First of all, I would like to extend my greeting to and wish the physical and mental well-being of the Union Ministers, Regional Government Member Ministers, luminaries of the literary world, departmental officials, responsible personnel from the publishing houses and guests.
Today, 26th August of 2022, is the auspicious occasion of the 75th Anniversary (Diamond Jubilee) of Sarpay Beikman, which has a high tradition in the literary world in Myanmar. In those days, there were many things which attributed to the development of a race and a nation. These days, however, education is the only thing needed for development as accepted by all nations around the globe. Education requires learning from early childhood. When at work, we do the learning in a different way — i.e., continuous learning, which involves the reading of books and holding discussions about the books read. The participants are required to listen to, discuss and do the creation based on the lessons learned.
To enable the learners to read, study and share, we need books, which are distributed around the globe extensively. With the passage of time, the learning materials have changed, commencing from stone inscriptions to palm leaf manuscripts, to books and to electronic books. The changes in technology have created different formats; yet, the very essence is the same. As known to you all, we, the Myanmars, have set a very value on books and literature. This fact is obvious in the following sayings: one word is equal to one pagoda; wisdom lies in literature, and books are friends of the people. Thanks to this high value we hold, we could have preserved our literature and culture for a thousand years or so. Looking back, we will see that we have been under the yoke of colonialism for more than a century. Nevertheless, there are certain colonized countries that have lost their literature and culture while other colonized countries have had their literature and culture affected. Our ability to have maintained the literature and culture can be attributed to the words of advice by Reverend Maha Ratthasara, whose eight famous words we have had to learn since childhood: Thu, Si, Pu, Ba, Wi, Li, Thi, Da, which calls for learning every day — the continuous learning.
Since the pre-independence period, Sarpay Beikman has consistently been performing literary duties to its utmost until today, disseminating knowledge among the people. It is a great institution which we are all very much proud of.
The background history of Sarpay Beikman dates back to 7 June 1947. This was the day on which a conference was held in the building called Sorrento Villa to draw the two-year economic development plan of the Union of Myanmar. The conference was attended by our national leader General Aung San. He said, inter alia, that a translation department should be opened with the objective of enabling the people to be possessed modern knowledge so that people can contribute their part towards national development. In compliance with the guidance of General Aung San, officials led by Prime Minister U Nu and the people from the literary world founded the Burma Translation Society-BTS, on 26 August 1947, which was the beginning of Sarpay Beikman. The first Governing Council was formed with 12 people chaired by Prime Minister U Nu himself. Later, the council grew into one with 15 councillors. On 15 January 1948, the first BTS office was temporarily opened on the Judson College Campus by renting the residence of Professor Dr Hla Bu. Then, with the growing number of office staff, the BTS office was moved to the Sorrento Villa Building located at No 361, Pyay Road, Yangon. And the name was changed to Sarpay Beikman.
The motto was written in the Myanmar Language by Sayagyi U Wun (Min Thu Wun), which was translated into English by Saya K (U Khin Zaw), who was the first librarian of the University of Yangon and who founded in the post-war period BBS. The English motto is: “Light, where darkness was”. Later, the printing and publishing activities developed, demanding a new place, and so, a plot of land at the corner of Merchant Road and 37th Street was purchased to construct a new building to be opened as a branch office in the downtown area.
The new Sarpay Beikman building was opened on 5 May 1955 by then Prime Minister U Nu. This building is now more than 67 years old. With the objective of opening the eyes of the public, the Luhtu Ahlin, the Luhtu Eik Hsaung and Luhtu Tekkatho were first published. In 1954, Myanmar Encyclopaedia Volume I [Ka-Kon] was published, and in 1977, Vol 15 was published. These are the landmarks. Sarpay Beikman also published the school textbooks, the Terms Bank, 50-year Sarsin, Sarpay Beikman Magazine, Pyithu Letswe, Thutapadetha and Shwe Thway (children journal). In March 1956, Sarpay Beikman Library was founded while Sarpay Beikman Association was established in 1960. The literary conferences, the paper-reading sessions and the international book year ceremonies are held every year. Additionally, for the development of Myanmar literature, the Sarpay Beikman Manuscript Award was created. Then, this award was extended to Fine Arts Award, the National Literary Award and the Sarpay Beikman Manuscript Award. Commencing in 2001, the Lifetime National Literary Award for Literary Achievement, which is the highest national award, has been given. Now, we have already conferred this award on 34 great writers. Sarpay Beikman has not only published great books which bring benefit to the nation but also nurtured writers. I would like to express my sincere appreciation and pay respect to those writers of different periods who have widened the scope of knowledge of the people and at the same time brought benefit to the nation. Most of the national literary award winners were produced by Sarpay Beikman. In co-operation with Tun Foundation, Myanmar Encyclopaedia books are being edited, and now, Volume I [Ka-Kote] has been updated and published again. I myself have read the books published by Sarpay Beikman since my youth. And I have been a member of Sarpay Beikman Library Association, and so, I rarely missed the books, magazines and journals published by Sarpay Beikman. The knowledge I have gained from reading these books is invaluable, and they are still useful these days. And the reading habit has made me learn continuously. I believe those who are of my same age, those who are my seniors and those who are my juniors have had a golden opportunity to keep pace with the modern world thanks to the publications of Sarpay Beikman. And it is also believed that the readers must have applied the experiences they gained from reading these publications to nation-building activities and those activities will contribute to the development of their communities concerned at least.
