Tuesday, January 27, 2015


A country that scores very high on my “theoretical aspiration meter”, as its full and official name is “Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace” or Brunei Darussalam in Arabic. And without doubt, being a one-party Islamic state with an absolute monarchy, especially one that is constitutionally embedded, it has an outstanding chance of achieving the full illusion of its name, as no one in their right minds is going to publicly protest; and the Sultan having distributed free televisions to his entire population a few years ago so that they can watch the propaganda on state-run television, has added certainty to the unlikelihood of insurrection as, applying the American model, if you provide your people with sufficient mindless entertainment, they will have no energy or appetite for taking to the streets; why would you bother, when there are so many good programmes you can watch, and five choices of channel, all of them admittedly RTB, and one of them a 10-hour national Islam channel which airs the live feed from the Royal Islamic Mosque, and the best programmes are all in in 720p HDTV, so life is very good.

A British colony until 1984, it shares the island of Borneo with the Malaysian state of Sarawak, likewise a Moslem despotism, and with Indonesia, ditto, though Brunei should probably be counted as a "benevolent despotism". The vast wealth of the Sultan, whose family has ruled Brunei for more than six hundred years, the vast wealth, of which his people seem blithely unaware or frankly unconcerned, is mostly the result of finding oil and natural gas back in the 1950s, which the British exploited until the Sultan acquired it at Independence. As a consequence Brunei has one of the highest GDPs in Asia, though it also has one of the highest GBRPs in the world (a GBRP is the Gap Between the Stinking Rich and in this case the Relatively Poor), not that the poor (anyone not in the royal family) need the wealth of the rich (anyone in the royal family) because the Sultan provides all Bruneian citizens with free medical services and free education, right through to university. He also provides subsidies for most of the basic necessities of life, and his people pay no taxes, though significant numbers would pay no taxes anyway, as they have no jobs.

Government in Brunei needs some explaining. There is a king, whose name is Sir Hassanal Bolkiah. The king appoints the Prime Minister, whose name is Sir Hassanal Bolkiah.There are no political parties, and therefore no need for any elections. The King, not the Prime Minister, appoints a Council of Cabinet Ministers to deal with executive matters; the King also appoints a Religious Council to advise on religious matters, a Privy Council to deal with constitutional matters, a Legislative Council (whose current record of meetings is once every twenty years), and a Council of Succession which stands ready to determine constitutionally that the eldest son of the Sultan will succeed him when he dies. This constitution was drafted between 1954 to 1959, signed into law in September 1959, amended in 1984, 2004 and again in 2011, but in fact most of its provisions were suspended in 1962 under a State of Emergency, and most of the remainder at independence in 1984. None of these councils has yet begun the task of submitting a declaration to the International Court of Justice, which is a normal expectation of countries who participate in the United Nations. On the other hand, several of these councils were actively engaged for some time in drafting a new penal code for the country, which came into force in May 2014, and which Amnesty International has described as "a dangerous step backwards for human rights". Typical of those soft liberals with their Judeo-Christian consciences to criticise a country that is so generous with its subsidies and taxes and medical and education provision! Surely the stoning, whipping and limb-amputation of convicted criminals is right and proper, if one is to maintain law and order in a decent society? Nor do these punishments apply to drug traffickers or those caught in the act of illegally importing controlled substances; these are regarded as serious offences in Brunei and carry a mandatory death penalty. Sexual harassment is prohibited by law, the punishment being up to five years in prison or caning; for rape the sentence may be extended to thirty years, and not fewer than twelve strokes of the cane - though surely stroking with a cane is itself a form of sexual harassment, if not actually rape? Spousal rape however is not recognised, so long as the wife is 13 years old. All this only applies to heterosexual relationships; homosexual relationships are illegal, and Sharia law is in place, somewhat uncomfortably at times, alongside an inherited system of English law.

Look at my photo of Gadaffi on the Libya page; don't you think they look alike?

There are points in the Sultan’s credit box however. He wears one of the most beautiful non-military uniforms in the world, one that any South American Banana Dictator would be proud to be photographed in, though it does make him look rather Italian. He also lives in one of the world's most splendid houses, where it would require five full years for him to sleep in a different bedroom every night. His collection of supercars is unrivalled; seven thousand high performance cars, estimated to be worth more than $5 billion, including six hundred Rolls Royces, three hundred Ferraris, eleven McLaren F1s, six Dauer Porsche 962 LMs and a number of Jaguars. His private jets include a Boeing 747-400 and an Airbus 340-200.The man could feed the whole of Africa, single-handed, for a decade, and still have enough cash to pay for his absurd lifestyle! Not to mention the lifestyles of his sons and brothers, for which you really must take a look at this article from FrontPage magazine.

Marks For: 0

Marks Against: either 747,400 or 340,200, as you prefer.

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