Book row: Malaysian-Indians to stay in review panel

March 18th, 2011 - 3:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, March 18 (IANS) Three Malaysian-Indian members of a panel, looking into the contents of a controversial novel detailing the Hindu caste system, will remain part of the team despite difference of opinion on deleting a portion of the book.

The three representatives of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) walked out of the panel Wednesday after other members insisted that they agree on deleting only the word “pariah” from the novel “Interlok”, which has been included in the Malaysian school syllabus.

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said he spoke to the MIC president G. Palanivel on the issue and all the three members of the group - N.S. Rajendran, G. Krishnabahawan and Uthaya Sankar S.B. - will remain part of the panel.

The MIC, the country’s largest Indian-based political party, Thursday said it wanted the Education Ministry to take a firm stand on the “Interlok” novel as it could become an emotional and divisive issue.

“It is important that the ‘Interlok’ issue be handled well,” Palanivel said in a statement.

The review team was set up after sections of the ethnic Indian community of about 2.1 million population which forms eight percent of Malaysia’s population was upset at references to Hindu caste system in the 1970 novel, that talks of Malaysia’s evolution as a multi-ethnic society after independence in 1957.

Yassin said about the walkout: “I understand that it was a slight misunderstanding but (MIC president) Datuk G. Palanivel has told me that the matter (their pullout) did not happen and that he has spoken to the three.

“He will ensure they stay in the panel to resolve this,” The Star quoted him as saying Friday.

Yassin, however, ruled out withdrawing the book from the school curriculum. The book would remain a literature text in schools but with amendments.

“We had previously made the decision to use the book. Thus, the question of withdrawing it does not arise.

“We just need to fix the contentious issues, including those that are causing dissatisfaction among the Indian community,” said Yassin, who is also the Education Minister.

An attempt by an ethnic Indian lawmaker to have the issue debated in parliament failed Wednesday when Speaker Pandikar Mulia rejected the motion.

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