It was raining -- and barely dawn -- on Columbus Day, when the first members of our staff arrived to finish preparations for the opening of our new U.S. Embassy building in Bandar Seri Begawan, capital of Brunei Darussalam. Over the weekend, workers and staff had decked out the new compound's front façade and grounds with tents, tables, curtains and ribbons. A backdrop of red, white, and blue welcomed our distinguished guests from the Brunei Government, diplomatic community, embassy staff and friends.
Guests of honor Brunei Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II Pehin Lim Jock Seng and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt M. Campbell joined U.S. Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Daniel L. Shields, III and State Department Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) Managing Director Rodney A. Evans to cut the ribbon on our new embassy on October 10, 2011. Fortunately, the rain had stopped by the time of the actual ribbon cutting. The ceremony occurred during the 161th anniversary year since the 1850 signing of a treaty of Peace, Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation between the United States and Brunei. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, who included a stop in Brunei during his Asia trip, said that the building defines a solid foundation between our two countries.
As Ambassador Shields stated in his speech, "Our partnership has grown in breadth and depth, based on the shared beliefs of peace, free enterprise, and cooperation. This beautiful new embassy is an important symbol of our countries' ever deepening relationship. I look at this building and see the product of Americans and Bruneians working together to build something of lasting value. The same can be said of the decades of political cooperation. The Governments of the United States of America and Brunei Darussalam have worked together to address issues of mutual concern such as increasing trade between our countries, strengthening military engagement, cooperating in regional security, and fostering understanding through educational exchanges."
After cutting the ribbon, our distinguished visitors were then welcomed to a tour of our new embassy. The first "Standard Secure Mini Compound" built by OBO, it was a $28 million project that broke ground in 2009, creating jobs in both the United States and Brunei. It also proudly features an environment-friendly and energy-efficient design. Our new compound was featured in the March 2011 issue of State Magazine and the design and green technology will also, we're told, be used elsewhere. Our new location amidst the Brunei jungle is a great contrast from our former location above a restaurant on the fourth and fifth floors of a commercial building downtown. As more of our diplomatic neighbors move their embassies near ours, we have little to complain about our new home -- aside from the occasional roving monkey and nostalgia for Dim Sum!