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Brooketon, the extraterritorial extension of Sarawak during Brooke dynasty

Many Sarawakians today might not be familiar with Brooketon but about a century ago, it was a mining settlement that was once under the Sarawak government.

What made this settlement special was that it was located in Brunei, not in Sarawak.

During the reign of second White Rajah of Sarawak Charles Brooke, Brooketon was considered an ‘extraterritorial extension’ of Sarawak.

William Cowie and the mine in Brunei

Muara Colliery 1900
Brooketon Colliery by the end of 1900. Credit: Public Domain/Copyright Expired.

Before going into how Brooke ‘acquired’ a territory outside of Sarawak, let us take a look into the history of William Cowie.

Cowie was a Scottish engineer, mariner and businessman born in 1849.

He was famously known for helping establish British North Borneo (present-day Sabah) and being the chairman of the British North Borneo Company.

In March 1882, Cowie purchased a 40-year concession for the exploitation of coal fields in Muara town in Brunei.

The Muara coalmine was first commercially mined in 1883.

At the same time, Cowie rented a shipyard in Labuan for 99 years from which he shipped his coal.

Some years later, he wanted to sell his concession rights in Muara and the person who bought the deal was Brooke.

On Sept 6, 1888, Cowie transferred his leases to Brooke for £25,000.

After the transfer, the coalmine in Muara incurred heavy losses from the outset and it was not until 1917 that even a minuscule surplus of $1,527 was shown on a year’s trading.

Rajah Charles Brooke, the de facto ruler of Brooketon

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So why keep a mine that isn’t making money? Charles Agar Bampfylde, the Resident of the First Division of Sarawak (1896-1903) once explained that Brooketon without its coalmine “would be but a small fishing hamlet, that the mine found employment for a great many people.

And that it was “entirely on that account” that Brooke kept the mine open.

Meanwhile, English historian Steven Runciman believed that the Rajah bought the mine “perhaps more from fear that otherwise on the North Borneo Company might take it over than from any great faith in its potentialities”.

There is another possible theory on why Brooke bought the mine.

After Sarawak had acquired Limbang in 1890 from the Brunei sultanate, the purchase of the coal mine and its strategic location near the sea would give the Rajah a stranglehold on Brunei and and bring him closer to fulfilling his ultimate ambition, which was to incorporate Brunei within Sarawak.

According to writer Rozan Yunus in his article Before the Oil, It was Coal, the colliery was strategic as it was very near to Muara town where then and as well as now here is a safe deep-water anchorage to which the mine was connected to rail.

By 1911, there was more than 1,447 people lived in the settlement with about 30 shops.

Rozan wrote, “Politically too, even though he only had economic rights, Rajah Charles became the ‘ruler’ of the area. The mine employed hundred of miners and that required him to introduce a police force, post office and roads transforming Muara into an ‘extraterritorial’ settlement – an extension of Sarawak”.

Thanks to the post office, Brooketon became the first place in Brunei where a postage stamp was issued.

Who came up with the name Brooketon?

While many records claimed that Brooke was the one who named the settlement Brooketon, researcher A.V.M Horton pointed out it was Cowie who came up with the name.

In his paper Rajah Charles Brooke and Mining Concessions in Brunei 1888-1924, Horton wrote, “Mr Cowie had renamed the colliery settlement ‘Brooketon’ in honour of Sir Charles. Subsequently the latter was most touchy on this point: in early 1907, after a British ‘resident’ had been appointed to administer Brunei, he detected a (non-existent) British plot to suppress the name and complained to the colonial office.

“It might be observed, however, that if Brunei Malays were as well disposed towards as some writers have claimed, then it is somewhat surprising that the name ‘Brooketon’ no longer survives.”

The colliery which was known as Muara Coal Mine, was renamed as Brooketon Colliery.

The history of the mining settlement inspired the card game ‘Letters to Brooketon’

Bruneian game creator company Comet Games was so inspired with the rich history of the mining settlement that they created a card game called ‘Letters to Brooketon’.

The imaginary scenario idea behind the game is ‘What if there were local Bruneians who were against Charles Brooke and wanted to sabotage the coal mines?’

In order to play the game, each player is secretly assigned a role as either a Miner or a Mole.

Thus, it is the job of each player to find out who is who as the game progresses, lest they want the opponent to win.

