Sunday, February 13, 2011

Interlok novel must be withdrawn, decides Niat

(Malaysiakini) Representatives of more than 140 Indian NGOs assembled at a special closed door session in Kuala Lumpur yesterday afternoon decided unanimously that the controversial Malay literature textbook 'Interlok' must be withdrawn.

NONE"It has failed to meet the first five of the six criteria set by Jabatan Sastera. It is the unanimous decision of the meeting that 'Interlok' novel must be withdrawn", the chair of the session Haji Thasleem Mohamed Ibrahim (left) told the press conference at the end of the session.

In addition to the representatives of the 140 Indian NGOs, who, according to Thasleem, the chair of National Interlok Action Team (Niat), "represents some three-quarter million Indians."

Leaders of all the political parties had also been invited, with Deputy Minister M Saravanan turning up for a while. Senator S Ramakrishnan and M Kula Segaran were at the meeting till the end.

Thasleem said that this novel is not suitable for 17-year-old students and that he was concerned about the long-term effects it would have on Malaysian society.

He said that this issue is not just a matter concerning only the Indians. "It is a national issue.

"It must be out of SPM syllabus. No addition, deletion or anything else. That is our unanimous decision.

"Any book that seeks to insult any race, Niat will be there to protest. We also want to make it absolutely clear that we have nothing against the writer as an individual," Thasleem added.

The six criteria

Hindu Sangam deputy president Bala Tharmalingam said of the six criteria of selection stated by Hamdan Yahya, director of Jabatan Sastera, for the selection of a textbook, only one is met on the Ching Huat chapter and Maniam chapter. But for the Seman chapter all the six criteria are met.

He then cited the criteria:

1. Literature that reflects positive culture of a race.

2. It should withstand the test of time.

3. It can be used as examples for future generations.

4. Literature that is used widely as research and reference material continuously by societies, scholars and students.

5. Literature that has a high quality of literary values of its time.

6. Literature whose author has achieved national laureate status.

NONEIn addition to these six criteria, there is another strict guide line laid down by the Education Ministry's Biro Buku Teks. "Any book that contains negative elements and negative characters should not be selected as a textbook."

Bala pointed out and asked, "How come this book was selected in violations of all these conditions and without prior consultation with specialists from the respective community,"?

The memorandum setting out its case for the withdrawal of 'Interlok' as a textbook will be submitted to the minister of education and the prime minister by Wednesday.

Thasleem said that they expect to get a reply within a week.

'MIC should do its job properly'

Shoud Niat fail to get the positive reply that it expects from the education minister, further measures will be instituted. Meetings and consultations with all the national leaders, Indian leaders, briefing of Indian and international media are some of the measures under consideration, Bala said.

"We are not alone in this issue. I have spoken to many Malay and Chinese friends who appreciated our concern. We also appeal to the leaders of our Chinese community to speak up. I know how they feel about it," Thasleem said.

To a question as to what MIC, as a member of the government, should do in this matter - quit the government?

Thasleem replied, "MIC should do its job properly."

To another question whether Niat would support and participate in the demonstration that Human Rights Party had proposed to hold on Feb 27, "HRP is different and has a different approach. We sympathise with their cause, but our objectives are different", Thasleem said.