Village Leaders refer to individuals appointed by the government to represent and lead their respective village communities forward. They are also tasked at responding and solving the problems faced by the community, and, if that is not possible, relay those problems to the relevant public agencies to solve them. They are, in a sense, a vital component of effective nation-building. The more effective they are at solving the problems of the village level (micro-scale), the lesser the issues the nation will face at the macro-level. Therefore the government should treat them as the basic building blocks of the nation, for the Village Leaders’ capacity of leading their communities forward would have a strong long-term impact on the socio-economic growth and development of Brunei Darussalam. This letter attempts at providing five suggestions on how they could be more pro-active in community building.
First, Village Leaders are advised to set up a committee of their own in steer their respective villages forward. No one can ever achieve meaningful or sustainable change without the help of others. Building up a committee of trusted, competent individuals bent in building up the community serve as a powerful asset that would enable the Village Leaders to shape and carry out ideas in improving the village. Building a committee composed at least seven people from different backgrounds or specialisations is already sufficient in enabling the village leader to tap into the expertise and diversity of ideas that they may bring to the table to pursue that vital objective. One has to remember however that while a committee may be present, it is the village leader who will ultimately carry the final burden and responsibility for actions of change.
Secondly, the Village Leaders should position themselves as the Point of Contact (POC) of their respective village communities for any problems that the people may face. Such measure would involve them to be more proactive in engaging and communicating with their communities directly. One suggestion include on how they could simply put their address and contact out in by the road side, signalling their opens and willingness to become a key person to go to for the public to find solutions to their problems. For instance, if there was a pothole by the roadside in Kampong Junjongan, the people can easily know who to contact to direct their complaints. The Village Leader would then have to professionally deal with the member of the community and subsequently correspond with the relevant agencies to fix the problem on the people’s behalf.
Third, the government should provide adequate training to build up the village leaders’ leadership potential. Lifelong learning is a vital component in human capital development that goes beyond the scope of youths, but the Ketua Kampong (mostly retiree) as well. These Village Leaders, much like any persons, also require assistance on how they can administer their villages effectively and efficiently. By having the government introduce leadership or management programmes, they would be on their way to deliver successful results for their communities. These courses or programmes must eventually be engineered towards building up their leadership capability to head, represent, and lead their communities effectively. In addition, the village leaders should also be given courses to understand where they stand at the bigger picture in nation-building.
Fourth, village leaders should more in tune with their communities. In a public lecture, Lee Kuan Yew was asked by a member of the public on what it takes to be a good leader. The statesman said how a leader should have that instinctive understanding of the community he or she leads, as well as to understand the varying contexts that may be required to build up trust and engagement with the community to lead them forward. Therefore, the Village Leader, in the effort to deliver good results, should aim to achieve these goals. Indeed, being a Village Leader is another form of statesmanship. It is a position of honour and privilege, that everyone who holds or will hold the post in the future should aspire to justify it by fulfilling their duties and responsibilities in the name of the building up the communities that they represent.
Finally, youths should be engaged in the village decision-making process. Being inclusive in the decision-making process of shaping a community forward should not just be restricted by close contacts of the Village Leaders. The youths themselves (probably their own children or friends’ children) must be given the opportunity to have a say in the decision-making table. In tandem of building up a Visionary Generation, involving the youths in village discussions and development would already serve as a basic step forward in preparing them for leadership positions in the future. There is a lot of things that a young person can learn just by observing their seniors or volunteering in community activities organised by the village leaders and the community. This, above all, can be a key to building up the human capital of the nation.
Village Leaders are a vital part in nation-building because they are entrusted with the important task to lead, represent, and shape their communities forward. To be more pro-active in community building, this letter recommends Village Leaders to set up a committee of their own, to position themselves as the point of contact, with the government providing them training to build up their leadership potential, to have the leaders to be more in tune with their respective communities, and finally to engage the youths of Brunei Darussalam in the Village decision-making process. The Village Leaders is an important facet of nation-building that must not be ignored. Rather their positions and their responsibilities should be enlarged, their change potential to be empowered, and their influence to be broadened to become the key assets who will be able to solve issues or pressing problems at the micro-level, and consequently the macro-level problems would be easily taken care of.
by Abdul Malik Omar