The highlight of the game is deception and how you twist and play against your opponents in every round.

What is left of Brooketon Colliery

The mine was closed in 1924 due to financial losses driven by the decreasing price of coal during the world economic recession.

By then, the mine and its settlement had already returned to Brunei in 1921.

When the Japanese occupied Brunei during the Second World War (WWII) and tried to reopen the mine, they failed.

At the end of the war, the Australian forces landed at Brooketon as part of the Borneo Campaign 1945.

Today, the former fishing/mining settlement has now become Brunei’s primary deep water port with a population of 2,102 in 2016.

As for Brooketon Colliery, all that remains is an overgrown railway, locomotives, mine entrances and an abandoned Morris Minor.

Thankfully, it is currently a protected site under the Antiquities and Treasure Trove Act of Brunei Darussalam.

The Limbang Rebellion from a local point of view

On Dec 8, 1962, Limbang witnessed bloodshed when Sheikh Azahari Sheikh Mahmud (famously known as A.M. Azahari) ordered an attack on the town in what became known as the Limbang Rebellion.

A.M. Azahari was the leader of the Brunei People’s Party and North Kalimantan National Army (TNKU).

After attacking the police station, they captured several rifles and machine guns.

They then held the British resident and his wife hostage along with 12 others.

On the morning of Dec 12, the British Royal Marine commandos were tasked to rescue the hostages.

The attack, which later became known as the Limbang Rebellion, without a doubt gained the support local people, especially among the Kedayans.

A Kedayan who worked in Miri District Office back in the 1960s offered his theories.

In a letter published in The Sarawak Gazette on Nov 30, 1965, Said Mohidin explained what he believed the reasons behind the Limbang Rebellion.

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Photo from the Memorial service and the unveiling of plague at Limbang on Aug 3, 1963 to honour those who died during the Limbang rebellion. All photos are under © Commando Veterans Archive 2006 – 2016 licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Photo courtesy of Estelle Hart who adds ” Unveiling performed by His Excellency, the Governer of Sarawak, Sir Alexander Waddell KCMG, DSC. Wreaths also laid by General W.C. Walker CBE, DSO, Director of Operations, Brigadier F.C. Barton, OBE, Commander 3rd Commando Brigade, RM”

1.Economic Depression

Said wrote, “Limbang, out of her population of about 15,000 comprises almost 4,000 Kedayans. Most of them, with the exception of a few villages, live in the interior. Being not the only one race in Sarawak who was then, and is still now, economically handicapped or depends merely on rubber as a source of income, they experienced greatly on the effect of the fluctuation of rubber prices in about 1950s; or at least offers every evidence to justify their being out of job in this competitive world.”

Most of them then moved to Seria and Kuala Belait in Brunei in seeking for job opportunities.

2.Seria oil boom

Speaking of job opportunities, the Seria oil boom was like a heaven-sent opportunity for many Kedayans.

They poured in there in the hundreds in the early 1950s.

It was when they were working there that they heard about A.M Azahari. They believed in A.M. Azahari’s causes and joined his Brunei People’s Party.

The party sought to democratise the government by shifting the national leadership from the palace to the people.

Those who had returned to Limbang tried to form the Limbang branch of Brunei People’s Party. Meanwhile, the locals as well as the then British colonial government were quick to wipe out their influence they even started.

Things started to change in the late 1950s when the Brunei Shell Company no longer needed manual labourers from Sarawak. Many were sent home to Limbang. Obviously, they were not happy to lose their source of income.

Said stated, “They argued that they should not be deprived of their rights to stay in Brunei. Besides, they simply thought that this was the work of the British.”

With that, their opposition against the British and their yearning to stay in Brunei grew.

3.Political set-up in Limbang

According to Said, the native leaders and members had two very great things in commons political-wise. The first one was to return Limbang to Brunei and to oppose the creation of Malaysia.

With the said reasons, they could not care less which party they were in.

Said wrote, “I often times heard them say, in an answer to my questions, that ‘if Limbang were under Brunei government we would enjoy the same privileges that our brothers and sisters do there’.”

To voice out their opposition, the Kedayan leaders tried every means to get Limbang out before Sarawak join Malaysia.

Said wrote, “They demonstrated jointly against the imposition of house assessment; they submitted their petition to the Cobbold Commission pledging that Limbang should be returned to Brunei; they submitted a mandate to the British Queen and to the Governor of Sarawak of same. All failed.”

