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Thursday, March 31, 2011

DAP for, MCA against dropping ‘Interlok’

March 31, 2011

Wee urged the book’s detractors to not be fixated with individual terms. — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 — Chinese lawmakers are split along partisan lines over the call by Chinese associations to drop “Interlok” from schools, with Pakatan Rakyat (PR) in support of the demand and Barisan Nasional (BN) against it.

DAP national vice chairman Tan Kok Wai said he supported Chinese groups clamouring for “Interlok” to be dropped, as it was “not suitable” to teach the controversial novel to impressionable young students.

“It should be discarded because it will do national unity no good,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

The Cheras MP said the book went against the Education Ministry’s stated goal — to help produce the next generation of Malaysian youths who will embody the values of tolerance and racial harmony.

He added that the manner in which “Interlok” tended to promote only one race while sidelining the others would only enhance racial bias rather than help unite multicultural Malaysia.

PKR vice president Chua Tian Chang said while the issue must not be overblown, the Education Ministry should take the book out of circulation and stop its use in class.

He said he had no trouble with books that chose to “depict anyone as anything”, saying literary creativity should be respected, but cautioned that students were not mature enough to read the book critically.

“We shouldn’t ask the author to change anything because that is his right. We should stop the polemic and stop using the book,” he said.

Fresh trouble is brewing over the use of “Interlok” in schools, with Chinese groups today condemning the novel’s depiction of Chinese characters as greedy, opium-smoking lechers keen to exploit Malays for profit.

Having weathered a storm of controversy from the Indian community over the novel’s use of the word “pariah”, the Education Ministry now faces Chinese calls to drop the “racist” book from the Form Five Bahasa Malaysia syllabus.

In a statement yesterday, Chinese associations from across Malaysia said the book was not only offensive to Indians but Chinese as well, as it depicted the character Kim Lock as a “miserly opium addict and callous adulterer” and his son, Cing Huat, as “cunning, greedy, unscrupulous and someone who would happily sell his daughters”.

“‘Interlok’ in its totality propagates the ideology of ketuanan Melayu. In our considered opinion, this novel is not only unhealthy but an insidious poison,” the statement said.

“In fact, ‘Interlok’ is barely a step away from the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) brainwashing that promotes racism and disunity.”

The statement was signed by the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH), LLG Cultural Development Centre, Malaysian-China Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Chinese Associations Johor, the Penang Chinese Town Hall and 40 others, including the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM) and several Indian organisations.

The associations pointed out, however, that they did not wish for national laureate Datuk Abdullah Hussain’s book to be edited — as demanded by Indian groups unhappy with the word “pariah” — but called for the book not be used in schools.

They urged the Education Ministry not to allow “slurs” that hurt the feelings of the various communities to be uttered with impunity and asked that it substitute the book with reading material more suited to the classroom.

MCA, however, yesterday downplayed claims that the book was racist towards the Chinese.

Party Youth chief Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong said he did not know why the depiction of the Chinese community in the book was becoming a “big issue” now as it had been highlighted before.

He said the matter should not be blown out of proportion and urged detractors to read the book as a whole and in a rational manner.

“I think we have to see it from a broader dimension rather than just focus on some words,” he said.

MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai similarly said it was important to be objective about the book and its historical context.

“We cannot be prejudicial to any races but, as far as we are concerned, it is only literature,” he said, adding that the purpose of “Interlok” was to forge greater national unity.

Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said last week that the Cabinet had asked Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) to edit the novel in order to replace terms offensive to Indians but refused to drop the book completely.

Muhyiddin added that his ministry will also provide a glossary to explain the phrases and concepts to students to provide historical context. - Malaysian Insider

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