P. M. Shariffuddin

  The Society lost an outstandingly faithful friend and ally in the person of one of its most cherished Life Members, Pengiran Dato Paduka Haji Shariffuddin bin Pengiran Haji Metali — known to all as P. M. Shariffuddin — who passed away peacefully in Brunei on Sunday afternoon, 22 April 2018, aged 81.

P. M. Shariffuddin was born on 19 October 1936 at Tutong, then a rural backwater in central Brunei despite being its third largest district. Growing up in pre-war Brunei exposed P. M. Shariffuddin to a number of harsh but compelling realities. His was not a wealthy family and his humble circumstances meant that his early life was far from comfortable. He once recalled having to walk a great distance through jungles and under the scorching tropical sun in order to attend the village school at Tutong.

He was fortunate, however, to have found inspiration in the person of his uncle Pengiran Haji Muhammad Yusuf Abdul Rahim — like his nephew, an MBRAS life member and an illustrious official who later rose to be Brunei’s chief secretary — whose example early on impressed upon P. M. Shariffuddin the indispensability of obtaining a sound education as key to greater things. With this in mind, P. M. Shariffuddin applied to and was admitted to the Government English School at Brunei Town, where he diligently pursued his secondary education. This was the only institution in Brunei at the time that offered an English education and operated along the lines of an English preparatory school. Originally established in 1951, it was later renamed the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien College (better known today as the SOASC) in 1955.

After having duly completed his secondary education, P. M. Shariffuddin was sent by the Brunei government in April 1957 to join the Sarawak Museum at Kuching, working directly under the supervision of the irascible Tom Harrisson, another legendary figure associated with the Society, who was then engaged in preliminary excavations of the Niah Caves. This three-year assignment saw P. M. Shariffuddin learning much about museum work in Kuching in preparation for Brunei’s own museum which he would later helm as its first director. At the end of this stint, P. M. Shariffuddin embarked on diploma studies in anthropology and public administration offered by the Museums Association of the United Kingdom.

Exposure to archaeological work and Harrisson’s tutelage sharpened P. M. Shariffuddin’s own skills in historical research apart from fueling his interest in the then largely unexplored historical terrain of his own country, Brunei. On the strength of his experience and training, P. M. Shariffuddin became the first director and curator of the Brunei Museum, its earliest museum, when it was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II during her visit in 1972. Indeed, P. M. Shariffuddin played a leading part in the inception and construction of the museum, which bore his personal fingerprints.

In his lifetime, P. M. Shariffuddin was looked upon as a leading authority in the history of Brunei. His expertise and opinion was sought by many, aided by his extraordinary command of genealogical history of the Brunei kings, prodigious memory and sound grasp of the finer aspects of Brunei sociocultural history. All these made him an indispensable reference point on the early history of the sultanate.

P. M. Shariffuddin was also an ardent supporter of local arts and crafts, and was one of the key figures in setting up the Brunei Arts and Handicrafts Centre, located on the banks of the river in the capital. Soon after his retirement from public service, P. M. Shariffuddin emerged as a respected local entrepreneur with diverse business interests. His forays into business, which began in the 1980s, soon intensified after his retirement. Under the PDS brand, which he successfully established and developed, P. M. Shariffuddin was responsible for a number of concerns such as PDS Abattoir Sdn Bhd, PDS Meat Industries Sdn Bhd and the PDS International School, all of which reflected his undeniable acumen and passionate zeal for business.

P. M. Shariffuddin joined the Society many years ago but it was in 1981 that he was promoted to a Life Membership, the same year that the privilege was accorded to his uncle, Pengiran Haji Muhammad Yusuf who passed away fairly recently in April 2016 aged 92. In his capacity as Vice-President, P. M. Shariffuddin was looked upon as a learned, venerable figure who offered his views unobtrusively, especially those made towards the general improvement of the Society.

Many of those fortunate enough to have been acquainted with him would agree that P. M. Shariffuddin was a gentleman of the old order: beneficent, kind, mild mannered and disarmingly polite. In a highly memorable 2011 visit to Brunei by the MBRAS Council, he proved an exemplary host, generous and amiable, and sparing no trouble to ensure that all the needs of his guests were taken into account. The Council feels deeply bereaved at the passing of P. M. Shariffuddin and extends its sincere condolences to his family. It is hoped that the soul of this worthy gentleman would rest in peace and that his memory would inspire in others a desire to live by such qualities as humility, honesty, warmth, dedication and unflagging industry, displayed by this man in his lifetime.

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