Omar Ali Saifuddien III

Sultan Sir Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien (Jawi: عمر علي سيف الدين سعد الخير والدين; 23 September 1914 – 7 September 1986) was the 28th Sultan of Brunei, reigning from 4 June 1950 until his abdication from the throne on 5 October 1967.

Omar Ali Saifuddien III
Portrait of Omar 'Ali Saifuddien III in 1960
28th Sultan of Brunei
Reign4 June 1950 – 5 October 1967
PredecessorAhmad Tajuddin
SuccessorHassanal Bolkiah
Minister of Defence
Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces
Tenure1 January 1984 – 7 September 1986
PredecessorOffice established
SuccessorHassanal Bolkiah
MonarchHassanal Bolkiah
BornOmar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien
(1914-09-23)23 September 1914
Brunei Town, Brunei
Died7 September 1986(1986-09-07) (aged 71)
Istana Darussalam, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Burial8 September 1986
Kubah Makam Di Raja, Brunei Town, Brunei
    Dayang Siti Amin
    (m. 1937; div. 1944)
      Pengiran Anak Damit
      (m. 1941; died 1979)
        Pengiran Anak Hajah Salhah
        (m. 1980)
        FatherSultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II
        MotherPengiran Anak Siti Fatimah
        ReligionSunni Islam

        He was also Brunei's first Minister of Defence after the country's independence. He was known as "The Architect of Modern Brunei",[1][2] "The Royal Poet",[2] and "The Father of Independence".[2] During his reign, 3 chief ministers were appointed according to the Constitution. They were Ibrahim Mohammed Jaafar,[3] Marsal Maun,[4] and Yura Halim.[5]

        Early life and education

        Pengiran Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien was born at Istana Kota, Kampong Sultan Lama, Brunei Town on 23 September 1914.[6] He was the second son of Muhammad Jamalul Alam II and Raja Isteri Fatimah.[7] Omar Ali Saifuddien, under the behest of his British mentor and father-figure Sir Roland Evelyn Turnbull, studied at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) in Perak, British Malaya from 1932 to 1936. As a result, he was the first of the Brunei sultans to receive formal education in a foreign institution.[8]

        After completing education in Malaya, he returned to Brunei in 1936 to work in the Forestry Department, as a Cadet Officer. In 1937, he was transferred to the Judiciary Department, also became an administrative officer in 1938.[7] During the Japanese occupation of Brunei from 1941 until 1945, Omar Ali Saifuddien worked under State Secretary Ibrahim Mohammad Jahfar.[7] After the Second World War, in 1947, he was subsequently appointed a member of Brunei State Council and chairman of the Syariah Court.[9] He had the title Pengiran Bendahara Seri Maharaja Permaisuara conferred on him by his brother, Ahmad Tajuddin on 15 July 1947.

        Reign (1950-1967)

        Omar Ali Saifuddien in c.1950

        Upon the sudden death of his brother in Singapore, who left no male heirs, on 4 June 1950, he was proclaimed the next Sultan on 6 June 1950. Omar Ali Saifuddien was crowned as the Sultan Dan Yang Di-Pertuan in the Old Lapau on 31 May 1951. In conjunction of the coronation, he was conferred with the Honorary Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG) by Queen Elizabeth II.[7] In September 1951, upon becoming Sultan, he performed his first pilgrimage to Mecca.[10] He also attended the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey, London on 2 June 1953. On 9 June 1953, he was conferred with the Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (KCMG) by Queen Elizabeth II.[11]

        Constitution of Brunei

        In 1952 the Sultan worked for the implementation of the constitution as the foundation of governance and the achievement of independence from the United Kingdom.

        In July 1953, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III formed a seven-member committee named Tujuh Serangkai to find out the citizens’ views regarding a written constitution for Brunei. In May 1954, a meeting attended by the Sultan, the Resident and the High Commissioner was held to discuss the findings of the committee. In March 1959 the Sultan led a delegation to London to discuss the proposed constitution.[12] The British delegation was led by Alan Lennox-Boyd, 1st Viscount Boyd of Merton who was the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The British Government later accepted the draft constitution.

