We, the undersigned organizations, express our opposition to the decision by the Education Ministry to retain Interlok as the literature component (Komsas) textbook for the Bahasa Melayu subject.

We hold that the novel attempts to indoctrinate students with the Malay supremacy ideology. We also hold that the novel’s selection is linked to an agenda to reinforce the idea that Chinese and Indians are immigrants here. It negatively stereotypes the three main racial groups in the country and our troubled relationship with one another.

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 are indeed symbolic of their races.

All stakeholders must be alerted to the fact that Interlok is NOT a textbook for Form 5 Malay literature which is an elective subject for Arts students. It is instead a textbook for the literature component of Form 5 Bahasa Melayu (Paper 2) – a compulsory subject, and consequently making Interlok a required reading. Students must pass this most important exam in order to pass SPM. This requirement elevates Interlok to a very serious matter impinging on the Fifth Former’s future, and consequently causing extreme uneasiness given the potential of impressionable young minds being put under duress.

Interlok in its totality propagates the ideology of Ketuanan Melayu. In our considered opinion, this novel is not only unhealthy but an insidious poison.

In fact, Interlok is barely a step away from the Biro Tata Negara 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.

Not only offensive to Indians, Interlok portrays the Chinese in the most derogatory manner too. Kim Lock 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 (MPAJA) comprising Chinese recruits is demonized by the author.

For the sake of a harmonious multi-ethnic society, all textbooks approved by Education Ministry must not allow slurs that hurt the sensitivities of the various communities to be uttered with impunity. State-endorsed literature should rightly promote contemporary progressive values such as democracy, freedom, equality and human rights. Living in Malaysia of the 21st century, we ought to advocate Ketuanan Rakyat instead of sponsoring a parochial and narrow ethnic hegemony.

As early as the 1950s, renowned Chinese educationist Lim Lian Geok had already framed the realisation that “each ethnic group has undeniably contributed to the development of this land. We must treat all as belonging to the same family and on equal footing in terms of rights and responsibilities”.

Interlok does not 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 textbook guidelines. The Education Ministry has not yet given a satisfactory explanation as to why Interlok managed to pass the bureaucratic gatekeepers.

Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin recently announced that the government has agreed to amend 19 words/passages found to be sensitive. Nonetheless, that the Interlok review panel has had to suggest a total of 106 changes only go to show how problematic the novel is. Furthermore, the withdrawal in protest of the three Indian panellists serves to discredit the Ministry’s proposed resolution to the issue.

Hence as a way out of the impasse, we urge the authorities to substitute Interlok with other material more suitable for use in the classroom.

Our stand is that we respect the author Abdullah Hussain’s freedom of expression and 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 school.

For the long-term, we recommend the government to institute a more transparent and stringent mechanism for the vetting of school textbooks. It should consider appointing respected academics, authors and eminent public figures from the various ethnic groups to sit on the panel to ensure a balanced feedback and equitable participation.

Controversial passages in Interlok

Jual Anak

1.    Kita makan apa yang dapat. Akar-akar kayu kalau ada. Kita minta sedekah. Kita curi. Kita tak punya anak perempuan. Kalau ada anak perempuan kita boleh jual. (Kim Lock, MS 119-120)

2.    “Dia sudah bagus kerja sini, itu tauke bilang Cing Huat banyak rajin dan kalau lu mau jual dia mau beli”……dia (Kim Lock) belum pernah teringat mahu jual anaknya yang tunggal itu. Entahlah kalau anak itu perempuan. Tetapi sekarang apa sebab dia mahu jual? Dia mencari-cari sebab itu dalam hatinya pada waktu itu (MS 151)

3.    Tetapi kalau Kim Lock mahu menjual anaknya itu dia boleh dapat untung lebih banyak lagi (MS 155)

4.    Kok Leng mendesaknya supaya menjual Cing Huat. Untung dia tidak banyak cakap, kalau tidak Cing Huat bukan anaknya lagi. Kalau anak perempuan tentu dia sudah jual (MS 160)

 Gila Perempuan / Menghisap Candu

5.    Malam ini dia mesti tidur dengan perempuan loki Gweek Cin, yang kurus langsing dan berdada rata serta berkaki kecil itu (Kim Lock, MS 155)

6.    Muka Surat 200-203, Kim Lock membawa Mei Hwa untuk menghisap candu dan mengadakan hubungan seks dengan dia setiap kali bertemu begitu.  Kim Lock mahu membawa Mei Hwa tingga bersama-sama mereka, Cing Huat tidak bersetuju dan meminta panggil ibunya dari Tung San ke sini, Kim Lock menolaknya dengan alasan “Itu akan memakan masa terlalu lama. Wang Kita juga tidak cukup”

