Mere writers not Sasterawan Negara material, says Pak Samad

National laureate A Samad Said at the ‘Dari Minda ke Tinta Ilmu: Menghargai Sasterawan Negara’ programme in George Town, Penang.

GEORGE TOWN: National laureate A Samad Said has welcomed the nomination of a non-Malay writer for the country’s highest literary award, Sasterawan Negara, saying the selection process should be solely based on merit and one’s contribution to society.

“I foresee that there is bound to be a Chinese or Indian laureate in the near future, we need to get on with times,” Samad, better known as Pak Samad, said on the sidelines of the National Teacher’s Festival here today.

He also said that a laureate should not be judged based on writings alone.

Instead, Pak Samad, who received the award in 1986, said a Sasterawan Negara is one who not only writes but also shows up in public.

“A laureate must bring up a new crop of writers, introduce good books to the young students.

“They must behave, too,” quipped Pak Samad, who became a DAP member in 2015.

On Saturday, FMT reported that Sarawakian novelist Jong Chian Lai was among the five candidates shortlisted by the country’s highest language body, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, for the literary award.

The other four are Che Shamsudin Othman or Dinsman, Faizal Tehrani, Azmah Nordin and Latif Mohidin.

A source said the selection panel headed by prominent academic Salleh Yaapar has already submitted its choice to Maszlee Malik, but has yet to get a response from the education minister.

Pak Samad said the Sasterawan Negara title is not for Malays only.

“If the person’s work is good, contributing to society, then why not. You can’t give out the national laureate award to just a Malay. You can’t do that,” he said.