Saturday, November 28, 2009

Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar.

Salam, good day. It's been a long time I didn't write on bruneidaily due to office commitment (very, very, very busy). I attended a lot of events (took pictures as well) and you may go to bruneidaily facebook page to view those pictures. As at today, 2009 is only 34 days left. Heayyy, times running very fast. Times never pending but we are the one who is overdue. Alright, today we celebrate Aidil Adha which begins with the sunat prayers held in mosques nationwide which starts at 7.30am and followed by the slaughtering of 'korban' livestock namely cows, goats, sheep, cattle and camels *Allah bless*. Celebrating Aidil Adha is very much depend on how each family observe the occasion, which marks the sacrifices made by Prophet Ibrahim (Alaihi Assalaam) when he was put to the test by Allah the almighty to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to Allah. Although Aidil Adha annually falls on the 10th day of the month of Zulhijjah on the Islamic calendar, however the festivities last for three days which known as 'Tasyrik Day'.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

50 days to 2010.

Be more generous to your workers, firms told
Employment Order 2009
Employers have been encouraged to give employees more than the minimum terms and conditions of employment stipulated in the Employment Order 2009 launched yesterday.
Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Orang Kaya Johan Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Adanan Begawan Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Seri Setia Hj Md Yusof said that the new Order, which came into effect on September 3, hopes to increase the transparency of the rights and responsibilities of both the employee and employer.
"(The Order) stipulates the minimum requirements in employment. In this respect, His Majesty's Government encourages all employers to be more generous and responsible in safeguarding the welfare and well-being of their workers, aside from (being generous in fulfilling) the employment conditions underlined in the Order," he said.
By doing this, the minister said that it could provide an incentive for employees to work longer and discourage them from job-hopping.
The trend in the country's working environment is that the turnover rate is high for Bruneians switching from private to the public sector, said a Labour Department officer.The minister said that by being generous, employers could be able to decrease the number of people switching to government and retain them.
"By implementing good labour practices, it will indeed decrease the turnover of taking in new workers, particularly local employees, into an organisation," he added.
The new employment order replaces the Labour Act 1955, which has governed the country's working environment for the past 45 years and its jurisdiction legally limited to only manual labourers.
The Employment Order 2009 protects all persons who are employed under a contract of service, which may be written or implied, but excludes seaman, domestic servants and any person employed in a managerial, executive or confidential position.Civil servants and all employees of statutory bodies are also excluded. Both local and foreign employees are covered by the Order.
The minister said that labour-related issues are becoming more challenging and complex, and have attracted greater global attention from international and regional bodies such as the United Nations, Asean and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
He said that the 1955 Labour Act was no longer relevant nor suitable to today's situation and development, and thus, needed to be updated. Following a review of the Act, site visits and surveys conducted by labour officers and feedback from employers and representatives of workers, as well as referencing the labour legislation of neighbouring countries and ILO standards, the Labour Department working alongside the Attorney General's Chambers drafted the Employment Order 2009.
"This Order is aimed to further ensure the welfare, well-being, safety and protection of employees' rights in this country to a more comprehensive and systematic level, which is based on good practices and considers the standards of the ILO," he said.The employees had to fulfil their end of the bargain as well, with the minister reminding workers to be more disciplined, dedicated and cooperative to contribute to the employee's own success as well as to the company that he or she works for.
Immigration laws also played a part in governing working regulations as Pehin Dato Hj Adanan highlighted some of the instances which the Labour Department and Immigration and National Registration Department have encountered, including abusing the use of foreign worker's permit and harbouring and employing immigration law offenders.
He also called on employers to ensure that foreign employees' welfare are looked after, particularly in aspects such as the provision of proper housing, on-time payment of wages and correct use of the licence to hire foreign workers."The aim of this is to ultimately avoid the occurrence of negative impacts, which can raise social problems and jeopardise national peace and security. Apart from that, we should together be responsible in safeguarding the image and good name of the country among international eyes such as the ILO," he said. (The Brunei Times)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Top priority.

