For the first time in Brunei’s history, four youth were appointed in March to the Legislative Council, the sultanate’s main law-making body.

The move was unprecedented, showing that the government is beginning to recognise the role youth must play in national development, said Yang Berhormat Iswandy Ahmad, one of the four young parliamentarians. 

Appointed to a LegCo seat under the category of ‘People Who Achieved Distinction’, the 32-year-old said the government is beginning to acknowledge the voice of youth — for years he was an advocate for HIV, AIDS and reproductive health work, and has lead the Brunei Darussalam AIDS Council since 2010.

Do not just come to us and ask us to air your views and opinions. You have to do your part and make the necessary changes in our community.

During his first parliamentary session in March, YB Iswandy said he found senior LegCo members receptive towards the contribution of youth representatives in the legislative body.

“The appointment of youth LegCo members shows that (youth) are being put into more decision-making roles… I think we are headed down the right path.”

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But youth in Brunei need to work together towards the common goal of bettering the community, he said.

“It is everyone’s role to change policies or to influence policy (making). It does not just fall on the shoulders of appointed LegCo members.”

However, YB Iswandy added that the role of youth representatives is not just to bring complaints to the fore, but to also offer solutions.

“Do not just come to us and ask us to air your views and opinions. You have to do your part and make the necessary changes in our community. It is more effective when we work together,” he said, stressing that LegCo members “are not just microphones for people to make use of”.

YB Iswandy also noted the uptick in volunteer activity in the sultanate, saying that he is passionate about advocating for a national volunteer policy and a policy on social entrepreneurship.

He explained that there is currently a lack of documentation for volunteers who give their time to help companies and NGOs.

“We do not have one yet (national volunteer policy), and anyone can just claim they are volunteers. But, what is the definition of a volunteer? And what protects a volunteer in Brunei?”

Another issue the UBD masters student is keen to bring to the floor is a proposal for guidelines on social entrepreneurship: “There are non-government organisations in Brunei which are run like a business. But there are also businesses that run like NGOs. So what is the difference between them?”

While a social enterprise is run to benefit the community, a business is created to make profit, he explained. “These issues may get messy in the future if there are no clear-cut guideline to help those involved… I think the government should look into forming a policy on social entrepreneurship, but not without input from the community.”