7.   MS 457-458, orang tua pasukan komunis Teck Hock cuba merogol Poh Eng tetapi diselamatkan.

 Gelojoh / Wang ialah Tuhan

8.   Walaupun benar ada pepatah bangsanya mengatakan “Kalau ada wang, kamu menjadi seorang anak Han yang berani, kalau tidak wang susah nak jadi anak Han pun”  (MS 482)

9.    Soal duit tak ada musuh, musuh ialah orang-orang yang mau menghalang kita cari makan (MS 141)

10.  Dalam kota besar dan asing serupa ini orang tidak boleh kasihan, kalau kasihan kita tidak boleh kaya. Di sini wang yang menjadi ukuran. Dalam dunia ini wang itu Tuhan nombor dua (MS 155-156)

11.   Dia sudah mulai sedar bahawa di rantau selatan ini , bukan semangat nenek moyang yang dapat menolong, melainkan wang ringgit. Wangnya ada dan keinginan pada tubuh perempuan pun makin mendesak. Kalau Kim Sui boleh kahwin dan menyimpan perempuan di bandar, maka mengapa pula dia tidak boleh menyimpan perempuan. Apa salahnya? (MS 198)

Diskriminasi / Menipu / Mengeksploitasi Orang Melayu

12.   Cing Huat pun sudah boleh sedikit-sedikit bercakap dengan Huan na, dia sudah tahu orang-orang itu orang Melayu, tetapi dia lebih senang memanggil mereka Huan na atau Malai Kuai sahaja, seperti yang biasa dipanggil oleh bangsanya (MS 179)

13.   “Cina Panjang kata tanah-tanah itu semuanya haknya belaka. Lembu yang kami bela itu pun hartanya juga. Bapa saya telah gadai kepadanya” (MS 88)

14.   Kata Seman tanah itu semua sudah digadai pada Cina Panjang tu, dan orang Cina tu pun dah suruh Seman ini keluar dari kampong tersebut (MS 92)

15.    …… tanah-tanah kita yang dilindungi oleh undang-undang tu tergadai kepada bangsa asing. Kita tak upaya nak buat apa-apa……kecut perut sayaa mendengar cerita ni. Lama-lam habis harta benda kita tergadai. Tak bolehkah kita menolongnya? “Cuma satu jalan saja. Itu pun kalau orang-orang kita mau sedar, mau insaf. Jangan ada orang yang ikut jejak pak musa tu” (MS 95-96)

 Endorsed organizations:
1.     The KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
2.    LLG Cultural Development Centre
3.    Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall
4.    The Federation of Chinese Associations, Johore State
5.     Penang Chinese Town Hall
6.    Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST)
7.    Centre for Policy Initiatives
8.    Persekutuan Persatuan-Persatuan Alumni Sekolah China M’sia
9.    Nanyang University Alumni Association of M’sia
10.   Malaysian-China Chamber of Commerce
11.   Persatuan Murid-murid Tua Sekolah Kuen Cheng K L
12.   Persatuan Ho Po KL & S’gor
13.   Youth Section of Malacca Chinese Assembly Hall
14.   Writers’ Alliance For Media Independence, WAMI
15.   New Era College Alumni Association
16.  Persatuan Siswazah Lihua KL & Selangor
17.   Perak Young Graduate Association
18.   Pusat Komas
19.   Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & WP, PERMAS
20.   Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia, SABM
21.  National Interlok Action Team, NIAT
22.   Persatuan Komuniti Prihatin KL & Selangor
23.   Bahagian Pemuda Persatuan Murid-murid Tua Sekolah Serdang Bharu
24.  Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor, Empower
25.  Malaysia Youth & Students Democratic Movement, DEMA
26.    Educational, Welfare and Research Foundation Malaysia
27.    Malaysian Tamil Forum
28.    Malaysian Hindu Youth Council
29.    Majlis Kelab Bell Belia Tamil Malaysia
30.    Tamil Foundation
31.    Malaysian Dravidian Association
32.    Group of Concerned Citizens
33.    Malaysian Association of Indian University Graduates
34.    Coalition of Malaysian Indian NGOs
35.    Malaysian Indian Historical Association
36.    Klang Consumer Association
37.    Malaysian Indian Development & Unity Association
38.    Indian Malaysian Active Generation (IMAGE)
39.    Persahabatan Semparuthi
40.    Child Development Initiative
41.    Council of Temples
42.    Hartal MSM
43.    Malaysian Indians Progressive Association
44.    Malaysian Indian Student Association
45.    Community Action Network
46.     Selangor & KL Hokkien Association Youth Section
47.     Persatuan Alumni Chung Ling Wilayah Tengah

Leave a Reply