Shape up, Unissa's reputation is in your hands
HM to Unissa leadership
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday scrutinised the leadership qualities of those in charge of Brunei's first Islamic university and challenged them to ensure its reputation as an institute of learning.
The monarch, in his 30-minute titah at Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (Unissa) yesterday, said that improvements will have to be made to the university's academic structure and admission policies.
His Majesty said that in addition to good academic staff, the university also requires leadership that is of high calibre."In fact the leaders here must not only be of high calibre but also have an understanding of the direction that the university is headed," said His Majesty.
The benevolent ruler used the analogy of a "boat" where the leaders are the steersmen while the academic staff would be the "oarsmen".
"The task of the steersmen is to determine the direction while the 'oarsmen' should only row to reach their destination quickly," said His Majesty, adding that the "boat" would not function properly if the "oarsmen" jumped in to take the position of the steersman while the latter accepts the new company willingly.
The ruler said that Unissa is just like a newborn, white and pure, and that leaders of the university are the parents who determine its direction, friends and future.
His Majesty related this to the issue of how a policy is needed when it comes to the issue of cooperation between foreign education centres."This policy is not only important for a two-way cooperation, but we still have to look at how suitable the policy is besides the benefits from our academic point of view," said the monarch.
With this in mind, His Majesty advised those in charge to not only focus on providing jobs for their graduates, but to carry out their original mission and vision of imparting knowledge.
"Do not be too enthusiastic when thinking of job prospects, (If we do) then we will only set up programmes that we consider marketable, programmes that can provide a job quickly.... forcing us to neglect knowledge," said His Majesty."This attitude is wrong and (will obviously) affect the quality of Unissa graduates. They will be called university graduates but they will lack quality," added the monarch.
His Majesty also used this opportunity to raise concerns on the structure of some of the university's programmes.An example was the university's law programme where issues regarding the ratio of civil versus Islamic law was raised.
According to His Majesty, 70 per cent of the law programme's curriculum is focused on teaching civil law and only 30 per cent of the Islamic law.
"Why is this so? Isn't Unissa a pure Islamic university? Why not increase the ratio of Islamic law or balance out the two types of law, 50-50?"Another issue raised was the conditions of admission into the university.
The benevolent ruler suggested that one's knowledge of Al-Quran should be taken into account during the consideration of admission into the university.
"A candidate (for admission) must have basic knowledge of Al-Quran, at least the achievement of a passing grade in Primary 6 Ugama," said His Majesty, who said that it was wrong for Unissa to accept candidates who lack any basic Islamic knowledge.
"If not, then how can we identify or call them students of Unissa, an Islamic higher education centre. Regardless of what faculty, this condition is a must," added the monarch.
Rumours of discrimination in favour of foreign applicants to the university was also raised.His Majesty said that he had heard that local applicants will have to sit for an Arabic language proficiency exam regardless of their qualifications or rank while those of foreign origins need not take such exams.
"Is this policy to encourage foreigners to rush into Unissa so that the university can gain popularity in the eyes of the world? Is this the reason?," asked the monarch."If this is the reason, then it is hard to accept... A (reputable) name can and will be created when Unissa successfully upgrades and maintains its quality," added His Majesty in his titah. (The Brunei Times)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Superb makeover.

From trash to 'green' treasure trove
Sungai Akar Park
The public may have to wait for four to five more years before they can set foot on the new Sungai Akar recreational park, which is nearing completion due at the end of this month.
The senior technical manager of Jurusy Perunding, the appointed contractor for the nearly one-year long project said that even though the park would be completed, it would still remain a hazardous area as the landfill site that the park is built upon will still be in operation within that time.
"It will not be open to the public immediately because dumping (of rubbish) is still going on. It would not be pleasant for the public," Yong Teck Chin told The Brunei Times recently.He said that the park would not be opened until the dumping operations there ceased.
The landfill site is still in use as the Sg Paku engineered landfill, the site chosen to take over Sg Akar's functions as a dumping ground for Brunei-Muara District is still being built. Sg Paku is the second phase of the project, which was previously reported to target completion in mid-2011.
Yong said that the Sg Akar recreational park was on schedule to meet the November 30- deadline. He said the remaining work to be done on the 33-hectare site included landscaping work such as creating the recreational park's artificial water features and maintenance turfing work. Among the facilities already in place included walkways and the service road as well as installing the sub-soil pipes.
The transformation of the landfill site into a public park basically involves covering and building the park on top of the hills of rubbish. The underground piping network drains the leachate or the liquid precipitate that seeps out of the rubbish to a treatment plant adjacent to the park.
Yong said that there was a possibility of other facilities added to the park during the four-to-five-year wait for it to be opened to the public. However, this depended on the request of the authority overseeing the project, the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB).
Even when the Sg Paku engineered landfill is completed, the Sg Akar park would remain closed for at least another six months, the senior technical manager pointed out. He said that this period was to ensure that the operations of engineered landfill was running smoothly. "What we have to do until then is to keep the site tidy and maintenance work on the park so it will be ready for the public," he said.
There were not any major challenges during the transformation of the site that they could not overcome, Yong noted. He said the main hurdles they faced were technical challenges such as levelling the slopes of the park to make it stable.
Apart from the transformation of Sg Akar and the creation of an engineered landfill site, the project also includes studying other, more sustainable alternatives for Brunei's waste disposal methods. BEDB was looking into methods including decomposition, recycling and incineration once it has identified the breakdown of waste generated daily in the country. Once an alternative method has been decided, the landfill in Sg Paku will be buried, a BEDB official was quoted in a past report. The Sungai Akar landfill receives most of the 300 tonnes of waste per day produced in Brunei-Muara district. (The Brunei Times)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Problem with REDS.

