BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah on Monday expressed concerns on a range of issues – from youth crime, low employment among people with disabilities to the long overdue reopening of Brunei Museum.

During his unscheduled visit to the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS), the sultan pointed out the “worrying” situation of more youth committing crimes such as substance abuse, theft and smuggling.

Citing an example, he said there were reports of mosque youth group members stealing from donation boxes placed in mosques.

“Without a doubt, this poses a challenge to the authorities, especially the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports. Issues involving youth cannot be neglected,” he added.

The monarch urged the ministry to constantly evaluate its programmes, especially those on character-building in youth.

“The character development programmes for youth must be coherent, what aspects are prioritised and in what form.

“If it is merely for recreational or entertainment purposes, then [the programmes] are not adequate for character-building in youth,” he continued.

His Majesty during his unscheduled visit to Pusat Bahagia at Kampung Pulaie. Photo: Infofoto

‘Why are employers not hiring special needs individuals?’

His Majesty also questioned the ministry whether it has developed strategies to tackle social issues.

Noting that Pusat Bahagia has offered courses to help special needs people acquire skills for employment, the sultan said employers in the public and private sector are still not keen to hire them.

Only 0.6 percent of 9,282 individuals with disabilities were employed, according to MCYS’s 2018 figures.

“The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports should pay serious attention to this issue. Solutions must be sought.

“Why is it happening? Are the courses below the required standards or are there other reasons such as poor teaching or the environment is not conducive for training?,” he added.

The sultan said Pusat Bahagia resembled a detention centre with fences surrounding the grounds compared to mainstream schools.

Pusat Bahagia was set up in 1980 at Kampung Pulaie to provide training for children and adults with special needs.

This file photo shows the Brunei Museum, which has been closed since 2014. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

Reopening of Brunei Museum long overdue

Question marks remain on the reopening of the Brunei Museum on Jln Kota Batu, which has been closed since 2014 due to a severe termite infestation.

The monarch said renovations have been carried out on the museum for a long time but are yet to be completed.

It was reported last year that MCYS had planned to reopen the museum by the end of 2020.

His Majesty said the museum used to attract local and foreign visitors but a change in administration has instead resulted in the facility’s six-year closure.

“The new administration should have improved the museum, but the reality is that the museum is still closed,” His Majesty added.

The sultan called on the authorities to investigate the reasons behind the long closure of the museum and find solutions.

The monarch was also not impressed with the Language and Literature Bureau’s work to promote Brunei’s official language.

“Significant efforts have not been made, even the Language Month campaign, if it exists, is just a half-hearted attempt,” he said.

His Majesty visits the daycare room of Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports. Photo: Infofoto

Assess suitability of Youth Centre in hosting entertainment events

His Majesty further said the Youth Centre in Bandar Seri Begawan needs to take into account cultural, race and religious aspects before organising events.

While the ministry has many plans to revitalise the centre, he said it should not only hold entertainment events.

“The road in front of the Youth Centre is closed on Saturday nights to give way to young entrepreneurs to conduct business activities including live music, busking and religious programmes during specific months.

“I wish to emphasise that this should not be allowed simply according to one’s own liking. Think about whether it’s appropriate in terms of culture, race and religion,” he added.

Athletes need to prepare early for major competitions

The monarch also talked about the importance of the country’s readiness to participate in regional and international sports events such as the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, which will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam from November 21 to December 2, 2021.

“Are our athletes being trained or is the ministry still conducting last-minute selection?”

He added that sports facilities must be properly managed.