Sunday, February 13, 2011

‘Pull out now or row goes global’

The Education Ministry gets a one-week deadline to withdraw Interlok.
KUALA LUMPUR: The Education Ministry has been given one week to immediately withdraw Interlok, the controversial Form 5 novel.

The ultimatum was issued by the National Interlok Action Team (NIAT), a coalition of over 200 non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

If the ministry fails to meet the deadline, NIAT threatens to make Interlok an international issue.

Said its president, Thasleem Mohamed: “Interlok must be withdrawn with immediate effect as it doesn’t portray the community well.”

“It has a long-term negative effect in moulding the Malaysian community,” Thasleem told a press conference.
If the ministry ignores the one-week deadline, the issue will be exposed to the international media, especially the press in India, he added.

It was revealed that the chapters on the Chinese and Indian families failed to meet five out of the six criteria set by the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka’s literature department.

The six criteria are:
  • The literature must reflect the positive culture of a race;
  • The literature can withstand the test of time;
  • The literature can be used as a role model for future generations;
  • The literature is used widely as research and reference material continuously by all in society;
  • The literature has high quality of literary value; and
  • The literature has won for the author a national laureate status.
Thasleem also revealed that negative aspects of the Malay community were totally edited out of the student edition of Interlok.

However, only 20% and 10% of the negative aspects of the Chinese and Indian communities were edited out.

Thasleem also said that NIAT would oppose any books used in schools that degrade any community.

On Human Rights Party’s plan to stage a mammoth rally against the book, he said: “NIAT has its own approach to resolve the matter. Our approach is diplomatic negotiations.”

Last month, 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.

Controversy surrounding the book began in December and gathered steam as many Indian NGOs opposed them.

However, the Federation of National Writers Association (Gapena) and Malay NGOs are supporting the use of the book.