Malaysian parliament shuns debate on novel opposed by Indians

March 17th, 2011 - 4:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, March 17 (IANS) The Malaysian parliament has rejected a motion to debate a controversial book that has upset sections of ethnic Indian community for having references to the caste system among the Hindus.

The decision by Pandikar Amin Mulia, the speaker of the lower house, came on the day three Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) representatives pulled out from an independent panel looking into the contents of the novel, “Interlok”.

They quit after several panel members asked them to agree to only drop the word “pariah” from the novel, the New Straits Times said Thursday.

However, the MIC representatives insisted that the panel pursue the 100 amendments as proposed by the community during a meeting March 4.

The three MIC members - N.S. Rajendran, G. Krishnabahawan and Uthaya Sankar SB - said the sensitive portion related to race and language in “Interlok” should be edited as proposed.

“If it is not done, the book should be withdrawn as a literature book as it contravenes the conditions in the selection of textbook set by the education ministry,” they said in a statement.

The Speaker Pandikar Wednesday said the government is already looking into the matter pertaining to the protests over the contents of “Interlok”, a 1970 novel that talks of Malaysia’s evolution after its independence in 1957.

The book also depicts the prevalence of caste system among the Hindus who form a bulk of the 2.1 million ethnic Indians, constituting eight percent of Malaysia’s 28 million population.

The issue had been discussed at the national level for months and would take some time to be resolved.

“I have considered the issue and found that it is not necessary to debate it,” he said while rejecting the motion by M. Manogaran, an ethnic Indian opposition member belonging to the Democratic Action Party (DAP).

Pandikar said the government had taken measures, including setting up a panel to recommend amendments to the textbook that was deemed offensive and factually wrong.

Manogaran had said a debate was necessary so that the decision to use the novel in schools “could be stopped for the sake of national unity”.

A panel of experts is looking into the book’s contents. Ethnic Indian groups and political parties are being consulted.

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also the Education Minister, said Tuesday that the independent panel was “making encouraging progress”.

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