Malaysia to amend textbook after ethnic Indians’ objection


Kuala Lumpur : The Malaysian government Friday said a textbook, which was objected to by ethnic Indians because of references to the caste system, would be amended.

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A committee of experts will examine the book for those references and the book would be prescribed nationally only after ‘amendments’, Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced here.

The move to adopt “Interlok”, a novel written in 1971, as a literature text for Form Five students from this year, had sparked a heated debate.

Some groups, said to be of ethnic Indians, had burnt copies of the book in public.

Malaysia is home to 2.1 million ethnic Indians, a bulk of them Tamil Hindus who settled here during the British era.

After meeting top leaders of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), Yassin said they had come to an agreement to continue using the novel for the literature component of the Bahasa Malaysia subject for Form Five students.

However, the novel will be used in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Selangor and Negri Sembilan states.

Yassin said an independent panel would be set up to study what amendments were needed and it would then submit recommendations to the government.

He said the panel would comprise linguists, academicians, literary figures and representatives from Dewan Bahasa dan Pustakam, the council for Malay language literary works, and the Indian community.

Yassin said the novel would be used nationwide only after the amendments had been made and pending that, the education ministry would direct teachers to continue teaching the subject using the existing syllabus.

“I believe we have enough time to make the detailed amendments so that there will not be any more disputes over the novel.”

Yassin said the decision was made after taking into account the views of various parties that Interlok was a good novel to nurture and strengthen unity among the multi-religious and multicultural population in Malaysia.

“As such, the decision to retain the novel with amendments is the best solution. We will ensure that any amendments made will not affect the storyline of the novel and the noble message that the author wants to convey.”