HM: We need a teaching standard
His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzadin Waddaulah and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday called for a teaching standard that can be used as a benchmark for quality, similar to that of other developed countries.
His Majesty called for the standard in his titah at the 19th Teachers' Day celebration at the International Convention Centre in Berakas. The call comes in light of developed and developing nations today constantly striving to improve their education systems.Speaking on Brunei's situation, His Majesty expressed his gratitude that the Sultanate is on the same track with these nations, with the recent paradigm shift in the education system.
"As a (small) nation, we cannot isolate ourselves from engaging the waves of change towards progress," His Majesty said. "Instead, we should continue to focus our attention and efforts in reaping better results as well as prepare ways to make it a reality because time will not wait for us," he added.
His Majesty, however, reminded those present that in the urgency and passion in pursuing development, Brunei must not slide from our pillars of strength that form the Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) philosophy."The elements contained in MIB are important to preserve as our pillar for preparing a generation that is knowledgeable, faithful and pious," the monarch said.
In addition to having a high-quality education system, he highlighted the importance of the teachers' role. "If this is neglected, it would be hard for us to optimally achieve our targets. That is why efforts towards preparing quality teachers are a right and justified move," His Majesty said.The monarch touched on the overall quality of the country's education system, saying that he "had witnessed our country achieve a very good position in the international arena".
The success in the international arena included Brunei's successful implementation of its Education For All (EFA) programme.Under the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2009, published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisations (Unesco), Brunei is ranked among countries that achieved a high EFA Development Index (EDI).
"Brunei is at the top position among Asean countries and is placed 36th out of 129 countries," said His Majesty."Our success in implementing EFA in this country has ensured that its residents are educated. This puts Brunei in the same group of countries with Very High Human Development Index, such as Japan and the USA.
"According to the Human Development Report 2009 by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Brunei is ranked 30th position out of 182 countries.These are the result of a collective effort from all, His Majesty said, adding that "a part of it come from teachers".This year's Teachers' Day is themed Guru Berkualiti Teras Kecemerlangan Pendidikan, roughly translated as "Quality teachers are the core to the success of education".
In his titah, His Majesty echoed the theme, saying that quality teachers are needed to educate and enrich students with knowledge and skills through the use of interesting and effective teaching methods.
"Teachers are agents in creating innovative individuals with a high level of thinking and multi-skills. This is the kind of teachers we hope bring changes in achieving the National Vision 2035," His Majesty added. He also acknowledged the challenge teachers face from technological change. Teachers today are the "digital immigrants", while the students are the "digital natives", he said, noting that teachers have to work harder in facing all forms of progress. " These are the teachers we need in facing the continuously ever-changing world," he said. (The Brunei Times)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

FOC.

