Why snub writer-poet Cecil Rajendra at literary fest, ask supporters

Cecil Rajendra was accorded the highest heritage honour as one of the ‘Living Heritage Treasures of Penang’ by the Penang Heritage Trust in 2015. (Youtube screengrab)

GEORGE TOWN: Two supporters of Cecil Rajendra, who was nominated for a Nobel prize in literature and is a well-known poet, are upset that he was not included in this year’s George Town Literary Festival (GTLF), a yearly literary festival supported by the state government.

Rajendra’s book publisher Penros Press and English language lecturer G Gautaman said it was surprising that an international event featuring some 80 foreign writers had failed to include Penang’s own celebrated writer.

In 2015, Rajendra was accorded the highest heritage honour as one of the “Living Heritage Treasures of Penang” by the Penang Heritage Trust.

In 2005, he was nominated for the Nobel prize in literature. He is also a fierce critic of overdevelopment and Penang’s diminishing green credentials.

“Is it not shocking that such a huge international event such as GTLF, carrying the theme ‘The State of Freedom’, taking place in his very own Penang, does not invite Rajendra to the event?

“The least this event can do is to honour him by inviting him to the event.

“I hope the omission of his name from the list of invitees is a genuine error and that it will be rectified soon,” Gautaman said in a letter addressed to Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.

Northern Ireland-based publisher Penros Press said it was difficult to understand why Rajendra was sidelined from a festival celebrating freedom happening “right on his doorstep”.

When contacted, GTLF festival director Bernice Chauly did not explain why Rajendra was dropped from the event.

In a statement, Chauly only said Rajendra was first invited in 2013 to participate in the festival but pulled out a week before the festival began.

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“In 2016, he was invited again to GTLF where he performed an event with music and poetry called ‘Fathers and Sons’ with his son, Yasunari, along with A Samad Said and his son, Az Samad, to great success,” Chauly said.

Chauly, however, said the other Penang-based speakers at the festival include personalities like Aida Redza, Regina Ibrahim, Chan Lean Heng, Molly Lee and Por Heong Hong.

GTLF, being organised for the eighth time, won the Literary Festival Award at the London Book Fair International Excellence Awards 2018 in March this year.

The GTLF was initiated in 2011 as a literary festival celebrating world literature by former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng.

This year, GTLF will feature 65 Malaysian and Malaysian-born writers, performers, artists and thinkers.


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