“They were very desperate, but many accepted failures democratically and were later seemed to fade away from view. However, a few extremists together with many interior Kedayans were still very determined to return Limbang to Brunei. With this objective coupled with their intention to get seedy independence outside Malaysia, they performed secret indoctrination meetings and have their secret oath taken.”

From there, we know what happened to those who participated in the raid on Limbang.

Of 150 rebels, 12 were killed and 15 were captured.

Read about how the government rehabilitated the rebels after the Limbang Rebellion.

The Brunei Civil War and how it led to Sulu’s claim over Sabah

The Brunei Civil War took place centuries years ago from 1660 to 1673. However, the consequences from this particular warfare seems to have an effect even to this day.

Adding on to the element of disbelief of this piece of history, the Brunei Civil War had, in fact, started from a cockfight.

The Brunei Civil War, a warfare which started from a cockfight

Pengiran Muda Bongsu, the son of Brunei’s 12th sultan, Sultan Muhammad Ali, had been indulging in a round of cockfighting with Pengiran Muda Alam, the son of the chief minister (only second to the sultan), Bendahara Abdul Hakkul Mubin.

The innocent cockfight turned bloody when Pengiran Muda Bongsu was defeated by Pengiran Muda Alam.

Pengiran Muda Bongsu, either being a super sore loser or entitled as the sultan’s son (perhaps both?) was so enraged by the loss that he stabbed Pengiran Muda Alam in the chest with his keris, ultimately killing him.

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When a cockfight turns bloody. Credit: Pixabay.

The wrath of a father

The bendahara was furious upon learning the death of his beloved son, marching his men to the palace to confront the sultan.

‘A tooth for a tooth’, Abdul Hakkul Mubin told the sultan, wanting to avenge his son’s death.

To this demand, various sources cite the sultan’s responses differently.

One source stated that Abdul Hakkul Mubin was denied the right to search the palace for Pengiran Muda Bongsu, while another source stated that the sultan had allowed him to do so.

Either way, the prince had made his escape and the bendahara could not find Pengiran Muda Bongsu.

Furious, Abdul Hakkul Mubin went amok, going into a killing spree which took the lives of everyone in the palace, including the royal family.

With the help of his men, Abdul Hakkul Mubin killed the sultan by garroting him to death.

The place where the sultan was slain is now known as ‘Marhum Tumbang Dirumput’, as his body was left lying on the grass.

Meanwhile, the bendahara took the throne, becoming sultan as he crowned himself the 13th Sultan of Brunei.

Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin’s reign

Naturally, the people were not happy that their new sultan had killed his way to the throne. In order to gain their trust, Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin installed the late sultan’s grandson – Pengiran Muhyiddin – as the new Bendahara.

It was not enough. The loyal followers of the late Sultan Muhammad Ali were not happy, imploring the now Bendahara Muhyiddin to fight against Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin.

A rebellion started by ‘mengarok’

Muhyiddin and his followers planned to create a disturbance at the palace and the houses in the area.

They started to ‘mengarok’, poking spears through the floors of the palace and houses.

When Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin turned to Muhyiddin for advice on what to do, he advised him to move his palace to Pulau Chermin.

The moment the Sultan moved out from the mainland to Pulau Chermin, Muhyiddin declared himself the 14th Sultan of Brunei.

No country can be ruled by two kings. Therefore, the battle between the two sultans began.

The war begins

After repelling several attacks from Muhyiddin, Abdul Hakkul Mubin eventually retreated to Kinarut, Sabah.

With help of local Bajaus and Dusuns, he managed to defend himself from Muhyiddin.

Abdul Hakkul Mubin reportedly lived in Kinarut for 10 years to defend his title.

In the final attack at Kinarut, however, Muhyiddin still failed to defeat Abdul Hakkul Mubin.

Then, Abdul Hakkul Mubin decided to return to Pulau Chermin.

It turned out to be a great strategic move for Abdul Hakkul Mubin. From there, he was able to control the food supply going into the mainland as the island is located near the mouth of Brunei river.

In the meantime, the people of Brunei were suffering as they could not go out to fish during the civil war.

Worried that the war would drag on, Muhyiddin decided to seek the Sultan of Sulu for help.

