First of all let me extend my good wishes to all those who are present at this National Literary Awards ceremony to be blessed with auspiciousness – the Union Minister for the Ministry of Information, the chief minister of Yangon region and ministers of the regional government, Hluttaw representatives, committee members of the literary awards selection committee, winners of the literary awards, literary fans and invited guests.
Every year on the first waxing day of Nadaw, we have been celebrating the Sarsodaw Day in Myanmar to honour the literary contributions of the literary professionals and writers who have worked hard for the interests of the country and the people. It is now 76 years. I take pride in the fact that we have been able to celebrate Sarsodaw Day as a unique tradition of Myanmar culture, throughout these years without interruption all over the country. Let me tell you at the outset that I have been especially delighted to have this opportunity to speak at this auspicious event because my hobby is reading and because I have high regard for literary professionals. I regret very much the fact that I would not have the opportunity to present the awards personally like I did last year.
Every year at this time we use to organize with great fanfare all over the length and breadth of the country ceremonies to pay respects to elderly literary figures, literary awards ceremonies, literary talks and literary festivals. As literature represents for each individual country a national cultural heritage which could be a source of pride, it is customary to study literature as a basis for determining the level of culture of a country and its people. As our Myanmar literature is now nearly 1,000 years, we can say that Myanmar literature now stands tall as the main pillar of Myanmar culture and fine arts.
Throughout the history of literature, Myanmar literature and Myanmar language changed and developed with many forms of innovation throughout the ages. In the world of Myanmar literature, we may find many works by learned monks and lay literary figures who have contributed literary works that give us knowledge and good character; literary works which instil in our hearts love for our people and our country; and literary works which keep us abreast of world events and promote our development. It is a good tradition of our country to select from among the aesthetic literary works of literary figures and to select and award national literary awards annually on every Sarsodaw Day.
Dear Literary Scholars and Guests,
The Myanmar Translation Association which was established under the guidance of the architect of Myanmar’s independence General Aung San in August 1947, became “Sarpei Beikman” in May 1948 as a well-known literary enterprise. Sarpei Beikman produced many translated works for the promotion of general knowledge about the world at large for the citizens of Myanmar; it also started to award the “Sapei Beikman Contemporary Novel Award beginning from 1948 to promote Myanmar literature.
Beginning from the “Sapei Beikman Contemporary Novel Award”, the names of the awards have been changed as “Sarpei Beikman Award”, “Fine Arts Literary Award”, “National Literary Award”, as well as the nature of the award in accordance with the passage of time. The variety of the award subjects and the amount of cash awards were also increased. As of this year, we have awarded over 70 awards. We have also increased the number of award subjects; for the national literary awards for 2019, there will be 18 award subjects.
Apart from that, we have been awarding the “National Lifetime Award for Literary Achievement” since 2001 annually to show the recognition of the State for the lifetime outstanding and excellent contributions in the interest of the State and the people with Myanmar literary skills. During 2001 and 2012, the “National Lifetime Award for Literary Achievement” has been presented either to one person or two persons. Beginning from 2018, we have awarded the lifetime award to one literary figure who has contributed literary works which provide general knowledge and works of aesthetic literature continuously. We have also given this award to a literary figure who has contributed to the development of Myanmar literature and who has worked continuously on the promotion of literature and knowledge. I am very pleased that this year also we will be presenting the “National Lifetime Award for Literary Achievement” to one famous writer and one literary figure.
Dear Literary Scholars and Guests,
It is important to be transparent in selecting winners of literary prizes and to award books that are truly worthy. So, we formed a 54-member National Literary Award Selection Committee, which comprises literary experts. There are three stages in selecting the winners: preliminary selection stage, shortlist-stage and final selection stage. And the literary scholars freely selected the award winners.
Three were 1,653 books published for the first time in 2019. Award winners for 10 out of the 18 subjects have been selected for the National Literary Award, and we will present the awards to the winners at today’s ceremony. The two winners of the 2019 Lifetime Achievement for National Literary Award devoted themselves to development of Myanmar literature and creation of good literary works. One of the two winners is a great writer who devoted himself to the creation of aesthetic literary works, and the other winner is a researcher who devoted himself to the creation of non-fiction works which provide general knowledge. The two winners are in their 90s, and I would like to express my sincere respect for their age, virtue and wisdom.
The writers and books that won the National Literary Award can reflect contemporary thinking and views of this era. The winning aesthetic literary works can promote good mindset and sympathy, and the non-fiction works about various subjects can assist the development of the country, according to the remark of the National Literary Award Selection Committee. Congratulations to all the literary award winners. I wish you all the best in your literary efforts for the sake of the country and the citizens.
Dear Literary Scholars and Guests,
Only if there is a balanced development in the political, economic and social sectors of the country, will the literary and art sector be also developed. Conversely, if the literary and art industry is developed, we will have highly educated human resources, and our country will prosper. Currently, the government is doing its best to help writers from various fields of literature, to create their aesthetic works freely. In 2019, a literary and artistic copyright law was enacted to protect the literary works. Systematic protection of intellectual property rights will also contribute to the socio-economic development and cultural development of the country.
The participation of the people is very important for the development of the Union, nationwide peace, and creation of a genuine democratic federal union. Literature can be a great tool to promote good democratic practices and knowledge of the citizens, to appreciate democracy, to understand and appreciate diversity, and to strengthen the bonds of friendship among the ethnic people.
Literature can contribute to the development of individuals and society. It can encourage wisdom and rational thinking. Moreover, good literary works are timeless and literary influence has no geographical boundaries. So, I would like to call on writers to create books that will enhance the public’s ability to distinguish between right and wrong. I think that writers need to guide their readers in the right direction to gain genuine wisdom and develop a great mindset.
It is a blessing to pay tribute to great writers who created great literary works for the sake of the country and the citizens. We need to maintain this good tradition and pass it on to future generations. I believe that new generations will also be able to maintain literary ethics and write appropriate literary works for the benefit of the nation.
I would like to express thanks to literary scholars and writers who attended today’s ceremony, the literary award winners, and the Chairperson and members of the National Literary Award Selection Committee, who organized meetings in accordance with the COVID-19 preventive guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Sports. In conclusion, I would like to call on all stakeholders to continue contributing to the development of Myanmar literature.
(Translated by Kyaw Myaing, Maung Maung Swe)