By Maung Hlaing
စာဖွဲ့စာစီ၊ စာပီလျှင် ကျေနပ်
ငါ့ဘဝ ငါ့အနေ၊ ဘယ်အခြေရှိစေ
စာမူရေးနိုင်ဖို့ အားထုတ်မယ်။ ။
This Myanmar poem was written by Kyi Aung (Kaytu-mati) in the ‘Naing-Ngant Gon-Yi’ Magazine of September 2005 issue. My literal translation of the poem is as follows: –
Resolution of a literary man
n To be able to produce
is a literary man’s work
Bashing away on writing and thinking
Composing vivid literary work
Makes me pleased
No matter whether I’m starving or not…
n Whatever my life is like
Never put the pen down till death.
n As long as I live…
In the literary arena that I adore
Devoting myself to reading and jottings
With heavy breathing
I’ll spare no effort to write…
It was during the days of the late 1990s when I was attached to the Ministry of Information (MOI). In 1997, Maj-Gen Kyi Aung became the Minister for Information.
When I first saw him, what I noticed was his stern face. He used to speak to us sternly. I hardly saw even a smile on his face. No sooner had he arrived at the MOI than he began to form the DCRS (Data Collection & Recording Section), which was composed of reliable persons selected from Myanma Radio and Television (MRTV), Information and Public Relations Department (IPRD), Printing and Publishing Enterprise (PPE) which is now Printing and Publishing Department (PPD) and News and Periodicals Enterprise (NPE).
The DCRS had to collect data that the Minister needed and compile (research) papers, speeches and other reading materials for him. In those days, the MOI was deeply engaged with the distribution of the books on the tasks carried out by the government (of SPDC: State Peace and Development Council). Books such as ‘Nation-Building Endeavours’ (Vol. 1,2,3, and 4) and other books on politics were published. When Maj-Gen Kyi Aung assumed charge of the duties of MOI, the Vol 3 of ‘Nation-Building Endeavours’ had already come out. Because of his ardent wish, Vol.3 was translated into English and successfully published.
Being the head of the section (DCRS), I had to participate in the E.C. meetings and other meetings with men of letters. In this way, I came to be on friendly terms with him.
I could remember that whenever he conducted the E.C. meetings where Directors-General and Managing Directors attended, he led them with his stern face. However, when he had to meet with men of letters, intellectuals and intelligentsia, the stern appearance disappeared from his face, and he was all smiles. It was because he was Kyi Aung (Kaytu-mati) who revered the literati.
Before he reached the MOI, the dailies printed in Yangon had to be sent to the Upper Myanmar points and their environs by air and by rail, many times causing delays in dispatch and distribution. Sometimes, the backlog at airport offices would pile up for a couple of days, causing inconvenience for both the paper’s administrative offices and the newsagents who did the despatching on their behalf and the airway and railway staff concerned.
Under the guidance of the Head of State at that time and efforts made by Maj-Gen Kyi Aung and his colleagues, Myanmar dailies— ‘Myanma Alin and ‘Kyay- mon’— could be printed in Mandalay and distributed to the townships in Mandalay Region, Sagaing Region, Kachin State and Shan State (North)’ with effect from I March 2001.
From that day onwards, newsagents in Mandalay no longer had to drive out to the airport and back but easily collect them at ‘sub-printing house’, a location more suitable for the Upper Myanmar agents and subscribers. Moreover, for the convenience of the subscribers in the states and regions, arrangements were made for them to subscribe through the township offices of the Information and Public Relations Department on payment of an advance monthly subscription fee. Compared to these days, it was a breakthrough in distributing the dailies over two decades ago.
Sarpay Beikman had only a single Public Library at the building on Merchant Street in Yangon in those days. It already gained momentum in having a large number of book-lovers using its services. Maj-Gen Kyi Aung wanted it to be digitalized and drove us relentlessly to open another Sarpay Beikman Public Library in Mandalay.
Because of his driving force, such Public Library was successfully opened at the Yadanabon Market Building in Chanayethazan Township, Mandalay, on 22 March 2001. Sadly, the library was lost in the fire that broke out on 25 February 2008. Although books, including rare ones, were gutted by fire, the branch of Sarpay Beikman Library could be reopened at the Regional Information and Public Relations Department Office in Aungmyaythazan Township on 3 June 2008.
In his time as the Minister for MOI, Maj-Gen Kyi Aung could set another significant milestone in the history of literary awards in Myanmar. He created the National Lifetime Award for Literary Achievement. In the year 1997, when Maj-Gen Kyi Aung became Minister for MOI, Myanmar became a member country of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
To honour the membership, a prominent writer from Myanmar was offered to receive the ‘South East Asian Writers Award (which is popularly known as ‘S.E.A. WRITE AWARD’ among the nations of South-East Asia. The award, indeed, is organized by Thailand, a member country of the ASEAN. The first and foremost person selected as the recipient of the award was Sayagyi U Kyi Aye (Sinbyu-Kyun Aung Thein) in 1998.
