Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hassanal Bolkiah

General Haji Sir Hassan al-Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah GCB GCMG (born 15 July 1946) is the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, the 29th Sultan of Brunei and the first Prime Minister of Brunei Darussalam. He is the eldest son of Omar Ali Saifuddien III, the 28th Sultan of Brunei, and Pengiran Anak Damit.

Political role as Sultan
Under Brunei's 1959 constitution, the Sultan is the head of state with full executive authority, including emergency powers since 1962. On 9 March 2006, the Sultan was reported to have changed Brunei's constitution to make himself infallible under Bruneian law. Bolkiah is also the Prime Minister as well as holding the portfolios of Minister of Defence and Finance.

As Minister of Defence he is also the Supreme Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces; an Honorary General in the British and Indonesian armed forces and an Honorary Admiral of the Fleet in the British Navy. He appointed himself as Inspector General of Police (IGP) of the Royal Brunei Police Force.

He addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Brunei Darussalam's admission to the United Nations in September, 1984. In 1991, he introduced a conservative ideology to Brunei called Melayu Islam Beraja (MIB) (or Malay Islamic Monarchy), which presents the monarchy as the defender of the faith. He has recently favoured Brunei government democratisation and declared himself Prime Minister and President. In 2004, the Legislative Council, which had been dissolved since 1962, was reopened.

His designated successor is his eldest son, Al-Muhtadee Billah.

Early years and education
He was born on 15 July 1946 in Brunei Town (now called Bandar Seri Begawan). He became crown prince in 1961 and sultan on 5 October 1967, after his father abdicated voluntarily. His coronation was held on 1 August 1968. Like his father, he has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, of which Brunei was a protectorate until 1984.

The Sultan received high school education in Malaysia's premier school Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur, where he joined the Cadet Corps (band). After receiving a private education in Brunei, the Sultan attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in October 1967 but returned home to be the Crown Prince few months before graduation.

Other assets
Despite his personal extravagance, he has attempted to share the country's oil wealth. In Brunei, mockingly dubbed the "Shellfare State", a reference to the significant influence of the Shell Oil Company, Bruneians have free education and medical services. There are no personal income taxes in Brunei.

His official residence is the Istana Nurul Iman, with 1,888 rooms, 290 bathrooms, and a floor area of 2,152,782 sq ft (200,000 m²), controversially claims to be “world’s largest working palace”. The Istana is an official residence with offices housing the Offices of the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan, Grand Chamberlain's office, many istana departments like protocol, istana household and finance departments and offices of the Prime Minister's Department. Parts of the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Finance are also located at the palace, as the Sultan is the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Minister of Finance. The Crown Prince, who is the Senior Minister, also works from offices at the Istana. Hyatt Borneo Management Services and HM The Sultan's flight also maintain offices there.

The Sultan is the owner of 531 Mercedes-Benzes, 367 Ferraris, 362 Bentleys, 185 BMWs, 177 Jaguars, 160 Porsches, 130 Rolls-Royces and 20 Lamborghinis, bringing the total number of cars he owns to 5000.

Marriage and children
While still a Crown Prince, in 1968, The Sultan married his cousin, currently his first wife, Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha. His former second wife, Pengiran Isteri Hajah Mariam, was a former stewardess for the national carrier, Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) whom he divorced in 2003, stripping her of all her royal titles. In August 2005 her place was taken by a former Malaysian TV3 presenter, Azrinaz Mazhar Hakim, who is 33 years younger than the Sultan. They divorced in 2010.

Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah is the crown prince and the Sultan's heir, the eldest son of the Sultan and Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha, his first wife. As of 2008, Hassanal Bolkiah has five sons and seven daughters with his three wives.

    * By HM Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha:
          o HRH Princess Rashidah (born 26 July 1969)
          o HRH Princess Muta-Wakkilah (born 12 October 1971)
          o HRH Crown Prince General Dr Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah (born 17 February 1974)
          o HRH Princess Majeedah Nuurul Bolkiah (born 16 March 1976)
          o HRH Princess Hafizah (born 12 March 1980)
          o HRH Prince 'Abdul Malik (born 30 June 1983)
    * By HRH Pengiran Isteri Mariam (married 1982, divorced in 2003):
          o HRH Prince 'Abdul 'Azim (born 29 July 1982)
          o HRH Princess 'Azemah (born 26 September 1984)
          o HRH Princess Fadzillah (born 23 August 1985)
          o HRH Prince 'Abdul Mateen (born 10 August 1991)
    * By HRH Pengiran Isteri Azrinaz Mazhar Hakim (married 2005, divorced in 2010):
          o HRH Prince 'Abdul Wakeel (born 1 June 2006)
          o HRH Princess Ameerah (born 28 January 2008}

His Majesty has divorced his third wife, Azrinaz Mazhar Hakim, a 30-year old former Malaysian TV journalist.

Bolkiah and Hakim were married in a private ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2005. The union bore two children who joined eight other heirs from previous marriage.

As AFP reports: "The Sultan has divorced his wife Azrinaz Mazhar Hakim and all the royal titles that have been awarded to the Sultan's former wife have been withdrawn," Grand chamberlain Haji Alauddin Haji Abu Bakar announced on Radio Television Brunei.

He said the divorce was granted based on "special reasons" but no other details were given. Rumours of the royal break-up had been circulating in the capital in recent weeks.

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