Patriotic zeal marks National Day

National 3 minutes, 3 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THOUSANDS of people, unmindful of the gruelling heat, poured into the capital's Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar 'Ali Saifuddien (SOAS) since early morning yesterday to commemorate Brunei Darussalam's 28th National Day.

A patriotic fervour and pageant marked the celebrations, with splendid display by the armed forces and colourful public performances.

Some 21,000 people from all walks of life began arriving into the city as early as 6am, with major roads remaining closed to prevent any congestion leading to the venue, where His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam first proclaimed independence on January 1, 1984.

As the overcast morning gave way to intense sultriness, people patiently awaited the monarch's arrival in 32 degree heat.

His Majesty arrived at approximately 8.20am in a ceremonial black Rolls Royce followed by several members of the royal family including His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, HRH Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah, HRH Prince Jefri Bolkiah, HRH Prince Hj 'Abdul 'Azim and HRH Prince 'Abdul Malik.

Marking a first for the royal family, the monarch was also accompanied by his two youngest children, HRH Prince 'Abdul Wakeel and HRH Princess Ameerah Wardatul Bolkiah.

His Majesty, dressed in the uniform of the Supreme Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, saluted as the national anthem played before descending the Royal Dais to inspect the guard of honour.

Senior government officials, foreign envoys, and other invited guests took their seats in the grandstand to witness the start of the procession of 122 groups representing all sectors of society - including armed personnel, schools, non-governmental organisations and even participants of the upcoming Hassanal Bolkiah Youth Trophy.

The parade was kicked off by the national flag-bearers donning ink-blue cara melayu, lead by Captain Ezan Sazali Hj Osman, proudly bearing the weight of the giant flag of Brunei Darussalam. The Royal Brunei Armed Forces then continued the parade with an impressive display of weaponry and keen military timing as they walked in unison circling Taman SOAS.

Professional and amateur photographers flanked either side of the field, vying to get the best shot of the day as the assembled groups, dressed in their finest, streamed on to the field.

The monarch stood for two hours as the procession of 21,000 people flowed past, acknowledging the dedication and loyalty they had shown to the nation.

By 9.45am, Taman SOAS was almost full as the last groups, comprising mostly schoolchildren, made their way on to the green for the finale performance. Wiping sweat from their brows, the students trudged on despite the sweltering temperature.

Army medical personnel were tasked with keeping the field participants hydrated and passed out bottles of water. However, some individuals fell prey to the intense heat and were carried off the field to mobile clinics.

A performance from 7,700 selected participants also lit up the venue, with metallic green, blue, red, gold and silver car shades skilfully manoeuvred to portray images representing Brunei's development priorities including environmental conservation, education, and a strong and dynamic economic development. The show ended with cries of "Merdeka!" ringing throughout Taman SOAS.

Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Hj Hazair Hj Abdullah said the performers had shown "an excellent display of patriotism and national pride".The minister, who is also chairman of the executive committee for the 28th National Day, commented that His Majesty was "very pleased" with the effort put in by the participants, and that with each year, the performers strived to improve on the previous year's show

The Brunei Times