LegCo session begins today

National 2 minutes, 18 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

FOUR years since its revival, Brunei's State Legislative Council (LegCo) continues to play one of the most important roles in setting the national development agenda. Today marks another milestone for the highly-respected body when the first meeting of the 2008 session commences at the council's brand-new venue in the capital.

Having demonstrated its significance in bringing together the demand from the public and the government's policies, the council has seen fruitful results from its meetings over the years. During a session in 2006, council members requested for more efficient application procedures for business licences, which resulted in requiring fewer steps to apply for certain licences.

When the Council reviewed the immigration policy towards foreign investors in the sultanate, much headway was made for foreign investors who have significantly contributed to the country's economic development — they are now able to acquire permanent resident status.

Last year saw 26 members sit in a LegCo session, including His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office and His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, cabinet ministers, senior government officials and prominent businessmen.

The Council consisted of its speaker; ex-officio members (prime minister and ministers); titled persons; persons who have achieved distinction; district representatives; and, clerk to the Council.

Brunei's 1959 Constitution provided for a 33-seat Legislative Council, or Majlis Mesyuarat Negeri, with 16 directly-elected members. The body was disbanded in 1962 by His Majesty's father, Almarhum Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddin Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, following a state of emergency, which saw the banning of the left-wing Parti Rakyat Brunei (PRB) or Brunei People's Party.

In 1970 the Council was replaced by an appointed body by a decree of His Majesty. An elected Legislative Council is being considered a part of constitutional reforms. His Majesty abolished the parliament in 1984 after Brunei gained full independence from Britain. On September 24, 2004, His Majesty revived the State Legislative Council.Its predecessor, the Brunei State Council, known as Majlis Mesyuarat Negeri, functioned for little more than half a century from 1907 until the promulgation of the Brunei Constitution on September 29, 1959.

With its early beginning as a legislative-cum-advisory body to the British Resident's administration, the State Council, according to acclaimed scholar Professor Dr Haji B A Hussainmiya, became a 'battleground' for Brunei leaders who reinforced the sovereignty of the Sultan versus the colonial intentions of the then British Protectorate administration.

More than ever, the Bruneian public now enjoys the existence of such a body that directly communicates with the government and leaders on behalf of the masses.

This year's meeting will put the Council to a test, with the hope of securing a better, stronger and more advanced society in Brunei.

The Brunei Times