting a National Ideology

Upon achieving independence, the Sultan promoted the ideology of Melayu Islam Beraja (Malay Islamic Monarchy or MIB) in order to encourage loyalty to the nation. This ideology has become an important basis of the Sultan’s political legitimacy it elevates Islam as the national religion, upholds the rights and privileges of the Malay ethnic community, and justifies the hereditary monarchy as a relevant governing system. This ideology allows the monarchy to situate itself as the protector of Islam, conferring on the office even greater legitimacy.

MIB was formulated by officials close to the Sultan in an attempt to define national identity in terms of attachment to Islam, Malay culture and loyalty to the Sultan. One of the staunch advocates of MIB, Pehin Hj Abdul Aziz Umar, a former Education Minister, elaborates that the system of government which has been continuously practised for 600 years is unique to the Malay world, and the Sultan’s power is absolute. MIB is also depicted as a more amenable alternative to Western notions of democracy as it hinges on the special and close relationship between the Sultan and his people. The Sultan has declared that the ideology is “God’s will” but it is tempting to argue that this was an orchestrated attempt to socialise the Bruneian people to accept norms and values associated with an absolute monarchy.

The monarchy in Brunei is both paternalistic and personalised. The Sultan is portrayed as a symbol of the nation and the focus of people’s loyalties. He conveys a keen interest in public affairs, making visits to far-flung districts to monitor the progress of development projects. 25 He rotates performing his weekly Friday prayers in mosques throughout the country to demonstrate his close relationship with God and his strong commitment to Islam. However, consequently, the Sultan must also be beyond reproach as he is seen not only as a political leader but as someone who is morally virtuous and exemplary. The expectation of good, clean government also extends to other members of the royal family. There appears to be public interest in the legal battles involving the Sultan’s youngest brother and former Finance Minister, Prince Jefri, who was accused of embezzling state funds to the value of US$15 billion in the late 1990s. To preserve legitimacy, the Sultan has been swift to condemn his brother’s actions and has attempted to retrieve state assets through costly legal proceedings.

As a neo-traditional state, Brunei has shown itself capable of accommodating the modern needs of its population and providing security and stability. However, in the twenty-first century, as Brunei matures as a nation-state, the stresses and strains of managing a modern state become apparent. The Sultan is mindful that the state’s capacity to deliver social services and public goods is constantly put under pressure as a result of rising costs. Brunei continues to rely on oil and gas for its revenue and efforts to diversify the economy have not resulted in desired outcomes. The state is also vulnerable to fluctuations in gas and oil prices and production. The challenge for the Brunei monarchy today is to ensure that the state is always capable of matching domestic demand for public goods and a high standard of living. The Sultan has to be careful in ensuring that supporters of his regime, be they the royal elite, or the upwardly mobile middle class continue to validate his regime. In the absence of participation, the Sultan has to work hard to appeal more broadly to his urban and rural constituencies and continue to gain their trust and confidence as a benevolent ruler.

Land & People

Brunei Darussalam is situated on the north-west of the island of Borneo, between east longitudes 114 degrees 04' and 11 degrees 23' and north latitudes of 4 degrees 00' and 5 degrees 05'. It has a total area of 5,765-sq. km. with a coastline of about 161-km along the South China Sea. It is bounded on the North by the South China Sea and on all the other sides by Malaysian State of Sarawak.

Physical Features

The land surface is developed on bedrock of tertiary age comprising of sandstone, shale and clays. The terrain in the western part of Brunei Darussalam is predominantly hilly lowland below 91 metres, but rising in the hinterland to about 300 metres. The eastern part of the state consists predominantly of rugged mountain terrain, rising 1,850 metres above sea level at Bukit Pagon. The coast has a wide, tidal and swampy plain.

Brunei Darussalam has an equatorial climate characterized by a uniform high temperature, high humidity and heavy rainfall. Temperatures range from 23 - 32 Degree Celsius, while rainfall varies from 2,500 mm annually on the coast to 7,500 mm in the interior. There is no distinct wet season.

Capital and Town

Brunei Darussalam is divided into four districts namely Brunei/Muara, Tutong, Belait and Temburong. Bandar Seri Begawan is the capital of Brunei Darussalam with an area of about 16 sq. km. The famed Water Village of Brunei (Kampong Ayer) is also located here.

Other towns are Muara, about 41 km to the north east of Bandar Seri Begawan where the chief port is located, Seria which is the seat of oil and gas industry, and Kuala Belait, Pekan Tutong and Bangar which are the administrative centres of Belait, Tutong and Temburong Districts respectively.

The population of Brunei Darussalam in 2004, is estimated at 357,800 persons, the said total, 186,200 are males and 171,600 females.

This estimate includes all people residing in Brunei Darussalam. Malay, which also included Brunei Indigenous communities of Malay, Kedayan, Tutong, Belait, Bisaya, Dusun and Murut, constitutes the major population group numbering at 237,100. Other Indigenous froup is 12,300, Chinese at 40,200 persons and other races not specified at 68,200.

The Clintons and the Sultan of Brunei Have a History

Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei / AP Brent Scher • May 22, 2015 5:00 am

In words spoken from the Sultan of Brunei’s lavish Empire Hotel in 2000, President Bill Clinton told reporters that his post-presidency would be about making money: "Now I have a United States senator to support, I understand that’s an expensive proposition."

Clinton traveled to Brunei with his daughter, Chelsea, for an economic summit that was also attended by leaders such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Jiang Zemin, then China’s president.

The sultan, known in Brunei as His Majesty Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, put on an exhibition of luxury for his summit guests. Four hundred ninety three new cars were purchased to transport the various dignitaries around town.

