A primer on the Legislative Council of Brunei
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
BRUNEI once again will be able to observe the meeting of the State Legislative Council, which convenes today for its fourth session since 2004. The meeting plays a vital role in setting the sultanate's development plan, and will be launched by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzadin Waddaulah today.
The council comprises of both government and non-government members. Chosen legislative members will include ex-officio members of government ministers and prime ministers, prominent persons and achievers who are recognised as contributors to the country in areas of business, religion and society as well as district representatives. A main speaker and clerk to the Legislative Council will also be present.
Some members including the speaker are holders of traditional offices in their personal capacity who fill the "cheteria" and artistocratic hierarchies. The "cheteria" is a group of traditional palace-relevant office holders who compose the upper level of nobility.
Other members are chosen by their capacity and role in each and every level of society.
All members are chosen by appointment of the sovereign's power.
The sitting for legislative members at the chamber will be divided into left and right. The left is made up of non-government members while the right represents government members. The left members take the opportunity to raise issues and represent their constituencies with the members on the right responding.
The first day will start off with the members pronouncing the oath of allegiance upon orders conveyed by the speaker followed by the "titah" of His Majesty. The meeting will then be directed to resume the next day.
Spirited discussions and debate will commence over the whole period of the meeting, covering a broad range of issues. It will be a transparent platform for communication and proposals, plans of policy implementation and reviews.
There will be vigorous exchange of views from various groups and societies who form the council. The meeting enhances the government's voice to the community, giving the society a clearer picture of the directions of government policies and strategies.
Last year 26 council members were involved in the discussion on the budget expenditure for the fiscal year 2007/2008. The budget allocation for the fiscal year 2008/2009 is also expected to be discussed in this year's council meeting.
Issues raised last year include improved community infrastructure and facilities; proper rehabilitation of drug offenders; support for local businesses; the increased construction of schools and the improvement of housing development schemes.
Budget allocation for 2007 covered priority areas of national safety and security; development of the private sector and non-oil sector; human resources development, capacity building and youth development; development of infrastructure and public utilities; and public awareness programmes.
The state legislative council had a 21-year absence. Its last sitting before suspension was in December 27, 1983. It was re-opened on September 25, 2004 after a study at national and regional levels.
The need for the reopening is mainly due to ensuring the productive time-consuming process of nation building via fulfilling a range of criteria, in this case through the legislative council. It is also to strengthen policy and structural decision making and ensuring political stability.
The Brunei Times