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Gerakan leader calls for ban on Interlok

 | February 25, 2011

Breaking away from Gerakan's muted stance on Interlok, a local leader has called on the government to remove the novel.

GEORGE TOWN: For the first time, a Gerakan leader has publicly called on the government to ban the controversial Malay novel, Interlok.

Breaking away from his party’s muted stance on the controversial issue, Penang Gerakan legal and human rights bureau head Baljit Singh also slammed leaders of other ethnic communities, including from Gerakan, for keeping mum on Interlok.

“Other ethnic communities should also oppose Interlok; they should not leave the fight exclusively to the Indians,” he told FMT here today.

He said the novel was incongruous with nation-building and undermined Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s 1Malaysia concept.

He said the novel contained disparaging and unsavoury remarks on the Indian community.

He added that Interlok had shattered the country’s cherished multi-racial unity.

“I have read the book. It treated the Indian community with utter contempt,” said Baljit, a lawyer.

He said the Interlok controversy was not all about the word “pariah” (outcast) alone.

“It insults Indian families, men and women,” he said.

Interlok was penned in 1971 by national laureate Abdullah Hussain in the aftermath of May 13, 1969 racial riots.

Initially, several Indian-based organisations, including MIC, protested against the introduction of Interlok as a compulsory subject for Form Five students. But their protests were muted.

Outright rejection

But the opposition against the novel grew and prompted the Education Ministry to act. It decided only to re-introduce the novel in school after “editing the offending parts”.

This was rejected outright by most Indians, especially the minority rights movement, Hindraf Makkal Sakti, and its political off-spring, the Human Rights Party (HRP).

“Would the Umno government have made the same decision if the book was offending to the Malays or Muslims?

“Would Putrajaya lift the ban on Satanic Verses (written by Salman Rushdie) after editing the offending parts?” asked many readers in the cyber space domain.

Hindraf-HRP plans to hold a mass anti-Interlok and anti-racism protest at Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) this Sunday.

KLCC was the venue of the human rights movement’s historic mass demonstration on Nov 25, 2007.

This Sunday gathering was originally meant to be a show of protest against the use of Interlok as a literature text for students.

But it has been transformed into a “People’s March: Solidarity Against Umno’s Racism”.

Baljit accused other communities and their leaders of adopting a non-committal stance of “it did not affect my community anyway”.

He also criticised Gerakan for not taking an open stand against Interlok.

“What’s the point of Gerakan claiming to be a multi-racial party when it is afraid of opposing racism? The multi-racial Pakatan Rakyat’s silence on this issue is even more deafening,” said Baljit.

He said that all Malaysians have a duty to oppose racism regardless of ethnic ties.

“We all must voice out against any racist slurs or policies. We all have a responsibility to preserve and strengthen harmony,” said Baljit.


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