Hassanal Bolkiah is The Sultan of Brunei, he is also the twenty-ninth and current monarch . He is also the country’s current Prime Minister. Hassanal was born on July 15, 1946. He is one of the few absolute monarchs left in the world. He is the eldest son of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III and his mother, Raja Isteri (Queen) Pengiran Anak Damit. Hassanal succeeded his father to become Sultan of Brunei on October 5 1967, following his father’s abdication.
The Sultan of Brunei has been ranked as one of the world’s wealthiest individuals. Forbes estimated in 2008 that he had a total peak net worth of around 20 billion dollars. The Sultan is currently the second longest currently serving monarch, and is only bested by Queen Elizabeth II. He celebrated his Golden Jubilee on October 5, 2017 which marked his fiftieth year of reign on the Bruneian thrown.
The Sultan of Brunei- Early life
Hassanal Bolkiah was born on July 15, 1946 in the Bruneian town of Istana Darussalam. The town is now called Bandar Seri Begawan. The Sultan received his secondary education at Victoria Institute in Kuala Lumpur. He then attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the United Kingdom and graduated in 1967. He was coronated as the Sultan of Brunei on August 1 1968 a ceremony which also made him the Brunei head of state. Like his father before him, Hassanal was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. Brunei was a protectorate of the United Kingdom until 1984.
What legal powers does the Sultan possess?
The 1959 Brunei constitution gave the Sultan the privilege of being the head of state with full executive authority. This constitution also included emergency powers as of 1962. It has been reported that on March 9, 2006 the Sultan reportedly amended the Brunei constitution to make himself incapable of being convicted for committing any wrongs under Bruneian law. The Sultan, as the Prime Minister is also the head of the Bruneian government. Bolkiah also holds other ministerial responsibilities within the Bruneian government.
The Sultan is the Bruneian minister of defence which means that he is the Supreme Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces. Bolkiah addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Brunei Darussalam’s admission to the United Nations in September 1984. In 1991 he introduced an ideology of conservatism to Brunei which was called Melayu Islam Beraja or Malay Islamic Monarchy. This ideology saw the Bruneian Monarchy as the defenders of the Islamic faith.
Bolkiah has recently started to take a more democratic approach after declaring himself as the Prime Minister and President of the country. The legislative council that was dissolved in 1962 was reopened in 2004. Hassanal Bolkiah is the Head of Religion of Brunei and Islam is the official Religion of the country. The Sultan made a decree that Islamic celebrations should be celebrated on a large scale.
In 2014 the Sultan advocated the adoption of Sharia penalties such as the stoning to death of all adulterers. He banned all celebrations of Christmas in 2015 including the wearing and usage of all Christmas based memorabilia. the ban only affected local Muslims as Christians are still allowed to celebrate their holiday. Even though there was not an absolute ban on the event it still affected decorations in public spaces but did not include places like churches of small shops.
Controversy surrounding the Bruneian Royal Family
Hassanal and his brother Jefri were sued by Shannon Marketic in 1997. Shannon stated that the brothers had hired her along with other women for promotional work but they were instead held as virtual prisoners, drugged and sexually abused. The Sultan denied that any of the accusations had taken place. Shannon’s lawsuit named Miss USA 1997 and a fellow victim but be declined the invitation to file her own lawsuit. A judge at a US based court dismissed the suit after 18 months of legislation, siting the grounds that the Sultan was immune to prosecution as head of state.
The Sultan had open disagreements with his brother Jefri Bolkiah who was the owner of a network of companies and investment vehicles under the name “Amedeo”. The companies were run by Jefri’s son Hakim. It was used to buy the luxury company Asprey and build amusement parks along with other projects in Brunei. The Amadeo Group collapsed in 1998 due to its 10 billion dollar debt.
Between 1983 and mid-1998 some US$40 billion of what were called “special transfers” were made from the accounts of the Brunei Investment Agency. An independent investigation was undertaken into the circumstances of these special transfers, concluding that in round figures, US$14.8 billion were paid to the accounts of Prince Jefri apart from the US$8 billion to accounts of the Sultan and US$3.8 billion for Government purposes.
Hassanal owned one of the largest private car collections in the world with a total of around 2,500 cars. His brother Jefri was the one who bought these cars for himself and other members of the royal family including the Sultan. They were bought in an attempt to fuel the family’s passion for luxury cars. The car collection and Prince Jefri’s other luxurious indulgencies costed billions of US dollars . Prince Jefri’s luxurious style of living ultimately landed him in trouble and the royal family in a financial crisis. The car collection was eventually abandoned and most of the non-garaged cars were beyond saving. The rest were auctioned and sold.
Hassanal Bolkiah’s first wife was his first cousin Princess Pengiran Anak Saleha who later became the Queen. He later divorced her and married a flight attendant by the name of Mariam Abdul Aziz, he divorced her in 2003 and stripped her of all her royal tittles. He married Azrinaz Mazhar Hakim in 2005 and they divorced in 2010 and the Sultan stripped her of all her royal tittles just like the other wives that he had before her. Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah is the current Crowned Prince of Brunei and is also the Sultan’s heir. Hassanal Bolkiah has 5 sons and 7 daughters with all of his wives.
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