Twice a year, a ceremony to raise the giant Brunei flag in front of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque is held. The raising of the flag marks the beginning of the period when national flags or personal standards belonging to Pengirans and the likes must be raised by all in the country.
The two periods are the National Day celebrations in February to mark the anniversary of Brunei‘s independence and the other is His Majesty the Sultan‘s Birthday Celebrations in July.
Those two ceremonies, albeit being new, are now considered as a normal tradition for the two celebrations. To see the flag being hoisted up the 100 foot flag pole and to see the 3.5m flag waving in the air is a spectacular sight indeed. However, nobody quite remembered when the Brunei flag was created.
For that, we have to go back to slightly more than a hundred years ago. On December 3, 1905, His Majesty Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin, the 26th Sultan of Brunei, signed a Supplementary Agreement to the 1888 Agreement with the British known as the 1906 Agreement, which changed significantly the relationship between the British Resident and the Sultan of Brunei:
"His Highness will receive a British Officer, to be styled Resident, and will provide a suitable residence for him. The Resident will be the Agent and Representative of his Britannic Majesty‘s Government under the High Commissioner for the British Protectorate in Borneo, and his advice must be taken and acted upon on all questions in Brunei, other than those affecting the Mohammedan religion, in order that a similar system may be established to that existing in other Malay States now under protection."
The 1906 agreement was also co-signed by the Principal Wazirs at the time: Yang Teramat Mulia Pengiran Bendahara Sri Maharaja Permaisuara Pangiran Anak Besar Muhammad bin Pengiran Anak Muhammad Tajuddin; and Yang Teramat Mulia Pengiran Pemancha Sahib ul-Rae‘ Wal Mushuarat Pengiran Anak Muhammad Saleh bin Pengiran Maharaja Lela Sahib ul-Kahar Pengiran Anak Abdul Kahar.
In agreeing to Brunei being established as a full British protectorate, it allows the British to be responsible for defence and external affairs and to appoint a local Resident to advise the Sultan.
This advice extended to the finer points of modern administration, the raising of revenue and fiscal control, although interference in the internal administration of the sultanate was strictly forbidden.
The signing of the 1906 agreement also brought into existence the national flag in its present form, except for the crest which was added in 1959.
Prior to 1906, Brunei Darussalam did not have a national flag. There were many personal standards (personal flags) which were widely used in the country and these were granted by the Sultan himself.
The standards belonging to His Majesty (yellow colour) and the four Wazirs (Viziers) — Pengiran Bendahara (white), Pengiran Digadong (green), Pengiran Pemancha (black) and Pengiran Temenggong (purple) — were the most important. (The title of Pengiran Perdana Wazir as the Chief of all the Wazirs was adopted in 1970).
The colour scheme of the Brunei Darussalam flag adopted in 1906 was therefore the colours of the principal signatories to the 1906 Agreement which were the colours of the Sultan (yellow), Pengiran Bendahara (white) and Pengiran Pemancha (black).
However it is not known who was the principal proponent for the Brunei flag and the use of the Brunei colours — some say it was most likely it was done by a committee. So, this year, 2007 marked 101 years that the Brunei flag had been in use.
However, the current Brunei flag together with the crest was adopted on 29th September 1959 with the promulgation of the 1959 Brunei Constitution.
In a few vexillology studies on Brunei flags, the measurement of the flag and is various components has been said to vary. Most of these studies were based on old photographs published in the early 20th century. However, according to current official publications, the description of the flag is as follows.
The rectangular shaped State flag comprised of four component portion, two parallelograms and two trapezia.
The flag is cut across by a parallelogram with an official measurement from a point 6.35 cm below the top left corner to a point of the same distance from the bottom corner on the right side.
The flag measures exactly 82 cm long by 91.4 cm wide.
The parallelogram dividing the rectangle in this manner leaves two similar trapezia at the top and bottom of the flag, with the lower trapezium assuming the inverted form of the upper trapezium.
The parallelogram is again divided into two parallelograms of unequal depths, the upper being 2.54cm wider that the lower which is 19.05cm in width. The mast and pedestal of the crest represent the three levels of government.
The elements of the crest are the flag (Bendera) and the Royal Umbrella (Payong Ubor-Ubor) based on ancient royal regalia.
The wings (Sayap), each made up of four feathers symbolise justice, tranquility, peace and prosperity.
The hands (Kimhap) signify that the government preserves and promotes the welfare of the citizens.
The crescent (Bulan) stands for Islam, the state religion. The state slogan, written in Arabic script on the crescent means "Always in Service with God‘s guidance".
The name of the state "Brunei Darussalam" appears on the ribbon or the scroll.
Flags are very important as national symbols. It is related that in the year 629 when our Prophet, upon him peace, fought against the Romans in Syria, the Muslims found that they were outnumbered. During the battle, Jafar Taiyar who retrieved the Muslim banner from Zaid bin Haritha who was killed, held on to the flag with his arm-stumps when his hands were cut off rather than let the Muslim banner fall.
The Brunei flag is our national symbol. It unifies us Bruneians despite our different cultures, races and religions. We must respect and honour it.
Source: www.bruneitimes.com (12 Juli 2007)