National Day: February 23
National Day is a public holiday in Brunei.
Brunei, an oil-rich tropical country located on the northern coast of Borneo in Southeast Asia, is set to celebrate its twenty-sixth National Day on February 23, 2010. The Bruneians, dedicated to maintaining a strong sense of culture and history, mark their full independence from Britain with numerous events and historical presentations each National Day.
History of National Day in Brunei
For 96 years, Brunei was a protectorate of Britain. It’s believed that the first British contact with the people of the region came in 1839, when British explorer James Brooke arrived to the city of Kuching, Sarawak, then a part of the Sultanate of Brunei. Upon his arrival, he found that the settlement was fighting an uprising against the Sultan of Brunei. Brooke was hesitant to help, but upon returning again in 1941, he agreed to aid the Sultan’s head of government, Rajah Muda Hassim.
Rajah Hassim, who had promised Brooke control of Sarawak in vague overtures in 1839, made similar promises to Brooke. However, the situation in Sarawak worsened as a cruel local tribal chief, Pangeran Macota, threatened both the wellbeing of the citizens and of Brooke. Additionally, Rajah Hassim made little effort to make good on the promises made to Brooke.
Things came to a head when on September 24, 1841, Brooke and 200 loyalists armed themselves and demanded audience with the Rajah. Brooke declared that if the Rajah didn’t turn over control of Sarawak to Brooke, Brooke would be forced to attack Macota and take control himself. Rajah Hassim quickly drew up the documents making Brooke governor of Sarawak. He later was appointed as Rajah by the Sultan on August 18, 1842.
Conflict between the Sultan and Brooke led to the defeat of the Sultan in 1943. The British attacked the Sultan again in 1946, and the Sultan later ceded more territory to the British with hopes of peace. These events led to further British control of the region until finally Brunei became a British protectorate in 1888. As decades passed and prosperity grew, control slow was wrested from Britain. A new constitution in 1959 made Brunei a self-governing state, leaving only matters of defense to Britain.
With much fanfare, Brunei’s independence was finally gained on January 1, 1984, though British protection didn’t end until February 23. Thus, on February 23, 1984, the first National Day was celebrated in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei.
Brunei’s National Day Traditions, Customs and Activities
On February 23, 2010, Brunei will celebrate its twenty-sixth National Day. Like most years, the celebrations are colorful and raucous. Unlike last year, however, the government of Brunei has decreed that there will be no traditional field performances. “We will only have parades by the private and government sectors, associations, organizations, colleges and other higher educational institutions,” said a representative of the Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports.
New logos are created for the National Day festivities, and the logo for 2010 is multi-faceted. In addition to the new logo, the giant version of the Brunei national flag, hoisted on February 7, will be honored. Miniature flags are to be distributed as well.
In addition to historical presentations and public displays, the people of Brunei typically assemble for mass prayers and readings of Islamic scripture in mosques throughout the country.