Selangor Gerakan makes stand known on Interlok while HQ keeps mum

On 21st January 2011, Selangor Gerakan said that although there were some historical truth in the now-controversial novel ‘Interlok’ with regards to Indians in the country a certain cast-linked word in the book was not appropriate in the spirit of the current administration’s I Malaysia agenda.

“We are not against the novel but it being used as a literature book in schools is causing us worry,” said S. Vijaya Kumar, the state assistant secretary.

Vijaya together with several committee members held a press conference at a coffee shop near the Gerakan headquarters in Cheras to express their disgust over the use of the word ‘paria’ in the novel by Malaysian national laureate Abdullah Hussein.

He claimed that many Indians feared that the ‘sensitive word’ would create greater polarisation among students in the future when the meaning is taken out of context and used as a tool to ridicule one race.

Selangor Ampang division chairman G, Parameswaran, who also heads the welfare committee said the government is not to be blamed for the book being used as a text book.

“The panel under the Ministry of Education in charge of vetting the books must be held responsible for not being sensitive,” he said.

Before it causes more damage, he said the government would be wise to pull back the book from schools.

“Compare the advantages and disadvantages of allowing the book to be used as a text book. There is greater good if it is not used as a literature book. What does the government lose if it is taken off?” he asked.

Asked if Selangor Gerakan’s stand echoed the party’s sentiment at the national level, Vijaya said it was Selangor Gerakan’s stand alone.

“Interlok” is the textbook for the literature component of the Bahasa Malaysia subject for Form Five students starting this year.

The Malaysian Indian Congress had already made known its stand that it wants the book withdrawn from the Form Five syllabus for Malay literature on the grounds that the novel contains “offensive” words and depictions of Indian Malaysians.

The MIC claims that the book will offend the entire Indian Hindu community, who, according to them, no longer practise the caste system.

Coming from the MIC, this smacks a little too much of hypocrisy, because it is a known fact that many Indian Malaysians still have to battle with issues of caste within their communities and families.