The government should tender a public apology over the Interlok controversy.
DAP welcomes the long overdue decision by the government to withdraw the Interlok as school literature text.
Nevertheless, it was a mistake in the first place to have allowed usage of the book as a school text.
The government committed another mistake when it dragged its feet on the Interlok controversy and had stubbornly refused to withdraw the novel despite strong and persistent demands from Pakatan Rakyat, NGOs, the Indian and Chinese community.
The Indian community was especially angered with the novel’s factual inaccuracies and demeaning words.
On March 30, Chinese groups had also joined the Indian community and voiced their strong objections against the continued usage of the novel.
I reproduce below an extract of media report of the stand and views taken by the groups:-
In a statement today, Chinese associations from across Malaysia said the book was not only offensive to Indians but Chinese as well, as it depicted the character Kim Lock as a "miserly opium addict and callous adulterer" and his son, Cing Huat, as "cunning, greedy, unscrupulous and someone who would happily sell his daughters".
"Interlok" in its totality propagates the ideology of ketuanan Melayu. In our considered opinion, this novel is not only unhealthy but an insidious poison," the statement said.
"In fact, "Interlok" is barely a step away from the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) 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 )."
The groups also condemned the "major thread" in the book, which depicts the Chinese "cheating and oppressing" Malays or as "nasty and immoral" communist guerrillas.
The statement was signed by the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH), LLG Cultural Development Centre, Malaysian-China Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Chinese Associations Johor, the Penang Chinese Town Hall and 40 others, including the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM) and several Indian organizations.
It has baffled many why the government has not been able to see what is so simple and obvious and do what is right and necessary- that the book is not suitable at all as a school text and the only acceptable solution must be to withdraw it from the school.
There is no doubt that the decision by the government to finally withdraw the novel is related to the next general election which is expected to be held soon.
Although the government leaders will not admit it openly, they know that the Interlok controversy which DAP has declared will be made as one of the main issues in the next general election will have impact on the Indian voter support for the government.
The government’s decision can therefore be described as a people’s victory.
In this regard, NIAT and its president Datuk Thasleem Mohamed Ibrahim who have been pursuing the issue relentlessly and fearlessly deserve to be commended.
As Interlok’s usage as a school text was against the educational guidelines, the government must investigate how this had happened and take the necessary action against the “little Napoleons” involved.
The government should also tender a public apology over the Interlok controversy--firstly for having allowed usage of a novel which contents have hurt the sensitivities of the Indian and Chinese communities and secondly, for dragging its feet in resolving the controversy.