BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah on Tuesday chided authorities for failing to ensure safety standards at government buildings — particularly mosques and schools — which have led to structural issues down the line.
During an unscheduled visit to the Rimba Arabic Secondary School, the monarch said authorities did not conduct their due diligence during the construction of these projects, failing to monitor the quality and structural integrity of the buildings.
The Rimba school and the Jalan Bedil Religious School in Lambak were two buildings singled out as examples of negligence during the construction process.
“There should be no compromise when it comes to adhering to safety standards in buildings, particularly in schools,” His Majesty said.
He later toured the $48 million Rimba Arabic Secondary School, which just opened on January 2 after its completion was riddled with delays over two years. The school houses more than 1,700 students.
Conducting a snap inspection, the sultan questioned the sturdiness of the school railings, saying they were unsafe, although the Ministry of Religious Affairs claims the railings were installed according to standards.
“This is yet another showing of our lax thinking — to accept whatever that is told to us without assessing or examining it any further,” His Majesty said in a titah.
He stressed that building owners — in this case the Ministry of Religious Affairs — should conduct independent inspections before the handover.
“If the building is deemed unsafe, does it mean the owners still have to accept it?”.
His Majesty also visited the Jalan Bedil Religious School in Kg Lambak, where the construction of a new block — costing some $4 million — was also hit by delays due to safety issues. Construction began in 2014 and was supposed to be completed in 2016 but has yet to open.
The monarch also noted with concern the rising number of students transferring from Arabic schools back to conventional schools, with the former having an entrance exam and higher entry criteria.
“So far, I have not seen an in-depth study on this trend, on its pros and cons, benefits and disadvantages,” he said in his titah.
“I am still of the opinion that Arabic schools are the pillars of education in this world and the hereafter…. That is why I want the management and administration to be exemplary and for safety to be made a priority.”