Later, U Kyaw Aung (Kyaw Aung), Daw Yin Yin (Saw Mon Hnyin) and U Tin Maung (Tekkatho Htin Gyi) were also selected to receive the award in three consecutive years of 1999, 2000 and 2001.
In 2002, Sayagyi U Hla Kyaing (Paragu) was selected as a recipient of the S.E.A. WRITE AWARD. Although Saya Paragu was selected, he failed to leave for Thailand due to the immediate change of the government policy in those days. The failure of his departure for Thailand made the then Minister Maj-Gen Kyi Aung feel uneasy. Being the writer Kyi Aung (Kaytu-mati), he personally revered Saya Paragu much.
His ardent wish was to create a literary award that would be the equal of the S.E.A. WRITE AWARD. Besides, the standard of the literary award he wanted should be higher than that of the existing National Literary Award. After discussing the matter with the men of letters such as Maung Hsu Shin, U Thaw Kaung, Dr Kyaw Sein, U Tin Kha (Tekkatho Tin Kha), Minister Maj-Gen Kyi Aung decided to create a lifetime literary award, taking the example of Pakokku U Ohn Pe Manuscript Award. (At that time, Pakokku U Ohn Pe Manuscript Award had emerged. Since its emergence, Pakokku U Ohn Pe Lifetime Literary Award has been introduced to the literati.)
To put it in a nutshell, because of the efforts made by Maj-Gen Kyi Aung, or Kyi Aung (Kaytu-mati) and literary scholars, the dream of Lifetime Literary Award was about to come true. Although Maj-Gen Kyi Aung was transferred to the Ministry of Culture on 13 September 2002, the first and foremost ‘National Lifetime Award for Literary Achievement’ was presented to Saya Paragu at the award-presentation ceremony of National Lifetime Award for Literary Achievement, the National Literary Awards and the Sarpay Beikman Manuscript Awards for 2001, held at the National Theatre on Myoma Kyaung Street, Yangon on 6 December 2002. (According to the literary award scrutinizing procedures, though Saya Paragu was named in 2002, his selection was designated as ‘for 2001’.) From 2002 onwards, 31 writers and scholars have been awarded.
Kyi Aung (Kaytu-mati), or Thiripyanchi Maj-Gen Kyi Aung (Retd.), was born of U Kyaw Hsin and Daw Ma Ma Gyi on 31 January 1941 in Thaunggyi Village in Myaung Township, Sagaing Region. As he was born on Friday, he was called Maung Than Htay in his childhood days.
He was sent to Thaunggyi Primary School for his primary education. He passed the matriculation examination from Myinmu State High School (Now B.E.H.S.) in 1958.
He continued his education at Mandalay University in the 1958-59 academic year and obtained a B.A. Degree in 1964. At the age of 17, he started writing short stories in the Myinmu SHS Magazine in 1958.
In 1964, he attended the Officer Training School (OTS) and was commissioned in the army in 1965. In the Tatmadaw, he rose in ranks from platoon commander to command commander.
In 1997, he became Minister for Information and Minister for Culture in 2003. He resigned from office of his own accord in 2006. The State conferred ‘Thiripyanchi’ on him, and he obtained other military decorations.
While he was serving as Minister, he wrote poems and articles on ‘Dhammapuja-Verse’ under the pen-names of Kyi Aung (Kaytu-mati) and Ngwe Thawdar. His other pen-name was Einda Swe, and his masterpiece was ‘Maha-Wuntha Myat Buddha’ (first part and second part) broadcast on MRTV on religiously significant days.
Kyi Aung (Kaytu-mati), who gave birth to ‘National Lifetime Award for Literary Achievement, has earned his eternal rest of peace since 9 May 2021.
Whenever there is news of the demise of any person we love, we usually send our sympathy to the bereaved. We mourn the passing of a loved one or one with whom we have worked together.
We usually talk a lot about the one who has left us and what he or she has done in a lifetime. Be the demised person of low or high station in life, and if one had devoted his life to duty, one is remembered and missed.
May Kyi Aung (Kaytu-mati) rest in peace!
1. ကြည်အောင် (ကေတုမတီ) နိုင်ငံ့ဂုဏ်ရည် ကဗျာများ၊ နိုင်ငံဂုဏ်ရည် စာပေတိုက်၊ ၂၀၁၅
2. The Birth of ‘National Lifetime, Award for Literary Achievement (The Global New Light of Myanmar, 16-3-2021)