A reaction to: Brunei, the most loved repressive regime in the world?
An introduction by the editor: In recent days Brunei has been in the international news for implementing Sharia law including laws that allow publicly stoning homosexuals to death, cutting off limbs by the justice system and floggings for robbery. A few years ago a blog by Sanne van Oosten was written about this subject. Even though these specific laws weren’t implemented then yet, severe punishments for seemingly small or non-existent offences did already exist. Despite these laws, Sanne van Oosten was amazed by the love with which the people of Brunei spoke of their country. One could say that they are afraid to state their opinion as the regime is so repressive, but that really didn’t seem to be the case here. The people of Brunei really love their country. The blog was received with a host of angry reactions from inhabitants of Brunei, thus underlining the main hypothesis of the article. One reaction, however, was very interesting and enlightening. That was this reaction by Teah Abdullah.
Thank you Sanne van Oosten for writing a blog on Brunei where you stress that people in Brunei love the regime even though it is somewhat repressive. As a former Bruneian political science student who continues to be aware of political theories and global ongoing, I would like to point out several things in regards to this piece. That is not to say I don’t agree with it. There are some points that I definitely agree with and see the reason behind the argument. As a Bruneian, I would like to point out several things to enlighten some points.
In Sanne’s blog it is written that there are severe punishments on littering on the streets in Brunei (see picture above). In terms of the littering law, I would like to point out that such law–although it exists–is not something that is practiced. It is possible that it is an old law that has yet to be modified to be in par with more modern justice practices. But it is definitely not something that is practiced, and therefore I see it as somewhat redundant.
Further it is mentioned that there is a night curfew and that parties are not allowed. The house parties regulation could have been established because of the close distance between houses. As someone who has neighbors who do karaoke regularly, I do find this useful because now I can go to work in the morning without having to be bothered by disturbances like these.
I would also like to share this: I had a talk with someone yesterday regarding repressive governments that use populist/socialist policies in order to keep their people happy. We compared Brunei with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and we concluded that at some point, democracy should be something that is practiced. Our conclusion is basically that it’s okay for royalties to be the higher authority figure, but why not introduce smaller scale elections?
We have smaller scale elections in Brunei, whereby we elect the head of the “village” we live in. However, although such a thing is introduced, the turnout is still relatively low. This is part and partial because of the political apathy that has been fueled in people. There aren’t a lot of people who care about politics or social justice, so most of the time they see opportunities such as voting as something that is unnecessary and even laugh at the idea of electing the head of their village. When there’s food in your belly and roof above your head and a Sultan who provides populist policies, people just don’t see a reason to vote. Uprising is not going to happen because people would choose peace instead of risking the comfort they have.
Brunei functions like a small town, which is why people are positive about the government. There is a tendency that people know each other because of the small population. That is not to say there are people who are absolutely happy with the state of the government. I would like to see it improve efficiency, to see more women (qualified, of course) on top, and to have better resources to the things we already have. There are plenty of young people who try to get involved in society by forming their own NGOs in order to tackle stuff that the government is doing very slowly, but the amount of people who does this compared with the ones who opt to just complain-with-no-action is still relatively small.
The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport introduced a dialogue session with youths since two or three years ago, which I think is a good first step to get people’s voices heard. The people involved in these dialogues are student leaders and youth groups, which may shed a light into what’s in store in the future: more active leaders who are doers. But whether the repressiveness is going to continue is not something I can predict because the apathy is too great to determine the future outcome.