In return, Muhyiddin promised to hand over the eastern part of north Borneo as a reward.

Finally, Muhyiddin’s men successfully attacked Pulau Chermin, launching the final assault on Abdul Hakkul Mubin and his men.

Knowing that he would be defeated, Abdul Hakkul Mubin threw himself into the sea along with his crown.

North Borneo Dispute territory
Territory in the 1878 agreement from the Pandassan River on the north west coast to the Sibuco River in the south. Copyright: Public Domain

The Sulu Sultanate and their claim over eastern Borneo (current-day Sabah)

Meanwhile, the Sulu Sultanate was like that classmate everyone used to have who did not contribute to the group assignment but still had his share of the mark.

They reportedly did not help much in the final battle except by showing up at the last minute.

Regardless, the Sultan of Sulu still claimed his reward of eastern Sabah.

Meanwhile, Brunei, on their side, never recognised the claim and never released any official document to legitimise Sulu’s sovereignty of the area.

Fast forward to December 1877, Baron Gustav von Overbeck managed to convince the Sultan of Brunei to concede some territories to him to form the British North Borneo Company.

From there, he found out about the Sulu’s claim to the eastern territory of the area. Hence, he proceeded to obtain that part of territories from Sultan of Sulu.

Some historians believed that was when the real trouble of the North Borneo dispute began. Many believed that the eastern part of Borneo was never officially ruled by Sulu sultanate in the first place.

Overbeck reportedly wanted to ‘avoid’ future problems with Sulu Sultanate. Therefore, he had the Sultanate of Sulu to sign an agreement on January 22, 1878.

The problematic agreement which, depending on the translation, stipulated that North Borneo was either ceded or leased to the British company.

Today, the Philippines, presenting itself as the successor state of the Sulu Sultanate, retains a dormant claim on Eastern Sabah on the basis that the territory was only ‘leased’ to the British North Borneo Company in 1878.

Can you imagine how these international claims today, had originated from a cockfight?

What went down in Bekenu during the Brunei Revolt 1962

Bekenu is a small fishing town near Miri at the northeastern part of Sarawak. It is a humble town with many of the shophouses dating from the 1930s.

Many might not remember that this small town witnessed an important historical event during the Brunei Revolt 1962.

The Brunei Revolt was an insurrection to oppose Brunei inclusion in the Federation of Malaysia.

The insurgents were members of the North Kalimantan National Army (TNKU), a militia linked to the Brunei People’s Party (BPP) and supplied by Indonesia.

At that time, the town was briefly taken over by the rebels.

Brunei Revolt in Niah

The rebellion first broke out at 2am on Dec 8, 1962. The rebels attacked police stations throughout Brunei, the fifth division of Sarawak along the the western edge of Sabah.

Then came the news that Bekenu was in rebel hands and there was also uncertainty as to the situation in Niah.

C Company from 99th Gurkha Infantry Brigade under Major Mark Pennell was sent to deal with the situation in Niah.

During the Brunei Revolt, hundreds of Dayaks were immediately called to help fight and contain the rebels.

The Ibans decorated their longboats with bright red feathers and set off by river to Niah.

By the time that C Company arrived in Niah by river, there was no sign of rebel forces.

Reportedly, after hearing the Iban party was about to arrive, the rebels made their escape to the jungle.

Brunei Revolt
This photograph was taken at the height of the Brunei Revolt on December 10th 1962. It shows soldiers of the 1st Queen’s Own Highlanders unloading stores from a 34 Squadron Beverley shortly after the British had seized the airport. Credit: British Empire.
Brunei Revolt in Bekenu

Meanwhile, the mission to liberate Bekenu fell under B Company.

Under the command of Major David Mostyn, the company approached on foot, arriving in Bekenu early morning of Dec 13, 1962.

It took them 16 hours of hiking along the coast through mangrove swamp from Tanjung Batu in Bintulu to the west of Bekenu.

The moment they arrived in Bekenu, the soldiers engaged in a brief firefight with the rebels who then fled downriver. There, they were ambushed by another platoon.

During the operation, six rebels were killed, six captured and about 10 escaped into the jungle.

For the next three to four days, patrols went up and down the river searching for escaped rebels.

Overall the operation to secure Bekenu during the Brunei Revolt was considered an immediate success.

