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Bolkiah, sultan of Brunei, celebrates 50 years in power

Posted: October 5, 2017 at 6:20 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

The Oil-rich Brunei’s absolute ruler marked 50 years in power on Thursday, with elaborate celebrations that included a glittering procession through the capital on a gilded chariot.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, 71, is now the world’s second-longest reigning monarch, after ascending the throne in the tiny northeast Borneo nation in 1967.

Dressed in gold brocade, the sultan entered the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, with his wife, Queen Saleha, and their children on a carriage pulled by 50 members of the royal household clad in traditional black and gold woven cloth.

A military band led the five-km (three-mile) procession, which was greeted by more than 80,000 well-wishers, some of whom had arrived as early as 5 a.m. to secure a good spot.

The procession was part of a month-long celebration of the golden jubilee, which includes the opening of Brunei’s first cable-stayed bridge, the unveiling of a major new urban park and a state banquet at the gold-domed palace on Friday, attended by regional leaders as well as British and Middle Eastern royalty.


“The responsibility of the king is to his people and the people have a responsibility to the king,” the sultan told an audience at the palace. “Together, the king and the people hold the trust of the nation.”

Brunei, a former British protectorate of about 400,000 people, relies heavily on oil and gas exports for its wealth.

The country does not hold elections but any discontent is assuaged with generous government polices, including zero taxes, subsidized housing and free healthcare and education.

Despite tight social controls, the sultan is hugely popular. His rule has seen Brunei gain full independence from Britain and living standards soar to among the highest in Asia.

”When we go to Friday prayers at the mosque, he is there. We can go up to him and shake his hand or pass him letters if we have complaints,” said Aizzat Bakar, 32, a businessman working in the capital.


But the sultan also presided over the adoption of tough Islamic law in 2014, which raised concerns among tens of thousands of non-Muslims, including Western expatriate workers.

The sale of alcohol is banned in Brunei and evangelism by other religions is strictly forbidden.

Details of the lavish lifestyle of the sultan’s brother, Prince Jefri, including owning hundreds of luxury cars and a yacht, became public during a family feud, grabbing global headlines and shocking many in the country.

The sultan, once the world’s richest man, has a firm grip on power, but Brunei has also become a microcosm of the trouble faced by oil-dependent states.

As global energy prices tumbled over the past three years, government revenue nosedived by 70 per cent. Brunei is the only Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) country to have seen a recession for three straight years.

The price collapse prompted Brunei to embrace Chinese investment, with Beijing pumping billions into key infrastructure projects.

In return, the sultanate has remained largely silent on Beijing’s vast territorial stake in the South China Sea, which overlaps Brunei’s own claims in the disputed waters.



July 15, 1946: Born in Bandar Seri Begawan.

The Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah taking private tuition (far left) at the mosque at Darul Hana palace in in the 1950s.


Aug 14, 1961: Became Crown Prince at the age of 15.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah while still studying at Victoria Institution, a secondary school and one of the oldest schools in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1961.


1966-67: Trained as an officer at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in the United Kingdom.

Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah while studying at the Royal Military Academy, in Sandhurst, UK, in 1966. 


Oct 4, 1967: His late father Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien voluntarily abdicated.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and his father in a photo taken on Sept 10, 1986.


Oct 5, 1967: Ascended the throne at the age of 21.

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien crowns Hassanal Bolkiah.Sultan Hassanal ascended the throne on Oct 5, 1967. 


Aug 1, 1968: Coronated as Brunei’s 29th Sultan and held a royal procession around the capital.

Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah was crowned as Brunei’s 29th ruler on Aug 1, 1968. 


1978: Led a mission to London to change status of Brunei to that of a sovereign state. The outcome was the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Brunei Darussalam and Great Britain.

Jan 7, 1979: Brunei Darussalam signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with Great Britain.

Jan 1, 1984: Gained independence from the British and he became prime minister.


A picture of the Sultan taken on Apr 29, 1986. 


1984: Established formal diplomatic relations with several countries, including Singapore.

Mr Goh Chok Tong’s first visit to the Sultanate of Brunei as First Deputy Prime Minister.


Sept 21, 1984: Brunei officially became the 159th country to join the United Nations.

Feb 12-14, 1990: Made his first state visit to Singapore where he called on then President Wee Kim Wee and then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei (left) and President Wee Kim Wee in a photo taken on Feb 12, 1990. 


Sept, 1992: Brunei joined the Non Aligned Movement (NAM).

Oct 5, 1992: Celebrated his Silver Jubilee. Mr Lee Hsien Loong, who was then deputy prime minister of Singapore, was among the guests.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is seen in a picture 


July 15, 1996: Celebrated his 50th birthday when he played polo with Prince Charles and flew in Michael Jackson to perform at a concert.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei (right) scores a goal in a friendly polo match at the Singapore Polo Club.
Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah’s eldest heir Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah.


Feb 27-Mar 1, 2003: Made his second state visit to Singapore, and called on then President SR Nathan.

Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah and Singapore President SR Nathan during a State Banquet at the Istana. 


April, 2014: Introduced sharia law which, among other rules, bans alcohol sales and sex between unmarried Muslims..

April 21 – 23, 2014: Made his third state visit to Singapore, and was hosted to lunch by DPM Teo Chee Hean.

Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong water a sapling that they just planted at the Gardens by the Bay on Apr 23, 2014.


Aug 2016: Singapore and Brunei celebrated the 40th anniversary of bilateral defence relations.

July 5-6, 2017: Made his fourth state visit to Singapore, during which both countries celebrated 50 years of the Currency Interchangeability Agreement (CIA). He and PM Lee Hsien Loong launched commemorative $50 notes. He was also hosted to a state banquet by former President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (left) and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launch of a special set of commemorative notes marking the golden jubilee of the Currency Interchangeability Agreement between Brunei and Singapore at the Istana on July 5, 2017.






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