'Writers shape values and morals of a society'.

WRITING plays a crucial role in developing the country in which the author has a responsibility in shaping the values and morals of a society, said Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong, chairman of the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation (Yayasan) board of directors yesterday.

"(This is) especially in Islamic literature which has high qualities of aesthetics and morality," said Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar during his speech at the inaugural Islamic Literature Awards held at the International Convention Centre.

His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, was present as the guest of honour at yesterday's award ceremony. Also present to accompany the Crown Prince was His Royal Highness Prince 'Abdul Malik.

Aside from being historians, literary writers also document history, the socio-politics of a country and the day-to-day life of the community, which is evident since the early 19th century, said Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar. "We are grateful as the tradition of literary work, especially Islamic literature, continues on by contemporary poets," added Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar.

Despite the small size of Brunei's population, locals can feel proud of the constant supply of writers who continue to bring forth literary works and achieving excellence, while at the same time bringing prestige to the country, said Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar. Excellence achieved by local literary writers are not only on the national level but on the regional level as well, said Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar, citing some of the honorary awards that have been awarded to local literary writers such as Mastera in Malaysia and the Southeast Asian Writers Award in Thailand.

"It proves the capability and the passion of the local writers," he said.Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar expressed his hope that the awards received during yesterday's ceremony will be the starting point for the development and progression of literature regionally, while also turning the nation into playing a role at becoming a centre of excellence in Islamic literature.

After Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar's speech, the Crown Prince proceeded to present the prize to the best individual work, which was awarded to Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Awang Hj Yahya Hj Ibrahim for his literary work titled "Perjalanan Anakku Terakhir Yang Hilang".

Pehin Dato Ustaz Hj Yahya received the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation (Yayasan) Islamic Literary Award along with a cash prize of $15,000 and a certificate.His work will be published under the Language and Literature Bureau, Islamic Da'wah Centre, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, other government institutions, private and individual publications.

About 10 titles were judged consisting of six collections of poetry, three novels and one radio drama.Finalists of the Islamic Literary Award were Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Awang Hj Yahya Hj Ibrahim, Pengiran Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Pengiran Hj Abd Rahman, Dato Paduka Hj Muslim Hj Burut, Hj Mohd Salleh Abd Latiff, Hj Kassim Hj Omar, Hj Osman BPSKDSS Hj Mohd Tamin and Hj Mohd Jais Mohd Salleh.

During the ceremony, the Crown Prince witnessed a performance of syair by the Rakis Club of UBD and Putra Seni group which was followed by a visit to the exhibition of Islamic literature works set up especially for the occasion.The Islamic Literary Award was organised by Yayasan in conjunction with 15 years of its establishment, with the aim of bringing excellence in socio-cultural and socio-economy among citizens of Brunei through competitions and prizes in literature and culture. The Islamic Literary Award is planned to be held every three years.