Lesson to learn from the Brunei Revolt, especially in Bekenu, according to Tom Harrisson

One of the lessons from the Brunei Revolt taught Sarawak was that greater attention should be paid to the small racial groups.

Sarawak’s then museum curator Tom Harrisson was in charge of all irregular forces in the Sibuti, Baram, Upper Limbang and Trusan headwaters to prevent rebels from escaping into the interior during the Brunei Revolt.

According to Harrisson, looking at what happened in Bekenu where the rebellion gained support from the local Kedayans, in the modern world one small group can break up the whole of pattern of a nation.

“Some people have asked me if there are any lessons Sarawak can learn from this revolt. Well, of course, there are all sort of lessons for the administration and intelligence and so on which are right above my head. But in my mild capacity as government ethnologist and curator of the Sarawak museum, there is an ethnological problem that comes of this- that is you cannot afford to ignore small racial groups,” Harrisson wrote in an article published in 1963.

He continued, “The Kedayans have played a major role in this. There are only about less than 10,000 of them in Sarawak but they have not been taken into account. There are practically no responsible Kedayans in any positions. They are not represented adequately in government and this applies equally to many other group in the north.”

He then gave an example of how large groups of Sarawak back then were given attention not only in administration but over the radio where only they had programs.

“Although the population of people like the Kedayans, the Kayans, the Kenyahs, Kelabits and Muruts are relatively small, they occupy enormous area of this country,” Harrisson wrote.

“In my view, what happened at Bekenu, among the Kedayans there, who I know quite well and who are extremely industrious farmers, is that they did get completely confused and misled. They are guilty all the same, no one is denying that, but there is a lesson that the same sort of thing can happen widely and I do not think the argument is sufficient that this group is small one, therefore we can ignore it.”

By Dec 17, some 40 rebels were dead and 3,400 were captured, putting an end to the rebellion. Though the rebellion was cut short, it is seen as one of the first stages of the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation.

5 things you need to know about the black orchid

The black orchid (Coelogyne pandurata) is such a unique plant that it is the official mascot for East Kalimantan province.

Also known as anggrek hitam in the Indonesian language, this orchid can be found in all three countries on Borneo; Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

Unlike popular belief, it is not endemic to Borneo. It is also found in Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia and the Philippines.

The orchid is an epiphyte found on large trees located usually near rivers.

Here are five things you need to know about the black orchid:
Black Orchid 2
Coelogyne pandurata
1.It is called black orchid but it is not entirely black

According to the book Orchids of Sarawak, stories of a mysterious black orchid from deepest Borneo has been told for years and people ask if such a plant really exists.

So you can only see the black coloured part of the flower for a short period of time because it blooms only five to six days.

“Although the flowers are predominantly a most striking lime-green, large areas of the lip are stained with a truly black pigment as though black ink had been splashed upon it.”

If you smell it closely, the bloom emits a honey-like fragrance.

2.It is first described by John Lindley way back in 1853

The flower might be rare to see, especially in bloom, but it is not new. English botanist John Lindley (1799-1865) was the first one to have described the black orchid, publishing about it in the Gardener’s Chronicle in 1853.

He wrote, “We are indebted for this striking species to Mr Loddiges, who informs us that it was imported from Borneo by Mr Low. The lip, although really oblong, yet in consequence of the manner in which the sides are bent down, has much the form of a violin.”

However, Lindley never commented about the black markings on the orchid.

3. Its alleged medicinal purposes

In some parts of rural Kalimantan, the black orchid is boiled and used as herbal medicines.

The flower is believed to have many medicinal purposes including for heartburn, diarrhea, stomach ulcers and even tuberculosis.

However, none of these have been scientifically proven.

Black Orchid
The mascot of East Kalimantan province.
4.The myth behind the black orchid

While some believed that it can be a cure for various diseases, it is also believed that the flower can be a curse.

Legend in Indonesia has it that anyone who is in possession of the black orchid or even attempts to culture it will obtain bad luck.

Perhaps the myth spread to prevent people from harvesting the flower and subsequently reducing its population in the wild.

5.Some of the environmental threats against the black orchid

Speaking of its population, according to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia, some of the threats this orchid faces are forest burning and land clearing due to agriculture activities.

Since this plant is an epiphyte relying on large trees to grow, loss of jungle could immediately affect the population of black orchid.