Currently, our country has trodden on the path to genuine, disciplined multi-party democracy, which suits our country’s national characteristics and culture. Additionally, the democratic system must have an education system which will not adversely affect our culture. The education system is aimed at not teaching democratic politics; it should be aimed at developing good democratic practices. The education system should focus on continuous learning. To be able to do so, all citizens are needed to be well educated. We should be aware of the advice given by former United Nations Secretary-General U Thant who has told us about the link between education and democracy.
“Democratic system is the most difficult among the systems governing the country. The people must have adequate knowledge and rationality for achieving success in democratization. Education is the genuine basic foundation of the State. The democratic system will cause chaos in the country with lack of knowledge.” Hence, priority must be given to enabling all the citizens to have an educational qualification in order to ensure the strengthening of multiparty democracy and build the Union based on democracy and federalism which are two political visions of the nation. The 3-Rs literacy campaign was vigorously launched in the country for our citizens who were weak in education due to the wars. But, the future of the State is not sufficient with just learning education. It is necessary to have constant reading and learning. To do so, it is necessary to build the infrastructures, schools, learning centres, books, publishing organizations, writers, researchers, libraries and motivators. These infrastructures must be genuine and noble for the nation, national, literature and culture of the country. It is necessary to disseminate the knowledge without isms. Literature must be free from toxicity. It can be seen that some books published after 2011, especially after 2015 and talks under the literary talks led to a highly divided society against democracy for our country. So, we have to consider it not happening again.
According to the pilot census released in 2019, some one-third of our population is weak in education. So, the government is prioritizing education promotion plans for the citizens. The Constitution stipulates that efforts shall be made for every citizen to learn basic education primary education. Our government carries out the tasks exceeding the target for all citizens to reach the KG+9 (basic education middle school level). It shows we are basically building the future of the State and democracy. All ethnic national people will have a chance to enjoy the fruits of higher education standards and the development of the future nation. We have to strive for encouraging all literates to read and all readers to have better knowledge so as to keep the spirit of nation-building endeavours in their minds.
In building the nation with the strength of human society with high knowledge and a white soul, the Sarpay Beikman had effectively done the assigned tasks and must try to participate in similar tasks at present and in the future. This effort of the Sarpay Beikman is serving the national duty with the literary power. Due to reading good fiction and non-fiction books published by the Sarpay Beikman, the people will have national characters and a nationalistic spirit endowed with knowledge and skill and it will increase the number of educated new generations who will adore their own culture, language and customs. Only when those educated new generations emerge will the future image of the State be brighter.
In accord with the theme of Sarpay Beikman’s “Light, where Darkness was”, the good literary works were published without dogmatism and literary views which may harm the national cause but with the aims of turning out good and able citizens equipped with a good attitude, ideas and knowledge in line with the 38 auspicious ways. Only when the number of educated youths increases will a new human society emerge for leading the development of Myanmar’s social economy. In the efforts of the Sarpay Beikman in nation-building endeavours, I honour all officers and staff who have served at the Sarpay Beikman within 75 years.
In conclusion, as our government is building a better State and socio-economic lives prioritizing the interests of the State and ethnic national people in line with the motto of the government “Keep Moving Forward to Achieve Our Goal”, I believe that the Sarpay Beikman is also participating in the work process with the strength of literature.
Now, the Sarpay Beikman has been actively serving the literary works till the Diamond Jubilee period along with the implementation of the national cause. So, I wish the long-term existence of the Sarpay Beikman from the Diamond Jubilee celebration to many future years by serving the greater nation-building tasks, developing the nation and production of good literary works in the future. And, may the Sarpay Beikman strive for nation-building endeavours with greater efforts.
Thank you all.