BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei’s monarch announced a cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday, replacing eight ministers and appointing the first woman to the cabinet. 

“These appointments are a trust. A trust which must be carried out with full loyalty and responsibility,” His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah said in a special broadcast aired at 3pm.

His Majesty retains the portfolios of Prime Minister; Minister of Defence; Minister of Finance and Economy; and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The Crown Prince, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, also retains his position as Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

All new appointees will serve a four-year term instead of the typical five. The last cabinet reshuffle took place on January 30, 2018.

Among the notable appointments is the promotion of Datin Dr Hjh Romaizah Hj Mohd Salleh from deputy minister to Minister of Education. She replaces the outgoing minister Dato Hj Hamzah Hj Sulaiman.

While women have served in the cabinet previously — in the positions of attorney general, deputy minister at the Prime Minister’s Office; and deputy minister of culture, youth and sports — this is the first time a woman will hold a ministerial rank since the establishment of the Council of Ministers in 1959.

Datin Romaizah previously served as a permanent secretary at the education ministry prior to her appointment as deputy minister in 2018.

One more woman will be stepping into the new cabinet, Pg Hjh Zety Sufina Pg DP Hj Sani, who has been promoted from permanent secretary to deputy minister at the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MOFE). 

Changing of the guard

Several key ministers were replaced in the reshuffle, including the Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Dato Dr Hj Awg Abu Bakar Hj Apong, the second longest-serving member of cabinet after Pehin Isa.

Pehin Hj Abu Bakar has held several ministerial positions over the past 20 years, including minister of health (2002-2005), minister of communications (2005-2010), minister of education (2010-2015) and minister of home affairs (2015-2022).

He will hand over his portfolio to Dato Hj Ahmaddin Hj Abd Rahman, who has served as deputy minister (Fiscal) of finance and economy since 2018. 

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Outgoing Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism, Dato Hj Ali Apong, is replaced by Dato Dr Hj Abdul Manaf Hj Metussin, who previously held the position of deputy minister (Economy) of finance and economy.

Outgoing Minister of Development, Dato Hj Suhaimi Hj Gafar, is replaced by Dato Hj Mohd Juanda Hj Abd Rashid. 

Outgoing Minister of Transport and Infocommunications, Abdul Mutalib POKSSDP Hj Mohd Yusof, is replaced by Pg Hj Shamhary Pg Dato Hj Mustafa, the managing director of Brunei Gas Carriers. 

Pg Shamhary has also been the managing director at Brunei Shell Marketing Company and held several technical, commercial and managerial roles within Brunei Shell Petroleum. 

The outgoing Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Dato Hj Aminuddin Ihsan POKSMDSP Haji Abidin, is replaced by Hj Nazmi Hj Mohammad.

Hj Nazmi previously served as permanent secretary at the Ministry of Finance, before being transferred to the PMO as permanent secretary.

Outgoing Second Defence Minister, Pehin Dato Hj Halbi Hj Mohd Yussof, will relinquish his portfolio and take up a new role as a minister at PMO.

There is no longer a second minister at the defence ministry. However, Brigadier General Dato Hj Abdul Razak Hj Abd Kadir, the current Royal Brunei Land Force Commander, will step into the role of deputy minister of defence.

A career soldier, Dato Hj Abdul Razak served as Joint Force Commander from August 2020 to March 2022, when he was appointed Royal Brunei Land Force Commander.

Who’s keeping their job?

The Second Minister of Finance and Economy, Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah, will retain his portfolio at MOFE, as well as his position as minister at PMO. He has held both positions since 2018.

Minister of Health, Dato Dr Hj Md Isham Jaafar, who has been widely lauded for leading Brunei’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, will stay in the role. 

The Second Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dato Hj Erywan PDPJ Hj Mohd Yusof, will also retain his portfolio. 

Minister of Religious Affairs, Pehin Dato Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin PDP Hj Othman, remains in the role he has held since 2015.

The Deputy Minister of Energy at PMO, Dato Hj Matsatejo Sokiaw, also retains his position.

New deputy ministers

There will be a new deputy minister of religious affairs — Pg Dato Seri Setia Hj Mohd Tassim Hj Hassan, a judge at the Syariah Court of Appeal, will replace Pg Dato Hj Bahrom Pg Hj Bahar.

PMO Permanent Secretary (Media and Cabinet), Mohd Riza Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Yunos, has been promoted to deputy minister at PMO.

PMO Permanent Secretary (Safety, Enforcement and Law), Dato Hj Sofian Hj Sabtu, has also been promoted to deputy minister at PMO.

MOFE Permanent Secretary (Investment), Hj Khairuddin Hj Abd Hamid, has been appointed deputy minister of finance and economy.

Another MOFE permanent secretary (Industry), Pg Hjh Zety Sufina Pg DP Hj Sani, has been appointed deputy minister of finance and economy.