        On 29 September 1959, the Constitution Agreement was signed in Brunei Town. The agreement was signed by Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III and Sir Robert Scott, the Commissioner-General for Southeast Asia.[13] Some of the points of the constitution were:[14]

        • The Sultan was made the Supreme Head of State.
        • Brunei was responsible for its internal administration.
        • The British Government was now responsible for foreign and defence affairs only.
        • The post of Resident was abolished and replaced by a British High Commissioner.

        Five councils were also set up:[15]

        ...The success which we had get in this year (1959) had attract and made us happy, especially as a victory which our people had dreamed of, that is the Written Constitution for Brunei. With this Constitution, our country now faced one great change. With the enforcement of this Written Constitution, which, hopefully, can be enforced, this mean Brunei will had its internal self government.

        Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III, on his Titah on his 43rd Birthday celebration on 23 September 1959

        First National Development Plan

        The First National Development plan was introduced in 1953.[16] A total sum of B$100 million was approved by the Brunei State Council for the plan. E.R. Bevington from the Colonial Office in Fiji.[17] A $14 million Gas Plant was built under the plan. In 1954, survey and exploration work were undertaken by the Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP) on both offshore and onshore fields. By 1956, production reached 114,700 bpd. He had launched the first delivery of 10-inch oil pipeline from the seabed off the coast of the Seria oil field on 28 October 1964.

        Developments on education were also made. In 1952, a written policy on education was made.[17] By 1958, expenditure on education totaled at $4 million.[17] Communications were also improved with new roads built and reconstruction works at Berakas Airport being completed at 1954.[18]

        Omar Ali Saifuddien delivering a titah through Radio Brunei on December 8, 1962 from Istana Darul Hana.

        Second National Development Plan

        The Second National Development Plan was launched in 1962.[18] A major oil and gas field was discovered in 1963, with this discovery, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) became important. Developments in the oil and gas sector has continued actively and oil production has steadily increased since then.[19] The plan also saw an increase of production of meat and eggs. The fishing industry increased its output by 25% throughout the course of the plan. A deepwater Muara Port was also constructed under the plan. Power requirements were met and studies were made to provide electricity to rural areas.[19] Efforts were made to eradicate malaria, with the help of the World Health Organization, under the plan. Efforts were successful, bringing the down the cases of malaria from 300 cases in 1953 to only 66 cases in 1959.[20] The death rate was also brought down from 20 per thousand in 1947 to 11.3 per thousand in 1953.[20] This has been attributed to public sanitation and improvement of drainage and the provision of piped pure water to the population.[20]

        State Election 1962

        Brunei's first state election was held on 30 and 31 August 1962. This was to elect members to sit in the Brunei Legislative Council. These elected members would then be involved in discussions of governmental policies. However, beside this, the Sultan still held the absolute power and authority in the government.[21]

        Among the political parties which contested in the election were Brunei People's Party (PRB), Barisan Nasional Organisation (BNO), and Brunei United Party (BUP). The polling went on for two days on 30 and 31 August 1962. The Brunei People's Party won the election.[21]

        Brunei Revolt

        When Tunku Abdul Rahman, the prime minister of the Federation of Malaya announced his proposal for a merger of Singapore, North Borneo, Sarawak, and Brunei, Omar Ali Saifuddien saw this as an opportunity for Brunei to achieve independence from British influence. He sent a congratulatory telegraph to Tunku Abdul Rahman, showing his support for the merger.[22] For him, Brunei as a small country, still needed a protection of a larger country; the only way to achieve this was by merging with Malaysia and the rest of the states. This view was also shared by Lee Kuan Yew, the then-prime minister of Singapore.[23][24]

        The PRB, including its leader, A.M. Azahari was against the merger. According to them, if Brunei was to join the Federation, Brunei would not have achieve full independence. Instead, it was only transfer of power from Britain to Malaya. This was called as neo-colonisation. On 8 December 1962, the PRB led a rebellion against the government. With British military aid deployed from Singapore, the rebellion was later crushed and PRB were defeated.[25]

        North Borneo Federation

        Omar Ali Saifuddien pinning a medal on Marianne Elisabeth Lloyd-Dolbey in 1960.

