BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – A member of the Legislative Council (LegCo) has proposed that the Ministry of Home Affairs review eligibility requirements for village heads so that the positions can be opened up to women.

Speaking during a LegCo meeting on Friday, YB Khairunnisa Hj Ash’ari said the ministry recently revised requirements to allow youth to be nominated as village heads because there was a lack of applicants.

“Women have led various fields, including holding top positions in several government-linked companies. The active involvement of women in community projects, village consultative councils, and associations is also undeniable,” said YB Khairunnisa.

“The selection of the village head is made with the support of the villagers through nomination and voting. Therefore there should be no issue in electing a village head regardless of their sex,” she said.

According to current regulations, candidates must be male, a member of one of the seven indigenous groups of Brunei, and between 30 and 55 years old at the time of nomination.

However, there has been a marked lack of interest in local government, with the ministry struggling to fill over 150 vacancies for village heads and penghulu.

The issue of these roles being open to women has been raised in previous sittings of the Legislative Council, but the ministry cited concerns that women may not be able to fulfil some of the duties that come with the role, such as late night patrols or leading religious events.

YB Khairunnisa said women have not been excluded from holding high-risk jobs, including firefighters, paramedics, and police officers. Women also actively participate in the military.

“These roles require the commitment of the individual to be on duty during the night,” she said. “So it is not wrong for the village head to be chosen regardless of their gender. It must be done fairly through a democratic process.”

In response, MoHA minister YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said they would review the current recruitment scheme to consider her proposal.

Online voting system to be launched in April

An online voting system for village heads and penghulu is also due to be launched in April as part of efforts to speed up the election process.

The online application known as ‘e-undi’ is currently in its final stage of development, according to the minister.

The system will allow villagers to register as voters and cast ballots for their preferred candidate.

“It is hoped that the use of this application, along with conventional voting methods using ballot boxes would fill up these vacant posts,” said YB Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar.