S'pore may join Mastera by council's next meet

BRUNEI - Singapore's "long-awaited" entry into the current three-member Southeast Asia Literary Council (Mastera) as a full member from its present observer status could take place by the time the council convenes for its 18th meeting in Kuala Lumpur next year.

This was hinted by Mastera Brunei Chair Hjh Aminah Hj Momin, who shared with The Brunei Times that the council, which promotes Malay literature from its founding members Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, plans to launch its website next year.

"All three countries have agreed, insyaAllah in the near future, there will be participation from a country that has stated that it will join Mastera," she said.

Citing remarks made by the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports during the Mastera literature awards ceremony in Brunei on Sunday night, Hjh Aminah said that Mastera was advised to maximise the use of IT.

Hjh Aminah said that plans for Mastera's website were already in place but at present, "we don't have the capability" to implement it. However, she hopes that "with the new resources from the council's newest member", the website can be launched at the council's 18th meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

Singapore expressed its intention to join Mastera, after a year had passed since the city-state established its Malay Language Council of Singapore (MCLS), during an interview in January with the city-state's Minister of State for Ministry of Education and Home Affairs, Masagos Zulkifli Masagos Mohamad.

When The Brunei Times asked MCLS Chairman Hawazi Daipi to comment on the matter yesterday, he said: "I can only give an update. We have made progress in discussing the possibility of Singapore's entry into Mastera as a full member and we will follow up on this matter."

He added that the decision will be heard "in the near future".

The island nation has been an observer country to the Mastera since the council's establishment in 1995 but has "always" attended the tri-nation meetings and is even involved in some of its exchange programmes.

When asked of Singapore's view of Mastera's development, he said: "I think very good."

"Mastera gives the opportunity for the three countries, currently Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, with Singapore as an observer to organise activities in a very coordinated way to help young writers to learn the skills of writing in various aspects of Malay literature and publish them."

To connect to these young writers, Hawazi said they had to use a different mode of communication through the new media in avenues such as the e-book.

"There has been a lot of good work done but there are also opportunities for us to reach out to more people, especially the young ones, which is a challenge. But I'm sure if we put in our efforts together and deploy some resources, we will be able to facilitate the promotion of our literature to younger people."

This is the type of contribution that Singapore can bring to the table if it becomes a Mastera member, he added.

Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Hamid Hj Mohd Jaafar officially closed the 17th Mastera meeting at a ceremony, where the meeting's resolutions were signed and representatives from the member countries gave closing remarks, held at the Dar Takaful IBB building in the capital last night.