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The 1959 Constitution

Brunei's political system rests on the twin pillars of the country's written Constitution and the tradition of Malay Islamic Monarchy. These two facts dominate both the formal political life of Brunei and its government ethos. An addition and underlying feature is the country's adherence to the rule of law, a system based primarily on the English Common Law System and the independence of the judiciary. Brunei's first written Constitution came into force in 1959 and since that date, has been subject to important amendments in 1971 and 1984. The 1959 Constitution provides for The Sultan as the Head of State with full executive authority. The Sultan is assisted and advised by five councils - the Religious Council, the Privy Council, the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet), the Legislative Council and the Council of Succession. The 1959 Constitution established the Chief Minister as the highest official, with the British High Commissioner as adviser to the Government on all matters except those relating to the Muslim religion and Malay customs. Effectively, however, in all internal and financial matters, the country has been self-governing. In 1971, the amended Treaty reduced further the power of the United Kingdom Government which retained responsibility only for foreign affairs whilst defence became the joint responsibility of both countries. In 1984, Brunei resumed full political independence and took over responsibility for its own defence and foreign relations. The work of the Councils is explained below. It is noteworthy that the system of government, which was carried out in the traditional Malay manner of advice tendered through a Chief Minister and senior officials, was replaced in 1984 by a move to a Cabinet style of government. The new style Cabinet system reflects His Majesty's commitment to a meritocratic and efficient administration. His Majesty took up the offices of Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Minister of Home Affairs in 1984, after the resumption of full political independence. In October 1986, he relinquished the Ministries of Finance and Home Affairs and took over the Ministry of Defence, a portfolio which his late father had held since 1984. His Majesty is Supreme Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces. The Cabinet has 13 members and each reports to the Sultan. The system of government revolves around the Sultan as the source of executive power. The 1959 Constitution states that power of appointment to the Councils is exercised by His Majesty. The Religious Council is responsible for advising His Majesty on matters relating to Islam. This is dealt with in Part II of the Constitution, which lays down that the religion of Brunei shall be Islam according to the Shafeite sect. The head of the faith is His Majesty. Religious freedom is safeguarded by the Constitution. The Privy Council advises the Sultan in relation to the exercise of the prerogative of mercy, to the amendment or revocation of any of the

the State is quite distinct. Supreme executive authority vests with His Majesty the Sultan. due to reasons of State. were amended. made to give effect to the new status of Brunei Darussalam as a sovereign and fully independent country. relating to elections and the Legislative Council. . His Majesty the Sultan is committed to meeting the people both through an extensive series of visits throughout Brunei on a regular basis and through informal contact on various religious occassions. The Legislative Council was from time to time re-constituted until a Cabinet-style Government was introduced for the first time in 1984. Changes were. The Constitution Since Independence From the aforesaid. The existing political parties have very limited membership and have difficulty in organising it's meeting through lack of quorum. The Council of Succession determines the succession of the throne in the event of that need arising. Brunei's Constitution makes it quite clear that there is a distinction between the State and the Monarchy. to proclaim a state of emergency and proclamations have effect. The Sultan is able. notwithstanding anything inconsistent with the Constitution. The Government provides for the preservation of religious freedom within the country by ensuring that the Islamic Courts only have jurisdiction over Muslims. Brunei's Constitution has to be understood in the context of Malay Islamic Monarchy. under the Constitution. It will be recalled that following the abortive political unrest in 1962. The order of succession is determined by the Constitution and arrangements for a Regency are similarly laid down. the Legislative Council has not met in recent years and legislation is enacted through Royal proclamation. The Legislative Council is provided for in the Constitution to exercise a scrutinizing role over legislation. However.provision of the Constitution and the award of honours. however. it is clear that the 1959 Constitution continues to be in force after 1st January 1984 and is the supreme law which provides the basic constitutional framework for the administration of the country. certain provisions of the Constitution. the State Secretary and the State Financial Officer were abolished and replaced by the Prime Minister and other Ministers. The Prime Minister. The former offices of the Chief Minister. who must be a Brunei Malay professing the Muslim religion belonging to the Shafeite sect. They do not enjoy popular support. The judiciary forms a distinct and separate branch of government within Brunei and the independence of the judiciary is assured.while the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan is the supreme executive and religious authority within Brunei. This tradition provides for a degree of reciprocity in the relationship between subjects and Monarch. Items relating to the provision of a civil list and separate financial regulations for the national treasury show that.

No changes have been made to the position of the public services which continue to be controlled and supervised by the Public Service Commission. The gradual changes that have taken place were made to cope with new circumstances. His Majesty The Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan exercises the powers to promulgate laws in the absence of the Legislative Council. therefore had a strong historic foundation. Hence the appearance on important State and constitutional documents. Historically. Provisions are made in the Constitution for the appointment of Deputy Ministers as well as the Attorney General by His Majesty. when a reorganisation of the Cabinet took place. two Bruneians were appointed as the Intermediate Court Judges. the same arrangement continue to be followed namely His Majesty The Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan appoints Judges on contracts to become judicial commissioners of the Supreme Court of Brunei. The traditional advisers continue to play an important role under the 1959 Constitution. With regards to the Judiciary. The position of the Auditor General remains the same as before 1984. The Ministers. Preparations have been made for Brunei to have its own arrangements with regards to the appointment of judges of the Supreme Court. principally the Wazirs. Judiciary . The establishment of the Executive Council. particularly the needs of modern administration. as well as the signature and seal of The Sultan. Judicial Committee of Privy Council acts as the final Court of Appeal. Although they are no longer directly involved in the process of government. The financial arrangements under the 1959 Constitution remain unaffected by the change of status in 1984 except insofar as those provisions refer to the Legislative Council. The Sultan of Brunei has always acted in consultation with his traditional advisers. Today they constitute the Council of Cabinet Ministers presided over by His Majesty the Sultan. are appointed by The Sultan to hold office at the pleasure of His Majesty. The further changes in 1986. The consultative process has been subject to continuous refinement and today is not unlike that of any of the Western system of Cabinet government. including the Prime Minister. and later the formation of the Cabinet after resumption of full independence. In July 1991. the signatures and seals of the principal Wazirs.remains with The Sultan. presided over by The Sultan and consisted of his traditional advisers as well as the British Resident. The tradition of consultation was formalised after the establishment of the British Resident system when the State Council was formed. Under the Constitution. indicating their agreement. the majority of them comprise the membership of the Privy Council and the Council of Succession. This system lasted until the first written Constitution in 1959 when an Executive Council (later called the Council of Ministers) and the Legislative Council replaced the old State Council. are a further example of the system responding to change. he reports to His Majesty The Sultan.

from 1 October 1991 they consist of five components: land forces. The defence portfolio remains with the Sultan as Minister of Defence. In 1991 the Intermediate Court was established. The strength of the country's defence forces were further enhanced with the formation in 1987 of the Royal Brunei Reserve Regiment. The High Court receives appeals from Magistrate's Courts in the districts and is itself a court of first instance for criminal and civil cases. Defence Upon independence. although it does not deal with capital offences. Brunei established its own defence force for the first time since 1881 when Brunei became a British protectorate. air force. There is no conscription and enlistment in the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) is voluntary. Syariah courts co-exist with the Supreme Court and deals with Islamic laws. support services and a training corps.The Supreme Court comprises the High Court and the Court of Appeals. navy. while the Subordinate Court consists of the Magistrate's Courts. The Sultan announced a restructuring of the RBAF. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London is the final court of appeal for civil cases only. Appeal from the High Court is submitted to the Court of Appeals. . with extensive civil and criminal jurisdiction.