National Day in Brunei is celebrated on February 23 every year. Also known as ‘Hari Nasional’ in Malay, the National Day commemorates the day Brunei seceded from Great Britain and became an independent nation. Though the Proclamation of Independence was made before that on January 1, 1984, Britain’s control over Brunei ceased on February 23, making it the official date of the country’s independence. On December 31, 1983, the country’s citizens geared up for the big day during mass gatherings in various mosques all over the country. Then, as the clock struck midnight on January 1, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah read the proclamation that declared Brunei’s independence.
History of National Day Brunei
Brunei, a country in Southeast Asia, is located on the island of Borneo, surrounded by the rest of the island, which is divided between Malaysia and Indonesia. Currently, the country is a monarchy, ruled by its Sultan, and applies Sharia as well as the English common law. Ancient history records the state of Brunei as existing as far back as the 7th century, as the Srivijaya Empire. It was an incredibly wealthy nation that used to be predominantly Hindu. Sometime in the 15th century, the rulers converted to Islam, and the religion has remained the dominant religion for the country ever since.
From the 1600s, the Empire of Brunei started to decline, and the British got involved in the 1800s during a succession conflict over the rightful Sultan. In 1888, the Sultan signed an agreement with Britain, which gave Britain control over Brunei’s foreign affairs and introduced British citizens into the country. During World War II, Brunei was briefly occupied by the Japanese but, eventually, the Japanese were defeated by the British who took over Brunei again after the war. But by this time, political parties were formed by the people of Brunei to return to the Sultan’s rule and preserve their culture.
First, a constitution was written declaring Brunei an independent state, where the United Kingdom was still responsible for things like foreign affairs, security, and defense. There was a rebellion against the Sultanate of Brunei, which the British suppressed. Finally, Brunei gained complete independence from the United Kingdom, and this is what is celebrated on National Day every February.
National Day Brunei timeline
British adventurer, Brooke, arrives in Brunei.
Britain’s attack on Brunei is the beginning of the U.K. annexing the land and taking political control.
Sultan Saifuddin II signs the Treaty of Friendship and Commerce.
Brunei becomes a British protectorate.
The British are unable to defend Brunei because of the war in Europe, and the Japanese occupy Brunei until their formal surrender in 1945.
Between 1953 and 1959, a seven-member committee put together by the Sultan writes a constitution that declares Brunei an independent state, except in matters of foreign affairs, security, and defense.
After many treaties and changes from the 1970s, Brunei’s Sultan secures complete independence for the people, and the proclamation is read out on January 1.
National Day Brunei FAQs
When did the Sultanate of Brunei gain independence?
The sultanate gained independence in 1984 and observes its National Day on February 23. Many people prepare months in advance to participate in colorful crowd formations, a favorite National Day event, and prayer services are held at mosques around the Muslim country.
What kind of country is Brunei Darussalam?
Brunei is an independent Islamic sultanate on the northern coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia.
What are the names of the indigenous people of Brunei?
Peoples indigenous to Brunei include the Belait, Brunei Bisaya, indigenous Bruneian Malay, Dusun, Kedayan, Lun Bawang, Murut, and Tutong.
What language is spoken in Brunei?
Malay is the official language of Brunei, though English is also spoken.
Who was the first Sultan of Brunei?
Muhammad Shah was the first Sultan of Brunei between 1363 and 1402.
How to Observe National Day Brunei
Visit Bandar Seri Begawan
The majority of the day’s ceremonies and celebrations happen in the capital, so head over to visit and watch the Sultan march in full regalia! The city is covered in the national flag and a big parade is held in the national stadium. This would be a colorful and interesting ceremony to see.
Visit the mosques
The people of Brunei spend a lot of the day praying for their country — its prosperity and growth. Head over to the mosques of Brunei and join the people in prayer.
Watch the performances
Apart from the military marches, athletes and cultural performers always present something on National Day, so make sure you catch the performances live or on T.V. This is especially good if you cannot travel and yet want to be a part of this celebration.
5 Facts About Brunei That You Probably Didn’t Know
Brunei had white Rajahs
James Brooke, a British soldier, slowly annexed land from the Sultan and took over the country. To stop him, the Sultan entered an agreement with the British, who then took over.
Petroleum was discovered in the 1920s
A lot of modern Brunei’s wealth and development is due to the discovery of oil fields.
The Sultan retired during the Japanese occupation
The Japanese offered full honors to the Sultan, who lived in Limbang during the entire time that the Japanese occupied the nation, when he retired completely from the throne.
Alcohol is illegal
In Brunei, selling and publicly consuming alcohol is illegal.
The independence proclamation was read at midnight
A mass gathering of people was organized on December 31, 1983, at the main mosques, and the declaration was read by the Sultan.
Why National Day Brunei is Important
Independence didn’t lead to war
We love the peace that accompanied Brunei’s independence. Thankfully, independence didn’t have to be accompanied by war and strife. Rather, the transition came with ease and peace.
We love the culture of Brunei
There’s no better day to celebrate everything that’s great about a nation than on its Independence Day. National Day in Brunei is a fantastic day to experience the best of Brunei’s culture.
The day fosters national unity and pride
Almost every national day comes with a sense of pride and unity among the citizens of a nation. Though things may not be perfect, we’re reminded of all the reasons we love our country on a national holiday. This is the same for Bruneians.
National Day Brunei dates