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Brunei Modern History

The British protectorate Brunei gained greater autonomy from Britain in 1959 and full independence in 1984. Since then, the oil-rich country has been ruled simply by a sultan and a small circle around him. The first and so far only parliamentary elections were held in 1962.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Brunei. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

The Sultanate of Brunei also got its own constitution in 1959 (see Political system). In the 1962 elections, all 16 seats went to the Socialist People's Party (PRB) which won votes against its opposition to the British plans to join Brunei to Malaysia.

When Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin refused to convene the newly elected parliament, the PRB launched an armed uprising, which was defeated with the help of Gurkhas (Nepalese mercenaries in the British army). The PRB was banned, but in 1963 the Sultan decided that Brunei should not be connected to Malaysia. The reason was that Brunei would not have to share its growing oil revenues.

In 1967, the Sultan abdicated in favor of his son, Hassanal Bolkiah. No new elections were announced, despite pressure from the UN. For Britain, it became an embarrassment to be a protector of the ancient Sultanate. Since the British promised Malaysia and Indonesia to respect the sovereignty of the Sultanate, Brunei agreed to become an independent state on January 1, 1984. The event was celebrated with the Sultan moving into a new palace with gold-plated ceilings and 1,788 rooms.

After independence, a government was appointed, dominated by the Sultan family. In 1984 Parliament held a session, but it was then closed by the Sultan.

Contemporary History of BruneiIn the late 1990s, the Sultan family was shaken by a financial scandal that damaged its reputation. After a corporate crash in 1997, the Sultan's younger brother, Prince Jefri Bolkiah, resigned as finance minister, after which he moved to London. Jefri, who was also the head of the investment agency (BIA) that manages the sultan family's assets and of the country's largest private enterprise group (Amadeo), caused the multibillion losses for Brunei through the crash. He had built luxury homes and a large entertainment center via BIA. Large sums should also have gone to the Prince's luxury life and the harem with some 40 women he should have had.

The Sultan sued his brother and in 2000 a settlement was reached. According to the settlement, Jefri would repay the more than three billion pounds he had embezzled from the BIA. In return, he escaped trial and was allowed to keep his residence in Brunei.

But Jefri never paid the money back. In November 2007, therefore, Brunei's Supreme Court ordered him to return the property, cash and luxury items he owed the state. As a result of the decision, in June 2008, a British court issued an arrest warrant for the Prince, who has stayed in London since the scandal broke in 1997. However, Jefri managed to escape justice once again, according to Paris. He returned to Brunei in October 2009 and later appears to have been reconciled with his brother the Sultan and accepted into the royal circles again.

 
 

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