        After the rebellion, the discussion of joining the proposed North Borneo Federation continues. Omar Ali Saifuddien sent a delegation to attend meetings of the Malaysian Solidarity Consolidation Committee (MSCC). The views of the people were sought by the committee, which was chaired by Marsal Maun, Chief Minister of Brunei at that time.[26]

        In 1963, a meeting was held to discuss the prospect of Brunei joining Malaysia. They failed to reach an agreement on the issues of Brunei's oil revenue and federal rights to taxation. Even the initial date for the federation (which was 31 August 1963) was postponed to 16 September, no agreement was reached between the two sides.[27]

        Religious Affairs and Education

        Upon his ascension to the throne, Omar Ali Saiffudien also became the head of the Islamic religion in the country.[28] One important contribution of the Sultan was to regularise Islamic administration in Brunei. In 1948, a religious council, comprising the Mohammedan Religious Advisers was formed. Due to the Sultan's initiative, the council met for the first time on 31 January 1948. He himself was appointed chairman of this council. After examining several laws on Islamic affairs in the Malay Peninsula, the board made new proposals regarding the religious administration in Brunei.[28]

        According to his speech during the Opening Ceremony of the Shariah Council,

        The purpose of the Shariah Council is to develop policies and teachings of Islam and to promote and defend the sovereignty of the holy religion of Islam. With the purposes of which are embedded in the minds of all of us, God-willing, Islam will be stepped-up, developed, keel and wide.

        Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III

        He was also responsible for the formation of the Department of Religious Affairs on 1 July 1954. The department was responsible for all the important decisions made on Islam in Brunei. All aspects of Islamic activities such as community life, laws, education, missionary activities and social administration were supervised by these two religious bodies.[29]

        Notable visits by foreign leaders during reign



        Omar Ali Saifuddien before his abdication in 1967.

        After ruling for 17 years, on 4 October 1967, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien willingly abdicated in favour of his eldest son, Crown Prince Hassanal Bolkiah.[33] At the time of the announcement, the Crown Prince was in England, training as a cadet at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. The Prince returned immediately to Brunei.

        Whereas I am happy to tell from the feelings of my word in declaring to the Government and all the citizens and residents of Brunei is that I will abdicate the Throne on 4 October 1967 is fixed and final and irrevocable.

        Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III announced his abdication on 4 October 1967

        The President of the Council declared that on 4 October 1967, His Royal Highness Maulana Al Sultan Sir Omar Ali Saifuddien has, pursuant to Chapter 19 of the Proclamation of the Coronation of King and Regent in 1950, declared that his intention cannot be withdrawn, to retire from the throne. The National Assembly, in its conference session on 4 October 1967 confirms the installation of His Royal Highness Paduka Seri Pengiran Muda Mahkota Hassanal Bolkiah, the Crown Prince as the rightful heir under the law to His greatness as the Sultan of Brunei.

        Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Setia Negara Pengiran Haji Muhammad Yusof bin Pengiran Haji Abdul Rahim, on 5 October 1967

        Coronation of Hassanal Bolkiah

        After his abdication, his eldest son, Crown Prince Hassanal Bolkiah ascended the throne to become the 29th Sultan of Brunei on 4 October 1967.[34] It was then he was referred to as Seri Begawan Sultan (Retired Sultan).[7]

        The coronation ceremony began with the flying of the yellow flag at Bukit Panggal and the red flag at Bukit Sungai Kebun in February 1968. The announcement was also made throughout the country by Radio Brunei.[35] The new Sultan rode to his coronation at the Lapau Building on 1 August 1968, on a royal carriage drawn by fifty specially selected soldiers of the Royal Brunei Malay Regiment.[36]

        Omar Ali Saifuddien placed the crown on the head of his son, and handed him the Keris si-Naga, symbol of supreme royal power in Brunei. Following this he removed his ceremonial sabre, swearing loyalty to his son as head of state and religion. Like his father before him, the new Sultan took vows to maintain peace and prosperity of the nation. He also promised to improve the standard of living of his subjects through various development projects and the protect and uphold Islam and Brunei's customs and traditions.[36] After the crowning ceremony, the new Sultan proceeded in procession through the capital, passing lines of school children cheering Daulat Tuanku (Long live my King).[37]

        Among the foreign dignitaries who attended the ceremony were, the prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, the Malaysian prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, and the British High Commissioner to Brunei, A.R. Adair, who represented Queen Elizabeth II.

        Later life

        Portrait of Omar Ali Saifuddien in full military dress.

