Brunei History Centre completes Mukim Liang project

National 2 minutes, 24 seconds

BELAIT

THE Brunei History Centre (BHC) yesterday announced the completion of a historical project in Mukim Liang, the initial findings from which reveal surprising knowledge about the central role of the Dusun ethnic group in shaping one of the country's earliest urban settlements.

Hjh Fatimah Asgar, Head of BHC's Research and Documentation Department, said that one of the most startling things that researchers discovered was that the five original early 20th century villages in Mukim Liang stemmed from a single migration of agrarian Dusun people from Ulu Tutong and Labi in Ulu Belait.

“Common knowledge was that the five villages had all formed from separate Dusun settlements… However, researchers in the different villages speaking to elderly informants found that the oldest memories of village head names and ancestors were all similar,” said Hjh Fatimah, who said that a lot of effort had gone into ensuring reliable data, with much of the work going into cross-checking and verifying conflicting information.

As the individual village populations dwindled, however, the villages – Kg Perumpong, Kg Tunggulian, Kg Keluyoh, Kg Padang and Kg Gana – slowly lost their significance.

Today, district administration integrates the sprawling populations into a single village known as Kg Sg Liang.

Hjh Fatimah also noted the Dusun people's near-assimilation of Brunei Malay culture and religion over the past century as a result of the country's actively implemented Malay Muslim Monarch (MIB) philosophy, which has been well received by the Dusun. Traditionally an animist people, the majority of Dusuns today are Malay-speaking Muslims.

“Brunei is in the process of becoming a Zikir Nation. Brunei's various cultures have many practices that are contrary to Islamic teachings and you can observe that most of these have disappeared… From a socio-cultural perspective, the Dusun people still maintain some traditional practices and at times this comes into conflict with the adopted religion of Islam.”

Professor Dato Dr Othman Yatim, a UBD lecturer and one of the research coordinators, said that more research should be carried out to verify preconceptions about the Dusun settlements in Mukim Liang.

“One example is the condition of the Dusuns here during the period of Japanese occupation (1942-1945). The accepted knowledge is that life was difficult under the Japanese regime, with residents facing torture and other atrocities. But we don't know if this was in fact the case as this is presumed,” said Prof Dato Dr Othman.

In February and March, researchers followed local guides into the five villages, observing historical sites and speaking to residents (informants) to record information and verify existing knowledge of the area's history.

The research project – the first formal collaboration between the centre and Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) – follows similar undertakings by BHC since 1986 in documenting Brunei's settlement and development history previously recorded by a largely oral tradition. The first such study in Belait was on Mukim Labi in 2001, followed by another on Mukim Seria in 2009.

The Brunei Times