Outstanding and irreplaceable

Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.

Shannon Alder, bestselling author

He was known for being kind, generous, unassuming and various other attributes.

In the workplace, he was exemplary in his work ethics but most of all his laughter was contagious.

Today, just two days after his first anniversary of death, I must say that to me, the late Jimmy Adit was not just a colleague — he was truly a great buddy and we shared a love for writing and singing idol, namely the King of Rock N Roll Elvis Aaron Presley. In fact, he was known as Eljim for his role as an Elvis tribute artiste (ETA). Most of all, he was a caring friend and for our mutual endearment we called each other unggal (buddy).

The demise of unggal Eljim on June 8 last year truly left a vacuum in the journalism and music fraternity of Sarawak in particular and Malaysia as a whole, especially pertaining to his writings in a local broadsheet (writing as Jadit for ‘Dayak Music Now and Then’), as himself in Ant Daily and New Sarawak Tribune in that order. Many consider him as an irreplaceable entity in terms of collegiality, for the simple reason that he was never bossy and that he treated his subordinates as equals.

We crossed paths many times in 1986 and 1987, during private and public functions, long before our involvement with the media.

He was then serving as a senior staff in Serian District Council while my humble self was attached to SMK Serian, first as senior assistant and later as principal.

Jimmy was a member of one local Serian band as lead guitarist and vocalist, but we never played together despite having a common love for the king.

It was in 2006 that we reunited and renewed bond, namely when I joined The Borneo Post in March. The first time that he invited ETAs to his Kampung Sorak Dayak, Serian home was in 2008 where four of us, namely Wilfred Vincent Ragam, Reynolds Gregory, Ges Barundang @ Elges Presley and yours truly were attired in EP jumpsuits to a great astonishment — and excitement — of the scores of multi-racial guests during the Christmas Eve at Jimmy’s premises. Datuk Seri Richard Riot, then human resource minister was among them — in fact, it was due to our host that I was reunited with the minister whom I knew back in 1979 when he served in Sarikei as Divisional Youth officer and was our Regional Scout commissioner while I was teaching in Rejang Teachers College in Bintangor and was 27th Malaysian Training Troop (or KLM-27) scout group commissioner.  

In 2014, it was also he who reunited me with another Serian politician Datuk Frederick Bayoi Manggi (now deceased) whom I knew back in the early 80s, thanks to our mutual interest in card games at Keng Chew Association premises next to Sibu’s Post Office. This reunion in Serian was special as it was done on New Year’s Day (Jan 1) that also coincided with the birthday of Bayoi’s teenage daughter.

For unggal Eljim and I, besides our mutual interest in music, we spoke a common language and shared many interesting folklores as well as jungle stories pertaining to the Iban community.

At times, we would reminisce some interesting moments in politics and antics of politicians, especially our common friends in Serian. There were times when we had a good laugh, particularly when recalling some hilarious episodes involving these politicians and our common friends.

This was when I realised that my late friend was playing a role as kingmaker in getting some of the local politicians to get elected during polls. Surprisingly, he never became an election candidate himself.

There were four more trips by me and other ETAs to his home in Sorak Dayak after the inaugural one as stated. Looking at the huge turnouts there between 2008 and 2016, there was an obvious love from the locals comprising Ibans, Bidayuhs, Malays, Javanese and Chinese, for the hugely popular and beloved man they addressed as “Datuk”. Guests included his siblings from as far as Perak, local politicians and people’s reps.

Both of us also got actively involved in the development of Dayak music, particularly by being in the main committee of Dayak Artistes and Musicians Association (DAMA) started by the late Tan Sri Celestine Ujang Jilan in 2008 and hitherto, headed by Datuk Snowdan Lawan.

Back in 2009, Jimmy and I were among the seven ETAs performing at The Steppes Pub and Karaoke at Jalan Simpang Tiga. Besides rendering his favourite EP number Just Tell Her Jim Say Hello, he also did Marie-Marie, a popular song by the “younger version of Elvis” Shaking Stevens.

When our Elvis Presley Fan Club Sarawak (EPFCS) was registered with the ROS in 2014, Eljim became a “Live Member” — he borrowed my red EP jumpsuit once for a show in Serian.

He became the fourth ETA to depart this world after the late Reynolds Gregory of Kuching, Alex Ting of Miri and John Sia of Sibu. Not long ago this year, Sarawak’s first EP titleholder Eskandar Eyaw of Kuching also departed to join his forebears.

RIP unggal Eljim and other fellow ETAs.