Here in Sarawak, all orchids are listed as ‘protected plants’ under the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998.

According to the law: “Any person who collects, cultivates, cuts, trims, removes, burns, poisons, in any way injures, sells, offers for sale, imports, exports or is in possession of any protected plant or any recognizable part or derivative thereof, except under and in accordance with the terms and conditions of a licence issued under this Ordinance, shall be guilty of an offence: Penalty, imprisonment for one year and a fine of RM10,000.”

The betrayal of Pengiran Muda Hashim and his family

Pengiran Muda Hashim (also known as Raja Muda Hashim) has famously gone down in history as the man who sought the backing of James Brooke and his schooner, the Royalist, to fight against rebels and pirates in Sarawak.

Responding to the request, Brooke succeeded in controlling the uprising in Sarawak.

Subsequently, Brooke was appointed Governor of Sarawak and he became a close friend with the pengiran.

The friendship between James Brooke and Pengiran Muda Hashim

The close relationship between Brooke and the pengiran was in fact not favourable to his nephew Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien II and some of the royal family members of the Brunei Sultanate.

Just like Brooke, Pengiran Muda Hashim was against piracy and the slave-selling business. However, it was believed that part of the sultan’s income derived from the profits of selling slaves. The sultan accused his uncle and his family of being pro-English.

So in 1844, the Sultan summoned Pengiran Muda Hashim and his whole family to return to Brunei.

The pengiran returned home accompanied by his friend Brooke on board HMS Samarang.

Upon arriving in Brunei, the pengiran discovered that the role of Bendahara (similar to Prime Minister) originally meant for him, had been taken by Pengiran Yusuf.

Despite this, the pengiran still decided to stay on in Brunei as it was his home.

After a while, however, tensions started to rise between Pengiran Muda Hashim and Pengiran Yusuf.

The peak of the tension

The tension between Pengiran Yusuf and Pengiran Muda Hashim reached its peak on June 3, 1845 when civil war broke out between them.

Pengiran Muda Hashim was assisted by one of his brothers Pengiran Badruddin.

The battle took place in an area called Barakas, Brunei. The brothers brought along 1,000 soldiers from the Kedayan tribe while the Bendahara had about 300 loyal followers.

By sheer numbers alone, Pengiran Yusuf was defeated in the battle and he fled to Kimanis in current-day Sabah.

After the battle, the Sultan reluctantly appointed Pengiran Muda Hashim as the Bendahara and named him as his heir to the throne.

This event caused the previous heir to the Sultan’s adopted son, Pengiran Temenggung Pengiran Anak Hashim, to feel threatened, enough to finally make a plan for the murder of the pengiran.

The murder plot against Pengiran Muda Hashim

Owen Rutter in The Pirate Wind detailed the murder plot against Pengiran Muda Hashim and his family.

According to Rutter, the man assigned to execute the coup against the newly appointed Bendahara was a commoner named Haji Saman.

Rutter wrote,“Without warning, and in the dead of night, forty or fifty armed men surrounded the house of Pengiran Muda Hashim, set fire to it in several places then began a general attack.”

At first, the pengiran managed to escape with his wife and children while some of his brothers were killed.

When Haji Saman and his followers caught him, he persuaded them to allow him to send a message to the Sultan begging for his life.

But the Sultan refused to spare his life. Together with his surviving family and followers, Pengiran Muda Hashim retreated to a vessel. An explosion happened on the vessel killing almost everyone except for the pengiran. Determined not to be taken alive by his enemies, Pengiran Muda Hashim ended his life by shooting himself in the head with a pistol.

Sketch of Pengiran Raja Muda Hashim who became the close friend of Brooke, c. 1846
James Brooke mourns his friend Pengiran Muda Hashim

Meanwhile, in Sarawak, Brooke was not informed about the death of his friend.

Japar, one of Pengiran Badruddin’s slave boys had survived the attack. He tried to relay his master’s last message to Brooke but was unable to escape from Brunei.

Japar eventually made his way to board a British warship HMS Hazard that took him to Sarawak to meet with Brooke.

After much difficulties, Japar reached Kuching on Mar 30, 1846. It was from Japar that the White Rajah finally found out about the bloody coup.

