Putrajaya stands firm on ‘Interlok’

By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 — The government today confirmed the retention of the controversial “Interlok” novel for the secondary school syllabus, choosing only to amend parts deemed insensitive to the country’s Tamil community.

Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said today that the Cabinet has asked Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka to edit the novel in order to replace these terms, resisting pressure from the Tamils and politicians from both sides of the divide for the book to be dropped completely.

In January, Muhyiddin announced that the controversial novel would remain as a textbook in the literature component of the Bahasa Malaysia subject for Form Five students but with amendments to several aspects deemed sensitive by the Indian community.

He also announced the formation of an independent panel comprising academics, literary figures and representatives from Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, tasked to study the amendments.

Earlier this month, however, three of the panellists had walked out of an emergency meeting called by the deputy prime minister himself in Parliament, after they were asked to compromise by just omitting the word “pariah”.

The independent panel had last met on March 4, when they agreed on 100 amendments to the novel.

The book, which was written by national laureate Datuk Abdullah Hussain in 1971, chronicles the daily struggles of the Malays, Chinese and Indians in pre-independence Malaya.

Muhyiddin reiterated that the panel has agreed to remove the phrase “pariah caste” to be replaced with the “the same group.”

“The writer of the novel has agreed to the proposal to the edit the words and the government would like to thank the author for his generosity for allowing his literary work to be edited,” he said during question and answer session in parliament.