Reading this article gave me food for thought. It was interesting to read the perspective of a non-Bruneian on a few rules and laws in Brunei that could be seen as repressive by people used to certain freedoms. I personally have never heard of the ‘no littering’ and ‘no partying past 11pm’ laws being severely enforced. Now, the ‘no concert’ law and the oft-stated ‘no alcohol’ law, those I know are more closely adhered to.
Here’s the author’s theory on why Bruneians don’t seem to mind the “repression”:
Couldn’t it also be possible that since the government is in the position to give so much to the people of Brunei, they can get away with strict rules like this? People who live in a repressive regime will accept this when they see the benefits of living in that country, the affluence, the government subsidies and the relative peace they have in Brunei. Especially when the benefits are so much better than in the surrounding countries?
Repression is such an ugly word. It brings to my mind such a negative way of life. I’m sure some people are unhappy that we can’t really have concerts, and I know many people who would love to be able to buy booze when they felt like it instead of having to go over the border. I do somewhat agree with his statement in that people will accept certain rules when they get so much benefit in return, but I would certainly not call it “repression”.
This article has naturally drawn some flack (I’m sure by Bruneians in particular) about the way it portrays Brunei, because as the author rightly said, we Bruneians love our country and our ruler. And it is not a blind love. I think all the disagreement with this article stems from the use of the word “repression” and the underlying implication that we’re blinded and that we don’t know better. Implying that we’re under this repressive regime which is somehow controlling us and making us think the way we do. Well, are we not all products of our upbringing, environment and cultures? When you’ve grown up in a place and culture where certain things are seen as rights and freedoms and you’re used to having these things, coming to a place where these “rights and freedoms” are not as commonplace might naturally be misconstrued as “repression”.
By far the best reply is by a commenter named Teah. Amongst other things, the part that resonated with me most was this:
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.
Exactly. Moreover, why would there be uprising? If people are happy and life is good, what would be the reason to change that or “risk that comfort”? There aren’t severely oppressive policies in place, people aren’t being denied essential freedoms, the populace is highly educated and cared for, and we are not ruled by a dictator but a benevolent Sultan.
Are there certain rules and laws that I may not necessarily like or agree with? Of course, but that applies to any citizen of any country. I’ve grown up under the “repressive regime”, as the author puts it, but because I have, I understand why the government has the laws it does. They are not unreasonable and there’s a purpose, a method to what some would call madness, as it were. Anyone who has grown up being taught the principles of MIB would understand and be able to see the benefit of those rules.
As a Bruneian, I love Brunei and I love my Sultan. Brunei is my home, and I fully intend to live, work, and grow old there. Would I trade the life I have in Brunei for a few so-called freedoms?