KUALA LUMPUR - Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin called for a more serious effort to make Malaysia the home of Malay manuscripts now kept abroad.
The Deputy Prime Minister said that not only were European institutions better known for studies of Malay manuscripts but the experts on the subjects were Westerners - Roolvink, Teeuw, De Jong, Coedes and Hurgronje to name a few.
He acknowledged the joint work by the National Library, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, National Archives and the Museum Department to search for such documents and for them to be brought to the country.
"However, the initiative must be an aggressive one.
"At the same time, a plan must be drawn up on how to promote the manuscripts," he said.
Speaking at the opening of the International Exhibition on Malay Manuscripts 2014, he stressed that promoting, as well as initiating studies of Malay manuscripts, must be led by local scholars.
"It is disheartening to know that Westerners are the ones referred to when it comes to the Malay language and culture, whereas our scholars have no or little knowledge of their own civilisation," Muhyiddin said.
Also, he said, there was a worrying trend where universities in possession of some of the documents have begun to sell them off due to a lack of interest in studying them.
There are about 10,000 Malay manuscripts kept by 31 countries and 151 institutions.
The National Library is a repository to 4,663 of those, the most famous being Hikayat Hang Tuah written in 1865 and listed in Unesco's Memory of the World Register.
Muhyiddin hoped the exhibition would create greater awareness among the public on Malay manuscripts and their subjects.
The exhibition will be held at the National Library until Aug 26.