        After his abdication from the throne at the age of 53, he took the title of Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan (referred to the former sultan after the abdication), a title he held until his death in 1986.[7] He was conferred with the Honorary Grand Commander of the Victorian Order (GCVO) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Brunei on 29 February 1972.[38]

        • He witnessed the signing of the amendment and revision of the 1959 Agreement at the Lapau, Bandar Seri Begawan on 23 November 1971.
        • He accompanied his son, Hassanal Bolkiah to London to initial the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation on 29 September 1978.
        • He attended the signing of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation to assume full responsibility towards the independence and sovereignty of Brunei Darussalam, and responsibility for foreign affairs and defence from the United Kingdom. He became one of the signatories of the treaty which was held at the Lapau, Bandar Seri Begawan on 7 January 1979.
        • He also attended the opening ceremony of Brunei's own national stadium, which named as Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium at Berakas on 23 September 1983. It was one of the most modern stadiums in Southeast Asia during that time.

        Independence of Brunei

        AND WHEREAS, since 1959, the Brunei State Constitution, enacted and promulgated during the reign of the previous Sultan, HM the Begawan Sultan Sir Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien II ibni Almarhum Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II, the 28th Sultan of Brunei, has served as the fundamental law of this nation...
        AND NOW THEREFORE, on this very day, the 31st of December of the year 1983, the 17th year of our reign, I, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, as Sultan and Yang di-Pertua Negara of Brunei Darussalam, the Adobe of Peace, and its territories, officially declare, with the grace and mercy of God the Omnipotent and the Just... before the people of Brunei Darussalam and that of the whole world, that Brunei Darussalam, effective beginning on 1 January 1984, corresponding to the 27th day of Rabīʿ al-ʾAwwal in the year 1404 since the Hegira of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him), in the mercy of the Almighty and Just God, is an independent, sovereign and democratic nation ruled as a Malay Islamic Monarchy using thus as basis for governance, morality and values the teachings of the Islamic Faith and the traditions embedded in the Sunnah wa'l-Jamā'ah based on the principles of justice, trust and freedom, and with the guidance and pleasure of the Omnipotent and Just God, will always strive to obtain peace and security, welfare and happiness for all our people......
        May the Almighty God, thru the blessings of his Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him), grant a long and fruitful life to our nation, Brunei Darussalam, forever and ever.

        — Excerpt from the Declaration of Independence of Brunei[39]

        At the stroke of midnight on 31 December 1983 in a public event held at the Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien Park, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah officially proclaimed that Brunei Darussalam had achieved its independence and sovereignty after 97 years of British protection. Soon after the reading of the declation, Omar Ali Saifuddien was honoured by the Sultan to lead the masses of people chanting Allahu Akbar (God is Great) three times. This was followed by the singing of the national anthem, a 21-gun salute by the Royal Brunei Land Forces and a prayer was read by the State Mufti to give God's blessings to the newly independent nation.[40]


        Although he had abdicated 17 years ago and Brunei had achieved its independence, he continued to play an important role after his appointed by the Sultan as Minister of Defence in Brunei's first cabinet ministers and consequently conferred the rank of Field Marshal in the Royal Brunei Armed Forces.[41]

        He also welcomed the arrival of Yasser Arafat, the Chairman of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) on his official visit to Brunei on 26 July 1984.[42]


        Omar Ali Saifuddien died on 7 September 1986 at the age of 71. It was reported that he has been sick for weeks prior to his death.[43]

        ... As a son of a dear father, I still feel the feelings of sadness and grief, and will always be felt, which is not limited to a period of time. Because his death is a great loss for me and my family. Moreover, he is not only a father who always pour a friendly affection to his children, he always gave me advice up to the end of his life.

        Hassanal Bolkiah, in his speech broadcast by Radio and Television Brunei, October 20, 1986

        Several foreign leaders had given their quotes about Omar Ali Saifuddien,

        I know the Paduka Seri (Sir Omar) since 1959. My late father was so close to him. I also highly respect him because to me he was a brilliant man

        Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang, in an interview with Utusan Malaysia journalist, 25 April 1984

        The Late Highness had a unique position in the history of Brunei and in the hearts of all who knew him in Britain.

