His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam warned newly sworn-in cabinet members against falling into the trap of cronyism and nepotism, saying it is their duty to serve the country and not their own personal agendas.

Delivering his titah during the first meeting of the new cabinet at Istana Nurul Iman, the monarch aired his grievances ranging from the lack of long-term results from sending SMEs to expos abroad, undermining the values and beliefs of the country, to the adoption of foreign practices which are “ill-suited to Brunei”.

“Ministers, deputy ministers and permanent secretaries are the government’s frontliners and are entrusted to fulfill [the goal of] being an independent nation… Work with dedication and do not deviate from this goal. Serve the country, not your own personal agendas,” His Majesty said.

‘BE HONEST, SELFLESS’

The sultan expressed hopes the new cabinet will be able to deliver their duties responsibly. He noted that there must be a way to move forward and develop Brunei more efficiently.

“I am aware that there are issues and non-existent problems being created just to attract publicity with the intention that [these individuals] may look like they are doing their jobs well, but in the end, it brings no positive impact towards national development.”

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The first meeting of new cabinet ministers at Istana Nurul Iman on Feb 7. Photo: Infofoto

He reminded cabinet members to have the determination to meet government targets, urging them to become wise, selfless leaders who implement beneficial policies. Leaders who hold on tight to the national value of MIB (Malay Muslim Monarchy) will not be susceptible to selfishness and the hunger for power, he said.

“Do not become drunk with power that you will do anything for your own self interests above the needs and interests of the country,” he warned, adding that leaders who have become drunk with power have a tendency to practice nepotism and cronyism.

“This must not be allowed to happen.”

‘FIND HOLISTIC, LASTING SOLUTIONS TO NATIONAL PROBLEMS’

In his titah this morning, His Majesty also highlighted a few key issues which he would like to see addressed. Among them is the need to thoroughly consider international practices before adopting them, ensuring they are relevant, applicable and beneficial to Brunei.

“There have been instances where [certain agendas or plans] have been cancelled in order to [please or comply with] international parties,” he said, questioning whether these decisions are the right fit for Brunei.

“As leaders, the inclination to employ ‘imported’ advice is a sign that you are not capable or are lacking in ideas. We cannot hope for something good in leaders like this.”

The sultan touched on building human resource and capacity, where he noted that locals should be properly trained and given the necessary exposure in order for them to take on more professional roles. Unfortunately, he said that this isn’t necessarily the case. Foreigners, His Majesty noted, continue to be employed at top managerial levels while locals hold normal positions for decades without any career progression.

On the issue of unemployment, the monarch said that simply making vacancies available will no longer meet the demands of the saturated job market.

“This is why we need new solutions. There are many ways… We need to inculcate a culture of independence and spirit of entrepreneurship. We need to encourage and guide them. Have we done this?”

His Majesty called on the various sectors to find lasting solutions to pressing issues such as flooding, unsightly rubbish problems, increasing paddy output and providing SMEs the support they need to flourish. “Address [these problems] together,” he urged.