Brunei celebrates Golden Jubilee: What to know about Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is the country’s prime minister, minister of defence, finance and foreign affairs, supreme commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and also the head of religion. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM /HMJUBLIEEMAS

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN - One of the world's longest-reigning monarchs, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, is well loved and highly respected by his people in the state known as the "Abode of Peace".

The 71-year-old monarch takes a direct hand in state affairs. He is the country's prime minister, minister of defence, finance and foreign affairs and trade, and the supreme commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces.

Bruneian student Ali Molhakim Awang Piut, 19, said everyone he knows, from urban dwellers to villagers, are grateful to have a strong and committed leader like him.

"His heart is with the people and he has a strong sense of duty. Whenever there's a natural disaster, His Majesty will see to it that all the aid that's needed is provided," he told The Straits Times.

"He is also hands on. I've never seen a Sultan who will make time to take part in public recreational activities like cycling," he added.

During his 50-year reign, Sultan Bolkiah has led Brunei to independence and transformed it into one of South-east Asia's most developed nation with enviable standards of living, thanks to abundant oil and gas reserves. Bruneians enjoy free healthcare and education, and pay no taxes.

Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei sits with Asean leaders. PHOTO: ST FILE

Mr Ahmad Anwar Rosly, 32, a marketing and event manager for a shopping mall, said the Sultan has advanced Islamic teachings such as the implementing of the sharia law and building more mosques without sacrificing the country's progress.

"Most, if not all, of the graduates' aim is to work for the government, but His Majesty encourages people to diversify which is why I felt encouraged to pursue other jobs in the private sector such as oil and gas and retail industry where I am now," he said.

"His late father was known as the modern architect of Brunei, His Majesty is definitely continuing his late father's legacy."

The Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah and his late father Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien playing tug of war on Feb 22, 1973. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/HMJUBLIEEMAS

The Sultan is an avid polo player, just like other members of the royal family. Two of his children, Prince Abdul Mateen, 26, and Princess Azemah Ni'matul, 33, had represented the country in equestrian polo events at the South-east Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur in August.

Prince Abdul Mateem Bolkiah is an avid polo player. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/TMSKI

The ruler of the 654-year monarchy also enjoys playing squash and badminton and is a qualified pilot.

Sultan Bolkiah was listed by Forbes in 1997 as the world's richest man with US$38 billion (S$52 billion) wealth, and he reportedly owns a collection of cars and polo ponies.

The Sultan has 12 children, and his eldest son is Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah.


July 15, 1946: Born in Bandar Seri Begawan.

The Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah taking private tuition (far left) at the mosque at Darul Hana palace in in the 1950s. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/HMJUBLIEEMAS

Aug 14, 1961: Became Crown Prince at the age of 15.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah while still studying at Victoria Institution, a secondary school and one of the oldest schools in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1961. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/HMJUBLIEEMAS

1966-67: Trained as an officer at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in the United Kingdom.

Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah while studying at the Royal Military Academy, in Sandhurst, UK, in 1966. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/HMJUBLIEEMAS

Oct 4, 1967: His late father Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien voluntarily abdicated.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and his father in a photo taken on Sept 10, 1986. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/HMJUBLIEEMAS

Oct 5, 1967: Ascended the throne at the age of 21.

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien crowns Hassanal Bolkiah.Sultan Hassanal ascended the throne on Oct 5, 1967. PHOTO: ST FILE

Aug 1, 1968: Coronated as Brunei's 29th Sultan and held a royal procession around the capital.

Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah was crowned as Brunei's 29th ruler on Aug 1, 1968. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/HMJUBLIEEMAS

1978: Led a mission to London to change status of Brunei to that of a sovereign state. The outcome was the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Brunei Darussalam and Great Britain.

Jan 7, 1979: Brunei Darussalam signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with Great Britain.

Jan 1, 1984: Gained independence from the British and he became prime minister.

A picture of the Sultan taken on Apr 29, 1986. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/HMJUBLIEEMAS

1984: Established formal diplomatic relations with several countries, including Singapore.

Mr Goh Chok Tong's first visit to the Sultanate of Brunei as First Deputy Prime Minister. PHOTO: ST FILE

Sept 21, 1984: Brunei officially became the 159th country to join the United Nations.

Feb 12-14, 1990: Made his first state visit to Singapore where he called on then President Wee Kim Wee and then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei (left) and President Wee Kim Wee in a photo taken on Feb 12, 1990. PHOTO: ST FILE

Sept, 1992: Brunei joined the Non Aligned Movement (NAM).

Oct 5, 1992: Celebrated his Silver Jubilee. Mr Lee Hsien Loong, who was then deputy prime minister of Singapore, was among the guests.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is seen in a picture PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

July 15, 1996: Celebrated his 50th birthday when he played polo with Prince Charles and flew in Michael Jackson to perform at a concert.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei (right) scores a goal in a friendly polo match at the Singapore Polo Club. PHOTO: ST FILE

Aug 10, 1998: Installed his first son Al-Muhtadee Billah as Crown Prince.

Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah's eldest heir Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/HMJUBLIEEMAS

Feb 27-Mar 1, 2003: Made his second state visit to Singapore, and called on then President SR Nathan.

Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah and Singapore President SR Nathan during a State Banquet at the Istana. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

April, 2014: Introduced sharia law which, among other rules, bans alcohol sales and sex between unmarried Muslims..

April 21 - 23, 2014: Made his third state visit to Singapore, and was hosted to lunch by DPM Teo Chee Hean.

Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong water a sapling that they just planted at the Gardens by the Bay on Apr 23, 2014. PHOTO: ST FILE

Aug 2016: Singapore and Brunei celebrated the 40th anniversary of bilateral defence relations.

July 5-6, 2017: Made his fourth state visit to Singapore, during which both countries celebrated 50 years of the Currency Interchangeability Agreement (CIA). He and PM Lee Hsien Loong launched commemorative $50 notes. He was also hosted to a state banquet by former President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (left) and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launch of a special set of commemorative notes marking the golden jubilee of the Currency Interchangeability Agreement between Brunei and Singapore at the Istana on July 5, 2017. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

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