Friday, March 25, 2011

Kula decries decision to retain Interlok

Terence Netto
Mar 25, 11
9:07am ( Malaysiakini)

DAP vice-chairman and MP for Ipoh Barat denounced the decision of the Education Ministry to retain the literary text 'Interlok' with minor amendments to words deemed sensitive to Indian Malaysians.

"I suppose one could not expect anything better from Muhyiddin Yassin," offered Kulasegaran in comments to Malaysiakini after the deputy prime minister and education minister announced in Parliament yesterday that his ministry has decided to retain the text with amendments.

Kulasegaran described the decision as "prescribing band aid for a wound that requires nothing short of amputation."

By "amputation", the DAP leader meant the removal of 'Interlok' as required reading for students offering Malay literature at SPM (Malaysian Certificate of Education) level.

"I read the novel and found it repugnant not only to the sensibility of Indians Malaysian but also to Chinese Malaysians, and even Malays," he opined.

Expanding on the subject, Kulasegaran said the 'Interlok' controversy had prompted him to do some reading in the suburbs of subjects like colonial studies.

He was lead to the works of Edward Said, the literary critic whose magnum opus 'Orientalism', published in 1978 advanced the theory that Orientalist scholarship - the supposedly disinterested European study of the Orient - was designed to pave the way for the success of the colonial project.

I had hoped that Professor Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, who is an admirer of Edward Said, would have been attuned enough to see the connection between Said's theories and what 'Interlok' was aiming at," said Kulasegaran.

The 'other' Malaysians

Shamsul chaired the Education Ministry-appointed panel that was set up to review the novel. All three Indian Malaysian members of the panel withdrew from the panel after supposedly failing to get Muhyiddin to agree on the need to make something like a hundred changes to the text.

"First of all, a novel has to do with imaginative effects that build up to a climax," said Kulasegaran.

"It's a quaint notion that by amending a few words you can change the tenor of the story. You can't. You either reject it outright or leave it alone," he said.

He said he hoped that Indian Malaysians now understood what the Umno-led BN government was up to which was to obtain their acquiescence as a subject people through their children's absorption of a literature that defines their self-image as denigrated.

"The construction of identity in every society involves establishing opposites and otherness," said Kulasegaran.

"'Interlok' aims to tell Indian and Chinese Malaysians that they are the 'Other' in Malaysian society, undesirably different and, for the reason, unable to be integrated unless they change," he said.

"It is a novel with a political agenda. It's vile and gross," he contended.

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