Professor Anthony Milner, currently with the International Studies Department of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), has been reported to say that despite complaints against the ‘Interlok’ novel, he felt that its author national laureate Abdullah Hussain attempted to provide an idea of the lives of the Chinese and Indian communities and their relationship with the Malay community.
He therefore suggested that the controversial ‘Interlok’ novel should be used as a model for history text books as it is quite “inclusive” in its narrative and depiction of non-Malays.
I find his suggestion most shocking and unacceptable. I wonder if he is aware of the strong and continued public objections against the novel’s usage as a school text.
I wish to ask Professor Anthony Milner if he is also aware of the following:
1. That the novel contains factual inaccuracies? That many matters written are unsubstantiated?
2. That the government itself has set up an independent committee to review the book’s contents but three of the panel members have later resigned in protest?
3. That the novel can destroy the fabric of national unity in a multiracial country?
On March 30, Chinese groups also joined the Indian community and voiced their strong objections against the continued usage of the novel.
I reproduce below an extract of media report of the stand and views taken by the groups:
“In a statement today (March 30), Chinese associations from across Malaysia said the book was not only offensive to Indians but Chinese as well, as it depicted the character Kim Lock as a “miserly opium addict and callous adulterer” and his son, Cing Huat, as “cunning, greedy, unscrupulous and someone who would happily sell his daughters”.
“‘Interlok’ in its totality propagates the ideology of ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy). In our considered opinion, this novel is not only unhealthy but an insidious poison,” the statement said.
“In fact, ‘Interlok’ is barely a step away from the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) 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 ).”
The groups also condemned the ‘major thread’ in the book, that depicts the Chinese “cheating and oppressing” Malays or as “nasty and immoral” communist guerrillas.
The statement was signed by the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH), LLG Cultural Development Centre, Malaysian-China Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Chinese Associations Johor, the Penang Chinese Town Hall and 40 others, including the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM) and several Indian organisations.
Why is Professor Milner unable to see all these despite his claim that he has read the novel?
Has he chosen to play politics by ignoring the truth?
Finally, I wish to also ask him where in the world a fiction has been used as a history book.