GEORGE TOWN, May 13 ― The nomination of the Malaysian National Laureate does not necessarily have to be confined to only Malay writers, said one of its recipients Datuk A. Samad Said.
He said future candidates can be of any ethnicity as long as the person is a writer who had contributed significantly to Malay literature.
“The nomination of laureates should be based on merits and the impact that person has on the society through their literature and service to the society instead of based on their race,” he told reporters after attending an event at the National Teacher’s Festival here.
“A laureate must be able to influence a new generation of writers, introduce good books to students and of course, they must behave too,” he added.
He said the ethnicity of the nominee should not even be a prerequisite especially at a time when there are many good authors of different ethnic groups with a long list of quality Malay literature under their belts.
He referred to authors such as Uthaya Shankar SB and Lim Swee Tin, who were both non-Malays, but had produced great Malay literature works.
“The main requirement for a laureate is their service to the people, they should not just be a writer who never show themselves in public or engage with the society and they should not be judged because they are Malay, Chinese, Indian or Kadazan,” he said.
He predicted that there could be an ethnic Indian or ethnic Chinese laureate in future as befit the current times.
When asked if awarding a non-Malay the national laureate could bring about strong opposition by some groups, he brushed it off.
“It is expected that there are those who will object to this idea, that’s normal, but I believe there are also people who are more open to this, that this award goes to someone deserving and not just because that person is a Malay,” he said.
It was recently reported in an online portal that a non-Malay novelist were among five others who were nominated for the National Laureate Award.