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Every society requires an ideal or utopia to aim towards. For the birth of a community is usually marked by chaos, its continuity through a flurry of stability and instability. Unless its leaders have a vision for how their communities will look like then, as the Old Testament would have it, the people shall perish. Written in this work is my input on how my little country Brunei ought to be shaped in the next fifty years. By the time I reach that stage I would either no longer be alive or too old. Either way, this work can either be relevant or it would not. Nonetheless, it is not wrong to attempt in imagining an ideal society for our people.
The bedrock of political stability is usually reflected on the nature of the state. The national character of government today is an absolute monarchy. There is nothing wrong for us to have this. In fact, Rome and Greece, those civilisations that end up shaping the world were founded and led by Kings. Brunei’s thrust to independence from British rule in 1984 saw the country seeming with instability which can only be stabilised by an absolute monarchy. To this, we ought to commend the King for providing his service to the state. Nonetheless, one generation passes on to the next the old order has to give in to the new.
That order is in the introduction of the constitutional monarchy. Emulating the British empire, the future Sultan will retain the title whilst delegating the tasks of governing the country to an elected cabinet. To this free elections have to be revived at all levels of government. It does not need to be abrupt, as that will only sow confusion and chaos. Rather the government shall introduce the elects of free elections step-by-step. Firstly at the Kampong level, then to the Mukim, District and finally at the National level. A party loyal to the old order shall be established. The opposition shall be gradually introduced too.
By then to attain a ministerial post, the person must be elected by the people of his or her constituency and must be approved by the King to hold office. Leading these ministers shall be the Prime Minister, who shall be delegated the vital task of shaping the state forward. If the Prime Minister and Ministers fail to perform or have been found out to commit any acts that would undermine the office of the state, then they should be sacked. Their responsibility and service shall first and foremost rest upon the King’s will, then gradually they ought to be responsible to the people who have elected them into office.
As of now, there are 39 Mukims across the four districts of Brunei Darussalam. These 39 Mukims in the next fifty years would see elections occurring every five years. Leading these 39 Mukims would be the Legislative Council members, who by principle should secure the virtue of office by their own merit more than favour or connections. These 39 Legislative Council members must then work on behalf of the party, people, and nation. Their responsibilities will vary but the overall crux of their work shall be focused on building their respective Mukims.
In regards to a political party, a loyalist band of conservatives namely the Brunei Conservative Party shall have then be established. Much like the British Conservative Party, they will be a right-wing, pro-business, pro-monarchy groups who shall probably dominate the political sphere in the many, many years to come. In the opposite spectrum, a group by the name of the Brunei Labour Party would have by then be established. These left-wing group will represent and champion, in principle, the people’s rights in the state.
To create and sustain these party affiliations, Brunei should within the fifty years allow free elections and the freedom of association. The first component enables people from all background, be they a normal villager or an Oil engineer, to stand for the Legislative council office. Whoever has the strongest mandate shall win the people, whoever wins the people wins the majority vote, and whoever wins the majority vote wins the election. He or she shall then work in representing his or her respective constituencies. The rule of thumb in elections is that if he or she fails to carry the set mandate, then he or she shall be booted out of office in the next elections. Therefore a stream of candidates shall always be forthcoming because they know there is always a chance for them to get elected by replacing an incompetent incumbent.
As for the freedom of association, it is a matter of allowing people to form and join party affiliations. These groups are none other than a collection of people who share a common ideology and values on how the country should run. Membership shall be opened to all, and by the logic of electoral victory, it would be a motivating factor to recruit as many people into the party as possible. In the next fifty years, I would expect that 80% of the people in Brunei will be registered and affiliated with a party, regardless of the background of the parties they join.
The Parliament is an institution where these elected officials shall debate, propose, pass or reject new laws. The party that has the majority seat, secured through a general election which should be run every five years, shall have the prerogative to make and pass laws. While the opposition, on the other hand, must work their hardest to oppose every step of the way the ruling party. The instrument that has differentiated us from mere creatures is the power of speech. The existence and usage of speech have beaten the powers of physical force, time and time again.
To capitalise the power of speech, or debate, the parliament must then be re-engineered into mirroring that of the United Kingdom. The seating arrangement which will see parties seating opposite of each other will give rise to the much-needed impetus of debate. Whomever seats in the front-bench – denoting the power of decision-making they possess relative to the backbenchers — has to debate his or her points. Anyone who fails to do this should take a step back from the party leadership or retire from office immediately.
Nonetheless, my vision a Bruneian will be one that of possessing the eloquence of the great leaders of Britain and the United States. The language used in debate shall be made in English. The elected and approved individuals shall be wearing modern Western clothing. The men and women will look, sound, and appear powerful and intelligent, fitting of the image that would command national and regional respect. They will be well-read, well-versed in the works of political history and political science, and that it would be their primary aim to fashion Brunei to that of the Roman Republic, British Empire and the United States of America.
At the same time, they must also be able to connect with their constituencies. To this, they have to be well versed in Malay Brunei. Unless they are able to connect with their elderlies then they will lose out support. At the same time, there has to be a balance that has to exist to ensure that while they may speak well, they have to execute their duties well too. It would be absurd to elect someone solely based on how they speak rather than how they did their duties. Action speaks louder than words.
Creating a political order in Brunei fashioning ourselves after the United Kingdom is a goal that could be considered as we evolve as a society within the next fifty years, The reintroduction of free elections, freedom of association, the re-engineering of the Parliament and the duties and processes of election for the legislative council members, as well as the ideal candidates representing our people and an active citizen body in politics shall be one ideal Brunei could realise.
There are indeed lots of challenges that will be faced in realising the ideal like this, but as long as we are sincere in preserving the survival of the nation-state, then we will be in a better position to make noteworthy changes for our society regardless of the type of ideals imagined. Nonetheless, there is nothing wrong to imagine how a better society will be created along the lines of democracy. After all, Brunei is and forever will be a MIB and democratic state.