First batch of flu vaccine arrives

Brunei is among the first few countries in the region to get and may be the first to use the vaccine against H1N1 as 1,500 doses arrived on Monday and another 4,500 doses will be recieved today. The next shipment will come in December and it will arrive in stages until January 2010 totalling 476,000 doses.
This will cover 100 per cent of the citizens and residents in the country, the Minister of Health Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Suyoi said yesterday. Only one dose is sufficient for each person to protect them from contracting the swine flu virus.
Nine hundred doses have been brought to Mecca and Medina for Brunei's haj pilgrims. Due to logistical problems, the pilgrims could not get the jabs in time before their departure. They would be given the flu shots in Mecca and Medina as required by the haj authorities in Saudi Arabia.
The rest would be given to frontline workers who may become exposed to the H1NI virus and chronic patients.
"Once we receive the whole set of doses, the general public would be vaccinated," said the minister.
The ministry has reminded the public that vaccinations would be carried out voluntarily, meaning that those who need the jabs should get vaccinated.
People residing in Brunei will be vaccinated and it's free to the citizens and residents of the country.
Asked about the current situation of H1N1 in the country, Pehin Dato Hj Suyoi said, "By God's will, the number has so far been decreasing. From time to time, we have only seen one or two cases. We are happy to report that the rate (of infection) has reduced tremendously since cases were reported in the country.
"However, we advise the public to continue to be alert and practise self-hygiene, especially with the onset of winter in other countries as amidst the era of globalisation whatever happens in other countries also spreads here.
"We will inform the public where to get the vaccination. At the moment, we are still sorting out the logistics. But it will be done at the identified hospitals and health centres. We are thankful that the suppliers have obtained the vaccines in time and we have been working very closely with them," he added.
Asked about Brunei's preparation for the second wave of H1N1, Pehin Dato Hj Suyoi said the ministry is prepared with the vaccines, advices and swabbing, if needed, and so on. It all depends on the individuals themselves. We are advising people to be vigilant and practise cleanliness.
"Whatever we have been doing will be continued and maintained. If an outbreak is serious, we will take further actions to handle the situation," he said.
Asked about the doses for general practitioners and clinics, Pehin Dato Hj Suyoi said, "So far, the vaccines are only for us (at the ministry). This is one area which we are looking at. We don't want people to be charged for the vaccine.
"The H1N1 vaccine is recommended to everyone above six months of age. However, one has to be fever-free, as is the case before administering any other vaccinations. In general, you have to be in good health.
"Children below the age of 10 will get half of the adult dose and those above 10 years old will get one dose. It means children between six months and 10 years will get two doses, which are four weeks apart. They have to come to us twice," said the minister.
"The concept of vaccination is to prevent a healthy person from getting the disease. It's something that people should bear in mind."
Pehin Dato Hj Suyoi advised haj pilgrims to take care of themselves despite being vaccinated, as they will be moving amidst huge crowds. "We advise them to drink plenty of water and practise self-hygiene. They must also be aware of the sick people around them." (Borneo Bulletin)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Nov now.

Look beyond the scroll, UBD and grads told
Both the 1,241 graduates who received their academic honours and their alma mater, Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) were yesterday reminded by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam to continue honing their academic capabilities in order to pass on their skills in developing better future leaders or quality teachers.
His Majesty first framed his titah by pointing out, "although UBD will almost reach a quarter century, it has already given us cause for pride in its achievements, especially through its contributions in the development of human resource in Brunei Darussalam."
The monarch expressed his pleasure that "more and more local youths have obtained their graduate qualifications. I would like to see more continue on with their studies to post-graduate levels, especially if they decide upon UBD as a university of choice".
His Majesty further noted, "In UBD right now, there is a programme offered known as the 'GenNext Programme'. I believe this is a necessary step to further equip our graduates to face the future challenges."
"I would also like to see an increase in the number of local academia, such as senior lecturers and associate producers. However, we should not just encourage it just for the sake of it but an increase must be truly commensurate with the criteria of qualification, as practised by other prestigious international universities," the Sultan said.
In light of this, candidates for these senior lecturers and associate professor positions must truly fulfill the criteria required, in particular, the imperative for creativity and dedication to conducting research, as well as producing quality research papers. All these can become benchmarks with which to improve their level of quality, for without research or any creativity, it would indeed be difficult for us to speak of quality.
Emphasising on research, His Majesty underscored his keen interest in seeing "more of the university's community, be it the academic staff and its students, to be more immersed in research. "It is because of this that I am equally proud when UBD established its 'research clusters' in various fields. I am confident that UBD, with these clusters, will be better able to attract other researchers of calibre, both locally and internationally. It is also further hoped to be able to inject more interest within our local and foreign students alike to enroll in this programme at UBD and, at the same time, opt for one of the clusters as their basis for research."
The new initiative, dubbed 'Discovery Year', which is geared at exposing students to learning outside of campus grounds that will be introduced in 2011, also caught the attention of the university chancellor. "I have been told that it will be either run through community services, innovative projects, in-country or overseas work attachments for a duration of one or two semesters at recommended international universities or institutions," His Majesty added.
The monarch also recorded his approval with UBD's decision in setting up the Leadership, Innovation and Advancement Institute last January that offers training programmes for leadership, innovation, evolving mindset and executive development aspects. "I understand that these programmes are run by local and international experts and prominent professionals," said His Majesty, further highlighting the importance of the move to "our preparations for turning out good and quality future leaders".
The monarch went on to acknowledge "the fluid developments by UBD and one of the more interesting developments was the upgrading of the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Teaching Institute to a graduate-level status earlier this year," and with it, pinned his hope that it "would produce better qualified and matured teachers".
At the end of his titah, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam congratulated all of yesterday's graduates and diploma holders and wished them success in all their future endeavours. (Borneo Bulletin Sunday)