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Cablegate: Brunei's Only Political Party Welcomes U.S. Election Law

VZCZCXRO0750
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHBD #0256/01 3000251
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 270251Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4682
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN 000256

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS/COPPOLAMG, EAP/PD/AUGUSTUS-FERGUSONR

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR PHUM PREL BX
SUBJECT: BRUNEI'S ONLY POLITICAL PARTY WELCOMES U.S. ELECTION LAW
AND PARTY DEVELOPMENT EXPERT

SUMMARY
-------
1.(SBU) On October 17, 2009, U.S. election law and democratic
development consultant, Mr. Robert Dahl, spoke to Brunei's only
existing political party, the National Development Party (NDP), on
party growth and grassroots organizing. Mr. Dahl's visit was
supported by the Embassy as a means of outreach to Brunei's small
community of civil society organizations. Mr. Dahl commended NDP's
good practices of internal democracy. The challenge for both the
NDP and developing civil society remains the mindset that Bruneians
who participate in civil society will be incarcerated. Mr. Dahl
suggested NDP focus on membership recruitment. As important, NDP
must show Bruneians that participation with NDP helps both Brunei
and Brunei's Government (GoB). Unfortunately, the GoB hampered the
program by attempting to confiscate materials as Mr. Dahl arrived at
the airport and the Internal Security Division (ISD) collected all
materials related to his presentation. End Summary


LONG ROAD TO BRUNEI
--------------------
2. (SBU) Embassy Brunei facilited Mr. Robert Dahl, Election Law and
Democratic Development Consultant, of the International Foundation
for Election Systems (IFES) presentation, as part of post's Public
Diplomacy Speaker Program and in support of post's Mission Strategic
Plan (MSP) goals. Originally, in October 2007, Mr. Dahl was
scheduled speak to Brunei's two political parties, the National
Development Party (NDP) and the then existing Brunei National
Solidarity Party (PPKB). However, PPKB was deregistered for failure
to submit fiscal report to the Government of Brunei's (GoB). This
lead to cancelation of Mr. Dahl's visit and until, recently, post
has not been able to support a visit by Mr. Dahl.

3. (SBU) NDP's Deputy President, Malai Hassan, used his event
management company Ion-E Communication as a means to streamline the
GoB's cumbersome bureaucracy and approval process. Therefore,
Dahl's presentation was organized by Ion-E Communications and
co-partnered by NDP. Malai Hassan invited various government
departments and the University of Brunei Darussalam (UBD) to attend
the talk. Approximately fifty NDP members attended, but,
unfortunately, no GoB or UBD officials were present. However, the
leader of the deregistered PPKB - Dr Abdul Latiff Chuchu, attended.


NDP CHALLENGES
----------------
4. (SBU) On Friday, October 16, 2009, Robert Dahl paid a courtesy
call on NDP President Mohd Yassin Affendi at the NDP headquarters.
He also met NDP's Supreme Council members and Board of Advisors.
They explained Brunei's political situation and the problems NDP is
facing with local authorities. It was noted that the universal
right of freedom of assembly and freedom of press are not always
available in Brunei. For example, Brunei's two local daily
newspapers - Brunei Times and Borneo Bulletin - are often restricted
from providing press coverage of any of NDP's political activities.


5. (SBU) Bruneians have the mindset that "political participation
will lead to incarceration" which results in the lack of interest in
politics among the majority of society, especially Brunei's youths.
The fear of joining political party is further intensified by the
existing State of Emergency. Why join the political party when
Bruneians are living comfortably is a common refrain NDP leaders
hear.

6. (SBU) NDP is happy that the government has implemented an action
plan in addressing the issues raised by NDP on poverty, zakat
distribution, and housing. However, the more engage NDP is with
GoB government departments the more pressure they received from the
Ministry of Home Affairs and Prime Minister's Office. For example,
NDP currently has 29 branches located at all four districts -
Brunei/Muara, Tutong, Kuala Belait and Temburong - with each branch
housing 35 members. However a new regulation stipulates that each
branch must now have 50 members, and it is getting more difficult to
apply for approval in opening a new branch office.

REACHING OUT TO BRUNEI
----------------------
7. (SBU) On Sunday, October 18, NDP took Mr. Dahl to visit the
non-Muslim community of Bisaya. Malai Hassan wanted to expose Mr.
Dahl to those residing in Brunei whose voices are often not in the
mainstream of Brunei's political thought. Bisaya's residents are
deeply affected by the government's policy on the Malaysia - Brunei
territorial Limbang claim, which is an area in the Malaysian state
of Sarawak that Brunei has long claimed as its own territory. The
NDP has made pressing for resolution of the territorial claims to
Limbang one of their major party platforms and continues to be
concerned the GoB will forgo claims in return for concessions on oil

BANDAR SER 00000256 002.2 OF 003


producing regions on and off shore.


