Fri, 11 Apr 2003

A Sultan concerned with humanity

Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah of Brunei Darussalam is renowned not only for his vast wealth, but also for his great concern for humanity.

It is this particular quality that has charmed Gadjah Mada University, which conferred him an honorary doctorate, or honoris causa doctorate, in the fields of humanity and culture on April 9, 2003.

The doctorate was presented at the university to the 57-year- old Sultan, who was on an official visit to Indonesia.

Teuku Ibrahim Alfian of the School of Cultural Sciences at Gadjah Mada University said Sultan Bolkiah deserved the degree because he had succeeded in developing Brunei into a modern and prosperous country.

In particular, the Sultan has successfully strengthened the transportation, communication and human resources development infrastructures.

"In achieving this, His Majesty created two major policies in development based on the humanitarian and cultural identity of the Malay people," said Ibrahim.

Sultan Bolkiah has won his subjects' hearts by making frequent visits to meet him people to discuss their problems, Ibrahim said.

Bolkiah has initiated humanitarian programs, scholarships, financial aid schemes and people's housing programs. Among his acclaimed undertakings is the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation, which oversees the distribution of financial aid for Bruneians in need.

He has also paid special attention to education. As a wealthy oil state, Brunei provides free education to all citizens at all levels, from preschool to university.

In accordance with this ambitious program, the Sultan established the University of Brunei Darussalam in 1985, only a year after the country declared its independence from Britain.

Medical services are also free in Brunei, with people in remote areas served by mobile clinics.

"Brunei Darussalam's medical service has been recognized as one of the best in the world," said Ibrahim.

In culture, the Sultan has promoted Malay as the national language. Language, along with literature, cultural studies and history, has been made a priority in the national curriculum.

Gadjah Mada University also praised the Sultan's great role in international relations. His major achievements include Brunei Darussalam's membership in the UN, the Organization of Islamic Countries, the Organization of Commonwealth Countries, the Association of Islamic Countries and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The first-born son of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adatul Khairi Waddien, Hassanal Bolkiah was born on July 15, 1946 in Darussalam Palace in Bandar Brunei, now Bandar Seri Begawan, and was crowned on Oct. 5, 1967 and inaugurated as the 29th Sultan of Brunei on Aug. 1, 1968.

The Sultan was provided his primary education in Darul Hana Palace and continued his high school education in Brunei and Malaysia. He joined Sandhurt Royal Military Academy in Britain to pursue his tertiary education, and graduated in 1967.

The Sultan of Brunei was the fifth head of state in Southeast Asia to ever receive the honorary doctorate from Gadjah Mada University.

"This conferral is not just an honor for myself, but also for the people of Brunei. It adds another link to the long-standing relationship between the two countries," the Sultan said in his acceptance speech on Wednesday.