Wednesday, March 30, 2011
“In fact, Interlok is barely a step away from the Biro Tatanegara brainwashing that promotes racism and disunity. 'Interlok' conveys the central message that Chinese, Indian and other minorities are second-class citizens in addition to perpetuating the divisive notion of a host community (the Malays) versus foreigners ('bangsa asing' Cina dan India).
“Not so subtly, 'Interlok' intends to put the Chinese and Indians in their place as 'pendatang', and validating a social hierarchy according to ethnic origin.”
Organisations which signed the statement included KL and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall, Johor Federation of Chinese Associations and Penang Chinese Town Hall.
It is however not the first time that Chinese groups have issued statements on the matter.
“Not only offensive to Indians, Interlok portrays the Chinese in the most derogatory manner too,” said the hard-hitting statement.
“Kim Lock (in 'Interlok') is depicted as a miserly opium addict and callous adulterer while his son Cing Huat is painted as cunning, greedy, unscrupulous and someone who would happily sell his daughters.
“A major thread of the plot has the Chinese character cheating and oppressing the Malay character. Other Chinese characters such as the communist guerrillas are nasty and immoral, and the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army comprising Chinese recruits is demonised by the author.”
The civil society groups said that 'Interlok' has failed to comply with the guidelines set by the Education Ministry.
“The National Interlok Action Team (Niat) has pointed out that its contents violate five out of six criteria outlined by the KBSM (Malaysian National Syllabus for Secondary Schools) textbook guidelines.
“Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin recently announced that the government has agreed to amend 19 words/passages found to be sensitive. Nonetheless, the fact that the 'Interlok' review panel has had to suggest a total of 106 changes only goes to show how problematic the novel is.
“Furthermore, the withdrawal in protest of the three Indian panelists serves to discredit the ministry's proposed resolution to the issue.”
Solution is to replace 'Interlok'
The groups said that the way out of the impasse is to replace 'Interlok' with other text more suitable for use in the classroom.
“Some defenders of 'Interlok' have claimed that the main characters in the book are mere individuals who cannot be extrapolated as representatives of their race.
“This is a mistaken line of argument as the Interlok lesson guide produced by the Education Ministry's curriculum development department has clearly stated: 'The theme of Interlok is the integration of three main races – Malay, Chinese and Indian – in Malaysia and the challenges they face in order to live together in an independent and sovereign country'.
“Because it is the ministry itself which has dictated that the characters in the novel are allegorical, therefore it will be wrong for us to now view them as atypical. Rather the Pak Musa, Cing Huat and Maniam personas (in 'Interlok') are indeed symbolic of their races.”
The joint statement stressed that the protest against 'Interlok' was in no way a disrespect to author Abdullah Hussain's freedom of expression.
“We do not object to his novel being sold in the bookshops. We do not ask either for the unabridged original version to be edited or censored although we welcome its critical appraisal by discerning adults. But the upshot is Interlok should not be a textbook in schools.”