WHAT IS NDP's PURPOSE?
----------------------
8. (SBU) Mr. Dahl stated he did not see NDP as an opposition party
but a party for engaging people in civic affairs. This is not a
challenge to the monarchy. It is clear through NDP's vision and
mission that the party has no intention in exercising power within
Brunei but provides a connection between government and society.
This is where NDP needs to educate the public and engage in
advocacy.

NEED FOR MORE MEMBERS
---------------------
10. (SBU) To overcome the membership recruitment problem, Mr. Dahl
suggested the heads of the branch parties better communicate the
party's ideas with the community, and to continue to show they are
patriotic. In addition, it must be demonstrated that the NDP is
capable of developing good policy alternatives on a wide range of
issues and that NDP's ideas have gained respect and favor within the
government. NDP should "help people recognize their involvement is
really needed and that the cost of not participating is greater than
any costs of participating".

11. (SBU) NDP's commitment and capacity to develop and present good
policies, according to Mr. Dahl, "is a valuable asset that is not
being well-utilized under the present political system. It is not
only unfair, it is inefficient for society". Mr Dahl suggested
that the theme of NDP's message to Brunei should be based on the
party's belief which is 'government process requires transparency,
accountability, and true participation by the public'. NDP should
demonstrate to Bruneians that their individual help to NDP is
important for themselves and for the nation.

COMPLIMENTS TO NDP
------------------
12. (SBU) Mr. Dahl was impressed by how comprehensive and
coordinated NDP organizational structure is, and will use NDP as a
model in the next countries where he will work. He also commended
NDP's good practice of internal democracy which is a based in
grassroots/community support.

FINAL THOUGHTS
--------------
13. (SBU) In his closing notes, Mr. Dahl said Brunei already has a
two-party system; with Brunei's overwhelming dominant ruling party
as the caucus- cadre parties (or what might be called elite-based
parties) and NPD as the branch-mass (or membership-based) parties.
The difference between the political parties in Brunei is about the
vitality and openness of the political process.

NDP MEMBERS SPEAK UP
-----------------------
14. (SBU) During the Question and Answer session a NDP head of
women's bureau, Hajah Saemah, asked, 'Will Brunei have an election?'
Mr. Dahl believes it is "absolutely possible that Brunei will have
an election one day. NDP is laying the groundwork for a possible
election". However, "it is a delicate task" where "people can push
too hard, too fast". Malai Hassan asked Mr. Dahl on how to practice
democracy. Mr. Dahl answered there is "no magic formula or instant
fixes in the problem that NDP is facing" but "it will take creative
thinking, courage and incremental efforts". He noted that Brunei
does have small elements of democracy including feedback to the
Sultan who wants to hear what people think. In addition, NDP's
proposed policies are recognized and absorbed by the government
which is an accomplishment but not NDP's final goal. Members of
NDP's Board of Advisors asked such questions like "how can Brunei
practice democracy?" and "what is USG going to do with Brunei's
situation?" Mr. Dahl made it clear that he is not representing the
USG and that he is not here to tell NDP what to do but to provide
them the tools so they can take the next step.

LET'S MAKE THIS JUST LITTLE MORE DIFFICULT
-------------------------------------------
14. (SBU) Upon Mr. Dahl's arrival, Brunei's customs officials
checked his luggage and attempted to confiscate two of his books on
politics. The customs officials said they must confiscate the books
because of Brunei's censorship regulation. Although customs
officials did not confiscated his books but they made photocopies of
both books. In addition, the Embassy was informed that Brunei's
Internal Security Department (ISD) sent two of their officers to NDP
headquarters to collect all paper-works related to Mr. Dahl's visit.


COMMENT
--------
15. (SBU). The main challenges for NDP are to attract the youths to

BANDAR SER 00000256 003.2 OF 003


get interested in politics as they are the future generation as well
as communicate to the Bruneian people how the NDP can help Brunei be
a better nation. We are pleased that this long awaited presentation
was finally able to be held in Brunei. While there were obstacles,
Mr. Dahl's presentation was well received and focused on realistic
assessments and possibilities for NDP's development within Brunei's
civil and political society.

TODD

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