BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – In a titah Thursday, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah questioned the credibility of the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF), saying recent cases of corruption, mismanagement and incompetency had eroded public trust in the RBPF. 

The monarch said  in recent years, several incidents had cast an unflattering light on the RBPF, such as the mishandling of high-profile cases and the involvement of senior police officers in corrupt activities.

He also cited examples of criminals escaping from police custody in 2004, 2008, 2011, 2017 and 2018. 

“These incidents have damaged the good name of the RBPF. We cannot accept this,” he said, addressing hundreds of police personnel gathered at the RBPF headquarters in Gadong. 

During a working visit to various police facilities today, His Majesty called for stronger leadership within the police force.

“The RBPF is almost 100 years old… its leaders should already have solid experience”, he said. “The positions of commissioners and deputy police commissioners have been in place since the promulgation of the 1959 Constitution.

“No one should say that the force is weak because it lacks leaders… The team of leaders has long existed, what is left is for us to do is to ensure that the leaders perform.”

His Majesty also spoke about the need for a succession plan within the police force.

The leadership must be transparent, and at the same time fair and courageous in their decision-making, he said. “A fair and courageous leader will not be afraid of any probability, but will be ready to face the odds whatever they may be.”

He then went on to mention a lack of ethics and discipline demonstrated by some personnel, and cited others who were suspected of being involved in criminal activities such as drinking alcohol.

HM the Sultan visits the Criminal Investigation Department during a working visit on Sept 5, 2019. Photo: Infofoto

The sultan also addressed issues of incompetency within RBPF management, saying failures should not be taken lightly: “Wanting to learn is not something for us to be embarrassed about. What is embarrassing is when we fail when we should not have.”

Police stations around the country need to be upgraded, he added, and other infrastructure such as police barracks, housing and sports halls have been poorly maintained.

In his titah, the monarch then highlighted the complaints made by a large number of rank-and-file personnel, who claimed that the RBPF’s Welfare Fund was not being administered fairly.

“If this is true, then I am on the side of the lower ranked officers and consider them as being treated unfairly, or that there is an element of discrimination involved.

“I want this matter to be reviewed and remedied.”

These actions expose the shortcomings of the RBPF and can damage the force as a whole, he said.

His Majesty said statistics show that a total of 5,192 criminal cases were recorded in 2017 — approximately 14 cases a day for a population of 420,000.

Of this number, 3,090 were crimes against property, such as theft, car break-ins, car thefts, robbery, house break-ins and possession of stolen property.

“My reminder to the police force is to strive for excellence in their careers. Prevent crimes properly and purge Brunei Darussalam of criminal activity. This is the true duty of RBPF,” he said.

The sultan gave a similar address to police back in 2014, when he censured the RBPF for “elements of lawlessness”, leading to the introduction of tougher anti-corruption laws to address abuse of power and misconduct in public office.