Man who wore many hats

B A Hussainmiya

Dato Paduka Haji Sumadi bin Sukaimi, who passed away on May 22, 2015, left an indelible mark on Brunei’s cultural life. I first met him in Kuala Lumpur in 1982 during a meeting organised by the Malaysian Gapena (Writers’ Association) and Dewan Bahasa Malaysia.

Dato Paduka Haji Sumadi was among the first Bruneians I’ve met during my visit to Brunei Darussalam in 1984 to attend the Malay World Meeting at the Brunei Teachers’ College.

A good communicator and a recognised singer, he also penned a number of publications on the various facets of the Brunei culture.

Dato Paduka Haji Sumadi was born in Seria on July 19, 1950. His ancestors were of Javanese origins. Once he had obtained a Bachelor’s degree in education from University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, he set off on his path as a teacher. By early 1980s he was made the principal of Berakas English School.

While he began his career as an educator, he later switched to public administration, holding various positions at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS). Having begun as a senior culture officer, he rose through the ranks to become the deputy director in 1994 and among others, was involved in the drafting of a national youth policy. He later served as Director of Information from July 1997 until May 1999.

Dato Paduka Haji Sumadi bin Sukaimi speaks at a Brunei Darussalam Association of Writers meeting in Dewan Bahasa Brunei. PHOTO: B A HUSSAINMIYA

Dato Paduka Haji Sumadi played a key role in the organising committee for the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Bandar Seri Begawan in 1999. The event was a success, due partly to the memorable opening and closing ceremonies of the Games, for which he was the performance director.

Dato Paduka Haji Sumadi also initiated Majlis Ilmu (Knowledge Convention) celebrations, conducted in conjunction with His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s birthday celebrations among other national day events.

As early as 1981, Dato Paduka Haji Sumadi wrote an essay on the role of Brunei Darussalam Association of Writers – or Asterawani – in the development of language and literature in Brunei Darussalam. titled Peranan gerakan masyarakat khususnya Osterawani dalam perkembangan bahasa dan sastera Melayu di Brunei.

He also produced a booklet, The Development of Theatre in Brunei Darussalam: A Survey, as well as picture book Brunei Darussalam: Pearl of Borneo, co-written with his colleague Haji Mohd Amin bin Begawan Pehin Khatib Dato Paduka Haji Sirat in 2000, which is among the coffee table books published on Brunei, featuring countless photographs from the Bruneian perspective.

In 1990, he wrote a treatise on Continuity and Change in Dance: The Brunei Darussalam Experience.

By then, he proved to be not only a man of letters but an artist and an accomplished songwriter. He wrote a number of songs for the Girl Guides Association of Brunei Darussalam (PPPBD), which earned him kudos and two badges of appreciation.

Dato Paduka Haji Sumadi was not merely an art aficionado, but took active part in social movements, especially in youth affairs and literary organisations.

He cultivated meaningful connections with the country’s top literati, who thrived under his guidance.

During His Majesty’s 60th birthday celebration awards ceremony in 2006, he was conferred the title of Dato Paduka; and in 2012, the meritorious youth leader award.