Minister for Reading

With the replacement of new president this month, it’s likely to see more changes in the cabinet too so we are back where we were two years ago; supporting the upcoming people in the government with high hope. Commonly, there is one particular change that people are dying to see and it is the Ministry of Information.

Ministry of Information is headed by U Pe Myint, a well-known writer of Myanmar. He was one of the few people from outside who wasn’t a member of NLD party and assigned in the cabinet. Previous Minister for Information acted as a formal spokesperson for former president and the role was seen like a defender of the government. That’s why before DASSK took over the power, there were talks of terminating Ministry of Information as some people argued this purely elected Government did not require a whole ministry just to defend their actions. Anyway, the Ministry was there to stay and when U Pe Myint finally became the Minister, we were like “well, this could be great”. The fact that he had his own press and newspaper made us believe that this guy knew what’s all about and that he was going to change whatever necessary.

There were some questions like

“Would he activate complete freedom of press?”

“Was he gonna end state-owned propaganda newspapers and start to support struggling private-newspapers?

“Was he gonna amend the copyright issues?” etc.

A well-respected writer with a vast of experience under his belt had taken a role as the Minister for Information. What could possibly go wrong?

Nothing. Nothing went wrong and nothing went right, in fact. A lot of things had already happened in two-year-period of new government and our Minister for Information was nowhere to be seen. Mainly, there was Rakhine crisis where international media had been bashing our country’s image and nothing really came up from the Ministry. There were several arrests of Journalists for simply doing their jobs and the Ministry did not say anything. Three months went on, six months, one year and now it has become two years already. To say the least, the ministry did not even cover the news of the new president properly. It just does not defend nor move forward and fairly so have the Minister to take the blame.Minister for

While a role as significant as the Minister for Information is fading due to the man’s idleness, the county is also losing its one of the best writers of all time as well. When U Pe Myint was appointed as the Minister, we were concerned that he would become too busy to write more outstanding books. As one of the biggest fans of his literature work, the anxiety was real for me. U Pe Myint published over forty books including translated versions of The Hospital by Arthur Hailey, Ward No.6 by Anthon Chekhov and The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason and also won Myanmar National Literature Award in 1995. It is fair to say that he did as much as he could have to introduce multi-cultural literature to Myanmar readers and he was quite successful in doing that. His name had been on most of our essays in middle school as “My favorite author” or “The most influential writer”. With this assigned role, he did not write much anymore except some headlines for the state-owned newspaper. So, in a way, he is failing as both the Minister and the writer.

I don’t know what really got into U Pe Myint to take the position in the first place as he always seemed like a quiet guy who just wanted to read & write. Probably DASSK’s influence was too strong and the lady made the offer that he couldn’t refuse. But while finally at work, I doubt that the responsibilities really interest him and he probably spends most of the day in the library doing only reading. He did not have any negative news about himself regarding corruption or a breach of power. He just did not do anything and now, people are calling for his head as a result. And it did not even seem like he likes to hang onto the job either. He just stays as long as told otherwise.

There is one story that he wrote nearly three decades ago that struck in my mind. In the story, the husband was a self-claimed economic guru who read every book on earth yet still did not have a job and lived on his wife’s income. Finally, one day in his 50s, he woke the wife up in the middle of the night saying he found out which profession would suit him the most; that is begging on streets because this was the only possible job that required no capital at all and explained on full length why he thought it was the best job ever. The short story ended with the wife taking her business expert/husband to mental health care. Not to say that kind of job line was low or anything but you shouldn’t have required that many books then, right?

Now, the newly elected president is expected to do some changes in the cabinet and the Minister of Information is probably on the list as well. I hope it happens soon and it happens quick as we can’t wait to welcome him back as one of our beloved writers. Our country is badly in need of proper leader for Ministry of Information as well as a great writer for many generations so it’s about time the Minister guides and the writer writes.

Zwe Oak Soe

 

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