/ / The Other Side


The Column is pleased to feature Ms. Rina Nurhafizah Rezza Binti Abdul Rani, a member of the ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ASEAN-ERAT) from Brunei Darussalam and the current Head of Operations at the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), a position that she has held since September 2018.

The year 2020 was among the most challenging of her career when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Brunei in March. The NDMC had been monitoring the outbreak since the end of 2019 and was engaged in preparation and close coordination with the Ministry of Health. From January 2020, the NDMC made plans to repatriate Bruneian students from abroad and these plans included identifying isolation venues at hotels and government facilities, and the procurement of personal protection equipment (PPE) supplies for frontline staff at land, air and sea borders.

When the coronavirus hit Brunei, the NDMC took on the role of supporting non-clinical operations with the Ministry of Health by facilitating the operations at the Ministry of Health Emergency Operation Centre (MOHEOC). From the beginning of the outbreak in Brunei until the Entry Travel Pass Portal System set up by the Prime Minister’s Office was introduced in September 2020. This involved ensuring all individuals arriving in Brunei by air, land or sea were isolated directly in their respective COVID-19 monitoring centres.

Ms. Rina was tasked with monitoring all non-clinical operations. Brunei had experienced pandemics before, including the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, but policies and procedures were rapidly amended and new ones introduced as a result of the dynamics, challenges and need for damage control throughout the operation. Also taking into consideration other countries’ experiences, many changes were made in order to ensure that best practices were implemented. Brunei fully optimised the government’s whole-nation approach with all government and non-government agencies providing full support in their respective roles.

She has been with the NDMC since 2009. However, her career was mostly spent at the planning and analysis division. She admits that sitting in the operations division has been a major challenge for her, but her knowledge and expertise in training and project management, related to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and resilience, have been invaluable in her current position.

Ms Rina is also a graduate of the AHA Centre Executive (ACE) Programme. During her time on the ACE Programme, she received the ACE Most Valuable Player 2019 Award together with two colleagues for consistently demonstrating high levels of engagement and great initiative in collaborating effectively.

She says that her ACE training was a great inspiration during the pandemic. She remembers a message from H.E. Jo Tyndal, New Zealand High Commissioner to Singapore, in a Leader’s Talk session while she was in ACE, “One of the important things for a leader is leading with kindness – to lead with patience, empathy and respect for other people. Kindness is not about naivety or weakness, it is about strength.” This message gave encouragement to her, especially during the most difficult times managing the pandemic.

“It was a very difficult period, but I am glad that I was there with the rest of the coordinators and frontliners working together. There were times where we were really exhausted, worn out, but with good leadership and teaming up with high-spirited people and the support given to each other, we managed to do it together and plant in our minds that achieving our ultimate objective in ensuring the safety of our nation was the most important thing for all of us. To date, Alhamdulillah, Brunei has already passed one year with no local transmissions,” she said.

Since graduating from the ACE Programme, Ms Rina has continued on her career within the NDMC. She has also taken an active role in representing the NDMC in the meetings of the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM), including serving as an ASEAN-ERAT advisory member and representing the NDMC at the meeting of the Working Group for Preparedness, Response and Recovery.

Talking about her hopes for the future, she hopes that ASEAN can stand united, and be able to achieve its objective of continuously and proactively creating a safe, adaptive, inclusive and disaster-resilient region, and fulfilling its motto of One ASEAN One Response.


Written by : Hillary Michael Hegarty | Photo Credit : Theophilus Yanuarto