This weekend, the Sultanate’s population is busy celebrating our National Day for the quaint nation of Brunei Darussalam. It makes us wonder just what the story behind the Independence Day really is. Here at Sutera, we dug deep into the history books regarding the initial takeover of Brunei territories by James and Charles Brooke to the events that led up to the grand ‘Merdeka’ (independence) on 1st January 1984.
The golden days of Brunei sees it occupying about the whole of Sarawak, Sabah and the lower end of the Philippines. It was by the end of the 19th century that the Brunei Empire’s clout significantly drops due to the influence of Rajah Brooke and the British North Borneo Company. Through the protectorate agreement in 1888, Brunei’s foreign policy have been effectively placed in the hands of Great Britain and later lead to more land takeovers like the annexation of Limbang in 1890.
In 1904, the British Government sent Malcolm Steward Hannibal McArthur, acting consul of Labuan, to report on conditions of Brunei at the time. This was aimed to produce a report that could help in making recommendations for the country’s future administration. Malcolm’s report gave Brunei a new lease on life; as they say. With intense opposition and dislikes of the Rajah by people of Brunei, a 1906 supplementary treaty was signed that prevented the Rajah from taking more land and instead introduced a British resident in the country. Brunei became a British protectorate at this time with Malcolm McArthur becoming the first British resident in Brunei.
When Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien III ascended the throne in 1950, he wrestled strongly for Brunei to have more control in its administration than the British. This led to the signing of the Constitution on 29th September 1959.
The constitution allowed Brunei to develop their government in preparation to take full control of the country’s internal affairs that happened in 1971 after another treaty was signed. Following that was yet another signing of agreement on 7th January 1979, which states that Brunei will take over full responsibility of internal and external matters of the sultanate. It was only five years later on 31st December 1983 that the agreement took full effect.
The 1st of January 1984, marked the first day of Brunei’s Independence. Since then, Brunei celebrated its national day every 23rd February which was the date when British control formally ends after the long, grueling battle. This year marks the 34th year that Brunei gained its independence from the British. We from Sutera would like to take this opportunity to wish our readers a Happy 34th National Day!