The Sungai Kedayan Eco-Corridor — Brunei’s new 12-hectare riverfront park — was officially named “Taman Mahkota Jubli Emas” by the monarch this morning.
The park’s manicured lawns, colourful tulips and imposing baobab trees were unveiled to the public today, all set against the majestic backdrop of Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien (SOAS) Mosque. The Eco-Corridor is an urban redevelopment project aimed at revitalising the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB).
As dawn broke over Bandar this morning, thousands of people streamed into the park to witness the launch of the Eco-Corridor by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzadin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.
Their numbers increased as the hours wore on, and by 8am, some 30,000 people had filled the park to the brim, with bystanders all jostling for prime position.
Citizens from as far afield as Melilas and Sukang came to join the festivities — some came to take part in the cultural performances and float procession, others just to enjoy the lively atmosphere.
Erin Kisar, a member of the ethnic Bisaya group, said: “We wore our traditional costumes [today] and during the Golden Jubilee procession on October 5. This is something that we are all proud of… to highlight the existence of puak Bisaya in Brunei.”
The beat of the hadrah echoed across Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien as His Majesty arrived at 8.15am, accompanied by His Royal Highness Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, HRH Prince ‘Abdul Malik and other members of the royal family.
An orchestra of gambus, gulingtangan and flutes set the mood as dancers donning traditional purple and red costumes took to the stage for an elaborate performance.
A parade of decorated floats then rolled past the royal dias one-by-one, paying tribute to His Majesty’s Golden Jubilee, celebrating the Sultan’s 50 years on the throne.
The monarch then made his way to the Eco-Corridor for a meet-and-greet with the thousands of people who had lined up inside white tents pitched along the new 1.4km riverfront promenade. The Sultan stopped for pictures and handshakes with the crowd — some people had come from across the country to participate in the celebrations.
Artist Hui Fong Ng drove two hours from Kuala Belait to present His Majesty with a Chinese ink painting she made depicting the monarch’s coronation in 1968.
“It took about a week to create, but long hours each day… I also went to Beijing to study ink paintings there,” said Ng, whose portrait of Lee Kuan Yew has been displayed in Parliament House, Singapore. “The idea to do this portrait came about two years ago.. but I felt this year is a very special year because it’s the Golden Jubilee.”
Pengarah Hj Mukti Salleh, the penghulu of Mukim Tamoi, was also among the many who turned up for the event. He described how he has been using photographs to document life in Brunei since 1948, and as a result, has compiled more than 500 photo albums of Brunei history.
“I was not a very good [photographer] at that time, but as time went on I managed to take better pictures,” he said. “It is important for me to documents these events because this is for my children and my grandchildren. We have to show them our history.”
After the meet-and-greet, His Majesty joined the Crown Prince and other government officials under a giant marquee, unveiling the new name of the park — Taman Mahkota Jubli Emas.
The park is one of five key features of the Eco-Corridor, the others being the Jetty Darussalam; the riverfront promenade; the park’s grand entrance; and the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien pedestrian bridge which links BSB with Batu Satu.
Justina Liew Vun Ching, director of Drainage and Sewerage, said one of the aims of the Eco-Corridor is to improve connectivity around the capital.
“Initially, [we] were just tasked with dredging the Sungai Kedayan river bed and building a retaining wall to reduce the impact of flooding,” she told The Scoop.
But over the past three years, the project has evolved into a major urban redevelopment, which required land reclamation and the relocation of 500 residents from Mukim Sungai Kedayan.
The Eco-Corridor is a key part of the BSB Masterplan — a blueprint to transform the capital over the next 20 years into a sustainable city with an economy built on the country’s natural and cultural heritage.
The introduction of more green urban spaces is part of government efforts to encourage healthy, active living among the public, Justina added.
Minister of Development Dato Seri Setia Hj Bahrin Abdullah said that the the launch of Taman Mahkota Jubli Emas marked an important milestone in the city’s history.
“Every one wants to be here because it is the unveiling of something significant. This park is an asset for the country. Hopefully it will catalyse economic activities and more tourism to come into Brunei.”
To watch highlights from the event, check out this video:
This story was last updated on October 24 at 5.12pm.