Kee Thuan Chye


What is meant by 'sharing a commonwealth in Malaysia' as pertains to literature? I shall address it from the point of view of the writer. And because I am a writer writing in English rather than Malay, which is the national language, my views will be coloured by that bias. To me, writers share a commonwealth if they feel they belong to a community that ensures equal rights for all; provides them with nurture, support, even funding; accords them official recognition — in short, makes them feel wanted. In Malaysia, such a commonwealth does exist but for those who write in the national language. Only their works are considered 'national literature', as distinct from literatures in other languages, which are termed 'sectional' or 'communal' literatures. In practice, this means that 'sectional' or 'communal' literatures do not enjoy support, funding or recognition from official sources, despite the fact that they are no less Malaysian in substance and expression. They are not officially promoted; neither are they recognised for the intellectual and creative contributions that they make to the national culture and imagination.



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