Tens of thousands of Bruneians thronged the streets of the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, yesterday to catch a glimpse of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah in a royal procession which was the highlight of the ruler’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.

In a ceremony marked by pomp and pageantry, the 71-year-old Sultan and his wife rode in a gilded chariot pulled by 50 members of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces clad in traditional black and gold woven cloth. A military band, traditional instruments and Malay singers were also part of the procession.

Sultan Bolkiah, who ascended the throne on Oct 5, 1967, after his father, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien, abdicated, is the 29th ruler in a monarchy spanning 654 years. The second-longest-reigning monarch in the world after Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, he has led Brunei to independence and transformed it into one of South-east Asia’s most developed countries.

Many regional heads of state and government, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, as well as the rulers of Malaysian states, are in Bandar Seri Begawan to attend the royal celebrations.

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