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Friday, January 28, 2011

Tenang Indian voters: Interlok? What’s that?

The Indian voters in Tenang are more concerned with bread-and-butter issues than an inconsequential book.

LABIS: The majority of the Indian voters here are unperturbed as the Interlok debate rages, thus foiling the opposition’s bid to exploit it and win their votes.

Despite the uproar caused by the government’s move to merely amend the book amid demands that it be completely removed, many Tenang Indian voters say they will not vote based on the issue which some have described as “irrelevant”.

“Yes, I am a bit disturbed by it but I got better things to think of,” said one voter who wants to be known only as Sathia, a 32-year-old rubber tapper.

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said yesterday that the controversial textbook would continue to be used for the literature component of Bahasa Malaysia for Form 5 in Zone 2, namely Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Selangor and Negri Sembilan.

Muhyiddin, who is also the Education Minister, said an independent panel would be set up to study the amendments on certain sensitive aspects of the textbook.

The controversy arose when the book, written by national laureate Abdullah Hussein, was picked by the education ministry as one of the Malay literature subjects.

Many quarters claimed the book was an insult to the Indian community as it contains sensitive words like “pariah”.

Tepid response

Pakatan Rakyat has tried hard to exploit the issue in a bid to woo Indian voters who form close to 13% of the electorate.

The attempts have been futile judging from the tepid response of the Indian voters. The majority of them interviewed by FMT said the Interlok fuss was inconsequential.

In fact, many have not even heard of the book because most of them have not even made it to Form 5.

The poverty rate is high among the Indian electorate, with most making an average of RM450 a month working on the rubber and palm oil plantations of government-linked companies.

“So most of them are school dropouts. They are not aware of what the whole Interlok issue is all about,” said Klang DAP parliamentarian Charles Santiago who is helping out in the Pakatan campaign.

A brief visit to the plantation sites shows the dire conditions of the Indians. Some of the houses have no clean water and electricity and the furniture is mostly recycled ones.

This is in stark contrast to the Malay residents in Felda settlements close to the Indian plantation housing estates. Malay Felda settlers here make a minimum income of RM3,000 a month.

“We want a representative who can help us tackle poverty issues, not Interlok,” said Sathia, who can still afford to smile despite his hardship. - FMT

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