        British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher

        A Surah Yassin book was published with the consent of Hassanal Bolkiah, to mark the 40th day of the passing away of his late father.

        Churchill Memorial Building

        He was a keen admirer of the wartime British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill.[44] In 1971, his admiration became clear when he opened the world's only museum solely dedicated to Winston Churchill and it was named the Churchill Memorial Building, Bandar Seri Begawan which costed an estimated $5 million.[45] Since its opening, it had been a notable tourist attraction in Brunei and also became well known throughout Southeast Asia.[46] In 1992, in conjunction with Silver Jubilee of His Majesty's Ascension to the Throne celebrations, the memorial had become the Royal Brunei Regalia Building.[44] Also in 2017, the building was renamed to Royal Regalia Museum in conjunction with the Golden Jubilee.

        Personal life


        Omar Ali Saifuddien together with his son, Jefri Bolkiah in 1967.

        His first wife was Dayang Siti Amin binti Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Setia Laila Diraja Awang Haji Hashim, but the couple had no children and later divorced in 1944. On 6 September 1941, he married his cousin as his second wife, Pengiran Anak Damit binti Pengiran Bendahara Seri Maharaja Permaisuara Pengiran Anak Abdul Rahman. She was the great-granddaughter of Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin. She bore him 10 children:

        • Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (born 1946)
        • Prince Muhammad Bolkiah (born 1948)
        • Prince Sufri Bolkiah (born 1951)
        • Prince Jefri Bolkiah (born 1954)
        • Princess Masna Bolkiah (born 1948)
        • Princess Nor'ain Bolkiah (born 1950)[47]
        • Princess Amal Umi Kalthum Al-Islam Bolkiah (born 1956)
        • Princess Amal Rakiah Bolkiah (born 1957)
        • Princess Amal Nasibah Bolkiah (born 1960)[47]
        • Princess Amal Jefriah Bolkiah (born 1963)[47]

        On 13 September 1979, his wife, Paduka Suri Seri Begawan Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Damit died. After that, for the last time, he married Pengiran Bini Pengiran Anak Hajah Salhah binti Pengiran Bendahara Seri Maharaja Permaisuara Pengiran Anak Abdul Rahman, who was also his sister-in-law.

        Personal interests

        He had an interest in writing poems. Apart from that, he was also known for designing the national medals. He also made a design of flowers on his clothes, the "Tenunan Brunei" which he wore on several occasions. Also, he was interested in self-defence martial arts such as silat and kuntau.[48]



        • The capital, Brunei Town, was renamed Bandar Seri Begawan in his honor, on 5 October 1970, by his eldest son, Hassanal Bolkiah. "Begawan" was Omar Ali Saifuddien's title after he abdicated.
        • Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque was named after the sultan, completed in 1958.
        • Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien at the capital.
        • Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien College.
        • The Seri Begawan Religious Teaching University.
        • The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Institute of Islamic studies of Universiti Brunei Darussalam.
        • The Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan Science College.
        • The Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in Kampong Katimahar.
        • The longest bridge in Southeast Asia, the Temburong Bridge, 30-kilometre (19-mile) long which connects Brunei-Muara District with Temburong District was named Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Bridge in recognition to his role as the Architect of Modern Brunei on 14 July 2020.[49]

        Appearance in currency

        • His portrait is depicted on the obverse of the 1967 issue of coins. The reverse of these coins, and all subsequent series, was designed by Christopher Ironside OBE. The coins issued were 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cent.[50]
        • His portrait appears on all the first issue notes (dated 1967) in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 ringgit/dollar.
        • His portrait is also depicted on Brunei's current issue 500 ringgit/dollar notes dated 2006 and 2013.
        • An image of him crowning his son as his successor appears on the reverse of the commemorative 25 ringgit/dollar note dated 1992.


        • Omar Ali Saifuddin III, (Haji, Sultan of Brunei) (2006). Syair Perlembagaan Negeri Brunei. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Brunei, Kementerian Kebudayaan, Belia dan Sukan.
        • Omar Ali Saifuddin III, (Haji, Sultan of Brunei) (1994). Syair Asli Rajang Hari. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Brunei.
        • Omar Ali Saifuddin III, (Haji, Sultan of Brunei) (2008). Rampaian Laila Syair. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Brunei, Kementerian Kebudayaan, Belia dan Sukan.



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