PETALING JAYA: Various groups have condemned the government decision to retain the novel Interlok as a Malay literature text in schools, and their anger is directed mostly at Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also Education Minister.
Klang MP Charles Santiago called it a “slap” on the face of Malaysian Indians and accused Muhyiddin of pandering to ultra-Malays to win votes in the Tenang by-election.
Muhyiddin, who announced the government decision today, said there would be amendments to the Abdullah Hussain novel to avoid hurt to Indian sentiments. Many groups are offended by what they describe as the novel’s stereotyped and misleading characterisation of Indians in Malaysia.
“He is pandering to the conservatives within Umno to secure his position in the party at the expense of the Indian community,” said Santiago.
This morning, Santiago led a group of 25 people representing non-governmental organisations and opposition parties to the Tenang police station, where they lodged a police report against the Education Minister and demanded complete withdrawal of the novel from schools.
The International Movement for the Preservation of Tamils, one of the NGOs, said it would hold a special prayer tomorrow in response to the Muhyiddin’s announcement.
“We will hold the prayer in Subramaniyar temple in Labis,” said the group’s public relations officer R Suresh Kumar.
He urged MIC to condemn the decision, saying this was the best time for the party to prove its mettle.
“If the MIC president has any clout in BN, he should act now,” he said.
The chairman of the Coalition of Malaysian Indian NGOs, A Vaithilingam, said the decision went against the government’s 1Malaysia campaign.
“I believe the government has been misled,” he said.
The Malaysian Indian Business Association also condemned the decision, with its president P Sivakumar arguing against the establishment of another panel to amend the novel.
He added that the Indian community’s view on the matter was very clear.
“The book should be taken out from schools,”said Sivakumar, who warned that the Indians may punish the ruling government for this in the next polls.
P Uthayakumar, the secretary-general of the Human Rights Party, meanwhile said he would respond only after seeing the amendments to the novel.
Kavyan welcomes it
However Kavyan Writers Association welcomed Muhyiddin’s decision to retain Interlok with necessary amendments.
“The decision is proof that the government is willing to listen to the plight and voices of the Indians,” said its president Uthaya Sankar SB.
He also reiterated the association’s stand that it was the Education Ministry and Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka(DBP) that should take the blame, instead of National Laureate Abdullah Hussain since the copyright for the students’ edition was held by DBP.