Calling it a futile exercise, an Indian business group leader says the demand is crystal clear – withdraw the book.PETALING JAYA: Representatives of the Indian community slated to sit on the panel tasked with making amendments to the controversial Interlok novel should boycott the appointment.
In making this call, Malaysian Indian Business Association (Miba) president P Sivakumar said the panel was an exercise in futility, when the community’s stand on the issue was crystal clear.
“We want the book to be withdrawn. How many times do you have to meet over a school book? The last meeting went on for two hours,” he told FMT.
Sivakumar also reminded politicians that the issue concerned the shaping of young minds and should not be viewed from a ballot box perspective.
“Politicians should not turn schoolchildren into a vehicle for political mileage. It’s about doing the right thing, so the book must be removed from the syllabus,” he said.
However, he warned that the government’s adamant stand in retaining the book could court political repercussions for Barisan Nasional (BN), with regard to Indian votes in the next general election.
“The decision to retain the book albeit with some changes to the offensive parts is not the desired remedy as the book has left bitter memories in the minds of the Indian community,” he said.
“The community is disappointed; we expected nothing short of a complete withdrawal,” he added.
Previously, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also education minister, said the book would be retained but would only be distributed to students after a panel, comprising literary experts and Indian representatives, made the necessary amendments.
Interlok, penned by national laureate Abdullah Hussain, was introduced as a component for the Malay literature subject for Form Five students this year.
However, Indian groups, including MIC, objected on the grounds that the book contained inaccurate and disparaging information about the community.
Disappointed with MIC
Elaborating on the yet-to-be formed panel, Sivakumar said: “This is perceived as a design to further frustrate the Indians and somehow force them to come to terms with the authorities’ decision.”
“It is feared that the representatives from the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) and from groups aligned to the DBP would impose their views and compel the panel to accept some shoddy changes.
“In the final analysis, the book would leave much to be desired and would turn out to be a bitter pill for the Indian community to swallow,” he added.
Sivakumar said that he was bewildered by the government’s “insensitivity” towards the feelings of the Indian community and its inability to see eye-to-eye with MIC on the matter.
The Miba president also expressed disappointment with MIC for bowing to pressure and compromising on its stand.
“We expected MIC to remain firm in its call to have the book withdrawn,” he said.
Sivakumar stressed that Miba would work with other NGOs to continue pressuring the government to withdraw the book.