Perhaps the abundance of wealth had an effect on Clinton, who according to New York Times reporters also in Brunei, "made a strong case for his need to start producing some serious revenue flow."

Forging a relationship with the Sultan of Brunei would aid him in that goal.

The government of Brunei contributed between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation in 2002, which said that the donation went toward the construction of the Clinton Presidential Library in Arkansas.

Clinton would return to Brunei that same year—this time without his daughter.

Clinton was picked up at a Japanese naval base by Jeffrey Epstein and his private Boeing 727—known to many as either "the orgy jet" or "Lolita Express"—and flown to Brunei to visit with Sultan Bolkiah, according to flight records.

Epstein is a registered sex offender who would regularly host Clinton and many others at his private Caribbean island before being put in prison for sexually abusing underage girls around the globe.

He spent just 13 months in jail for the charges, though evidence is reported to have existed that could have led to more serious federal charges such as using his private jet for sex trafficking.

Two of the alleged "madames" linked to Epstein’s case—one of whom reached an immunity deal with prosecutors—were also aboard the flight to Brunei, according to the flight records.

Clinton stayed in the Emperor Suite of the sultan’s Empire Hotel, a $16,600 per night "football-field sized suite that features its own swimming pool and carpets flecked with real gold"

Clinton returned to Brunei in 2005, to thank Sultan Bolkiah for the donation he made to the Clinton library.

"I’m now going to Brunei for a private visit," wrote Clinton on his personal blog. "I want to thank His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah for his generous donation to the Clinton library."

Bill Clinton and the Sultan of Brunei

The sultan, whose net worth was last estimated to be $20 billion, has held the throne in Brunei since 1967.

He owns a Boeing 747, which he purchased for $400 million and pilots himself. He is also the owner of an Airbus 340, 16 other planes, two helicopters, 9,000 luxury cars, and a palace with 1,788 rooms in it.

Also like Epstein, he has been accused of sexual wrongdoing. In 1997, he was sued by a former Miss USA who said she was held as a sex slave, drugged, and molested by Brunei’s royal family. The lawsuit was dropped after the Sultan and his brother claimed diplomatic immunity.

The sultan and his brother Prince Jefri have become "infamous for their sex parties and their harems composed mainly of underage girls."

Jillian Lauren, who at 18 years of age was recruited for Jefri’s harem, wrote a book about her experience in which she claimed that "there’s no such thing as underage" in Brunei. Lauren also had sexual relations with the sultan.

The sultan, however, has also pushed the small country toward radical Sharia law over his decades-long reign.

The shift was accelerated on May 1, 2014, when he announced in a royal decree that "the enforcement of Sharia law phase one" has begun and would be "followed by the other phases."

Crimes such as homosexuality, sodomy, adultery, and the discussion of faith by non-Muslims are now punishable by amputation of limbs, public flogging, or death by stoning.

This shift has made association with the sultan and the nation of Brunei a red flag in the progressive community.

Hollywood stars boycotted the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel, owned by the sultan, after Brunei formally adopted strict Islamic law. The City of Beverly Hills government even adopted a formal resolution urging him to divest from the hotel.

The hotel turned into a "ghost town," as events hosted by the likes of Jeffrey Katzenberg were moved to other venues.

The Beverly Hills Hotel then hired Mark Fabiani, a former Clinton White House aide who handled crisis communications for the administration, to help it deal with the backlash.

The Clinton Foundation has previously stated that the contribution from Brunei was a "one-time donation" and that it does not expect any further donations. A request for comment about whether it has considered returning the money given Brunei’s turn towards repressive Sharia law went unreturned.

As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton traveled to Brunei in 2012 to "meet with senior officials to emphasize the importance of the increasingly vibrant U.S.-Brunei relationship." She joined the sultan for dinner at one of his palaces.

Clinton also accepted $58,000 worth of jewelry from Brunei while she was with the State Department.


The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, is one of the world's longest-reigning and few remaining absolute monarchs. He was crowned in August 1968 following the abdication of his father, Sir Haji Omar Ali Saifuddin.

Upon Brunei's independence in 1984, he appointed himself prime minister and in 1991, introduced an ideology called Malay Muslim Monarchy, which presented the monarch as the defender of the faith.

He is one of the world's richest individuals and in a country where the standard of living is high, appears to enjoy genuine popularity amongst his subjects. More recently however, he has faced criticism over the introduction of Islamic Sharia law in the country.

Literature and Arts

Literature is an important part of the culture of Brunei and one of the most important literary works is Sya’ir Awang Simawn, an epic poem. This poem tells the history of the Sultanate through the adventures of the hero Simawn. Children also have an appreciation for literature and are particularly familiar with the sajak style of poetry. The sajak was first used to teach children about history and civil studies. It is read in regular prose form but may be accompanied by hand movements as well.

The arts in Brunei take on a number of forms, including painting, architecture, jewelry, textiles, metal works, and baskets. During the mid-20th century, the government of Brunei took an active part in promoting art in the society. Since then, the production and sale of art have increased. Women work primarily with textiles and beads, while men tend to work with metals. This country is well-known for its silver ornaments and fabrics dyed in the batik style.


The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, is one of the world's longest-reigning and few remaining absolute monarchs. He was crowned in August 1968 following the abdication of his father, Sir Haji Omar Ali Saifuddin.

Upon Brunei's independence in 1984, he appointed himself prime minister and in 1991, introduced an ideology called Malay Muslim Monarchy, which presented the monarch as the defender of the faith.

He is one of the world's richest individuals and in a country where the standard of living is high, appears to enjoy genuine popularity amongst his subjects. More recently however, he has faced criticism over the introduction of Islamic Sharia law in the country.

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