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Brunei - Government

Brunei Darussalam is an absolute monarchy, ruled by Sir Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan (Supreme Ruler) of Brunei. Since an abortive uprising in 1962, Brunei has been governed by an absolute, but benevolent, monarchy under an underpinning political philosophy is that of a Malay Muslim Monarchy. Brunei is an independent sovereign Sultanate that has been ruled by the same family for more than 600 years. Governing on the basis of a written constitution, the Sultan has broad powers under the Internal Security Act put into effect in 1983 that placed few limits on his power. Brunei adheres to a Malay Islamic Monarchy belief system, which promotes moderate Islamic values within a monarchial political system.

His Majesty, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, the 29th monarch in succession to the throne, is the prime Minister as well as the Defence and Finance Minister and Head of Religion of Brunei Darussalam. As Sultan, His Majesty is advised and assisted by 5 constitutional bodies, namely, the Council of Succession, the Privy Council, the Council of Cabinet Ministers, Religious Council and the State Legislative Council. The State Legislative Council which was reconvened in September 2004, consists of Cabinet Ministers, local dignitaries, people who achieved distinctions in business, religion and society as well as district representatives.

A Council of Ministers, or cabinet, which currently consists of 14 members (including the Sultan himself), assists in the administration of the government. The Sultan presides over the cabinet as Prime Minister and also holds the positions of Minister of Defense and Minister of Finance. His son, the Crown Prince, serves as Senior Minister. One of the Sultan's brothers, Prince Mohamed, serves as Minister of Foreign Affairs. In May 2010, the Sultan appointed the first female Deputy Minister and elevated the position of both State Mufti and Attorney General to ministerial rank.

The Legislative Council, with appointed seats and minimal powers, was re-introduced following 2004 constitutional amendments issued by the Sultan. Later, a small number of the Legislative Council seats were indirectly elected by village leaders. The Legislative Council (LegCo) is comprised of: 14 Ex-Officio members that included the Prime Minister, His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei, the Senior Minister at Prime Minister's Office, the Crown Prince, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Prince Mohammad, and twelve appointed cabinet ministers. The non-government appointed members included seven dignitaries and one representative each from the four districts (Brunei-Muara, Tutong, Kuala Belait and Temburong). His Majesty has stated that members should express their views without fear, doubt or hesitancy.

Brunei's legal system is based on English common law, with an independent judiciary, a body of written common law judgments and statutes, and legislation enacted by the Sultan. The local magistrates' courts try most cases. More serious cases go before the High Court, which sits for about 2 weeks every few months. Brunei has an arrangement with the United Kingdom whereby United Kingdom judges are appointed as the judges for Brunei's High Court and Court of Appeal. Final appeal can be made to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London in civil but not criminal cases. Brunei also has a separate system of Islamic courts that apply Sharia law in family and other matters involving Muslims.

Under Brunei regulations and conventional practice, vacancies for Kampong (village) and Mukim (collection of villages) Chiefs are advertised in the government-owned, Malay language newspaper 'Pelita Brunei' two months prior to Election Day. Candidacy forms must be signed by a nominator and seconded by two persons (citizens or permanent residents only) and submitted to the Mukim and Kampong Institution Section of the District Office.

Eligible candidates must be male Bruneian citizens between 30 to 60 years of age and have completed at least form 3 (equivalent to eigth grade) schooling. Candidates must have been residents of the village for at least two years, have no involvement in any associations deemed a threat to national security, nor have declared bankruptcy. Candidates must posess good leadership skills, knowledge of Islam, the community, and the customs & traditions practiced by the village residents. Civil servants and political party members must retire from these positions if appointed as village chiefs. Private businessmen may continue conducting their business under terms & conditions set by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Chiefs are elected for a term of five years which can be renewed without further election at the pleasure of the Sultan until the chief reaches the age of 65.

Solicitations for Mukim Chiefs are conducted in the same manner as Kampong Chiefs, but prospective candidates must be Muslim males between the ages of 40 and 60. Mukim chiefs are appointed by the Head of State (the Sultan). If a candidate was previously a Village Chief, he must have held that post for at least 5 years.

The Government of Brunei assures continuing public support for the current form of government by providing economic benefits such as subsidized food, fuel, and housing; free education and medical care; and low-interest loans for government employees.

The Internal Security Act (ISA) permits the government to detain suspects without trial for renewable two-year periods. The government regularly convenes an independent advisory board consisting of executive and judicial branch officials to review individual ISA detentions and recommend whether they should be renewed for an additional two years. There were no detainees held under the ISA during recent years. Under the Sedition Act, it is an offense to challenge the authority of the sultan or members of the royal family. The act also makes it an offense to challenge the standing or prominence of the national philosophy, the Malay Muslim Monarchy concept. This ideology permeates the countrys life and government administration, promoting Islam as the state religion and monarchical rule as the sole acceptable governing system, and upholding the rights and privileges of the Brunei Malay race.

There is one official political party, the National Development Party (NDP), which pledges full support to the Sultan. The Brunei National Solidarity Party (PPKB) was deregistered in September 2007 for failure to submit fiscal report to the Government of Brunei's (GoB). The PPKB had been too vocal about seeking the Legislative Council (LegCo) to become a fully elected body as soon as possible, with the Sultan giving up the post of Prime Minister and the cabinet selected from the majority party ranks.

NDP is not an opposition party but a party for engaging people in civic affairs. This is not a challenge to the monarchy. It is clear through NDP's vision and mission that the party has no intention in exercising power within Brunei but provides a connection between government and society. The NDP seeks an interim step of a partially elected LegCo, as Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has promised when he restored the LegCo in 2004.

Brunei has a two "party" system of sorts; with Brunei's overwhelming dominant ruling party as the caucus-cadre party (or what might be called elite-based parties) and NPD as the branch-mass (or membership-based) party. The difference between the political parties in Brunei is about the vitality and openness of the political process.

The universal right of freedom of assembly and freedom of press are not always available in Brunei. For example, Brunei's two local daily newspapers - Brunei Times and Borneo Bulletin - are often restricted from providing press coverage of any of NDP's political activities. Bruneians have the mindset that "political participation will lead to incarceration" which results in the lack of interest in politics among the majority of society, especially Brunei's youths. The fear of joining political party is further intensified by the existing State of Emergency.

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Page last modified: 20-03-2013 16:46:56 ZULU