Pengiran Muda Hashim
The pengiran and his friend James Brooke.
Regarding the death of Pengiran, the first White Rajah’s feelings are best described in his own words. Here is an excerpt from his journal dated Apr 1, 1846:

“It is impossible for me to describe the indignation which I feel at this almost unheard of butchery of every member of the royal family known to be well-inclined to the British policy.

This infamous act has sealed the most flagrant breach of treaty entered into with Her Majesty’s government with the blood of the Sultan’s nearest relatives, and His Highness has now openly declared that he is prepared to fire upon the British flag whenever it shall appear near the defences which he is erecting.

Had this dreadful event arisen out of any source of internal struggle for sovereignty or power, however much to be regretted, it would not have rendered me so miserable as this fearful intelligence has now done.

Sure Her Majesty’s Government will well consider the case. It is beyond a doubt that the treachery and bad faith of the Sultan has resulted entirely from the fidelity of the Pengiran Muda Hashim, and of Pengiran Badruddin, to their engagements and the treaty entered into with the British authorities in these seas.

What other object can the Sultan have in placing himself in a position of such decided hostility to the British Government than a determination to have again recourse to the former atrocious system of a piracy and murder?

No less than thirteen of the members of the royal family have been massacred; and that the vicious sovereign gave his consent, if he did not directly order these murders, is clear on the face of the evidence before me.

Had I the power I would destroy both the city and Sultan, or at least would depose him; then if possible I would rescue the son of Muda Hashim and his surviving brothers, and place them in a fresh locality, and commence de novo with a better government under my own supervision.

I can write no more, my poor, poor friends, how sad and melancholy has been your fate! Never, never can I forget it. The regret, the indignation which I feel overpowers me.”

The grandeur of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

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Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque is located at Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

When travelling to Brunei, it is hard not to miss the magnificent architectural sight of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque.

Located in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan, the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque serves as a symbol of Islamic faith in Brunei.

Considered one of the most beautiful mosques in the Asia Pacific, here are some fun facts about the majestic building.


Who is Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin?

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The late Sultan Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien III was the father of the current Sultan of Brunei (Picture source:

The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque was named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei. Known as The Architect of Modern Brunei, he was the one who initiated the construction of the mosque.

Sultan Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien III ruled from June 4th, 1950 until his voluntary abdication from the throne on October 5th, 1967. He was replaced by his eldest son, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah.

When was it built?

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The mosque was built between 1954 and 1958

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque was built between 1954 and 1958. It was designed by A.O Coltman of Booty and Edwards Chartered Architects of UK, based in Malaysia at the time.

The mosque, a blend of Western and oriental architecture is surrounded by a breathtaking landscape, making it the best spot for selfies and sketching activities.

While you cannot take pictures inside the mosque, its interior is equally dazzling. The floor and walls are made from marble columns with stained glass windows and beautiful carvings. The granite is said to be from Shanghai, the chandeliers from England, and the carpets from Saudi Arabia and Belgium. The doors of the mosque were made from timber imported from the Philippines.

It is said that the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque can accommodate up to 3,000 people at a time.


Is that a gold dome?

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The gold dome is one of the distinguish feature of the mosque

Yes it is!

Made of pure gold, the gold domes are one of the most prominent features of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque.

The domes contain 3.3 million fragments of Venetian mosaic, over a surface of 520m².

Apart from the gold dome, another exquisite feature of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque is the main minaret. It reaches a height of 52 metres, offering a great view of the city.


Why is there a boat in the middle of the lake?

In the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque courtyard, you can see a ceremonial barge or mahligai.

The ceremonial barge is placed in the middle of an artificial lagoon on the banks of the Brunei River at Kampong Ayer.

It is a replica of a 16th century royal barge of Sultan Bolkiah, who was the 5th ruler of Brunei.

The royal barge was used by the then Sultan in his maritime exploits in the old days.

Completed in 1967, the barge was built to commemorate the 1, 400th anniversary of Nuzul Al-Quran (also known as Quran Revelation Day). It was also once used for Quran reading competitions.


Can a non-muslim visit the mosque?

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Remember to remove your footwear and dress appropriately when visiting the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

Of course!

Visitors are allowed to visit the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque during non-praying time. The mosque is open from Saturday to Wednesday from 8.30 am to noon, 1.30 to 3 pm and 4.30 to 5.30 pm and closed on Thursday and Friday.

So, if you plan on visiting the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, remember to remove your footwear and dress appropriately!