07 Oct A Sultan and a Prime Minister
The Sultan of Brunei, Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, is one of the world’s longest-reigning and few remaining absolute monarchs. The Sultan rules from the opulent golden-domed Istana Nurul Iman palace, located in Brunei’s capital Bandar Seri Begawan, which is thought to be the world’s largest residential palace. He was crowned in August 1968 following the abdication of his father, Sir Haji Omar Ali Saifuddin. After Brunei’s independence in 1984, he appointed himself prime minister and, in 1991, introduced an ideology called Malay Muslim Monarchy, which presented the monarch as the defender of the faith. He is one of the world’s richest individuals and in a country where the standard of living is high, enjoys popularity. Recently however, he has faced international criticism over the introduction of Islamic Sharia law in the country. The Sultan is the head of state and absolute monarch of Brunei and also serves as prime minister, minister of defence, foreign minister, and minister of finance. He is advised by several councils, which he appoints. The fact that the Sultan, in his capacity as prime minister, is head of the government means that the Sultan is also ultimately in charge of the Brunei Investment Agency. After Queen Elizabeth II, the Sultan is the world’s second-longest-reigning current monarch. Observers have been curious how the once anglophile, polo-playing graduate of UK’s Sandhurst military college has self-metamorphosed over the years into a devout Muslim enforcer of sharia law.