Interlok – DBP Violated Its Own Guidelines

by Eyes Wide Open

HartalMSM recently came into possession of a document used by Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka (DBP) in evaluating manuscripts submitted to them to be considered for publication. The purpose of the evaluation is to determine if the manuscript conforms to their standards. This form does set out some pretty good criteria, worthy of an institute set up to uphold the integrity of our National Language. However, the document we have is just for the first level of review. it’s more of a quick summary of the book to see if it warrants further exploration by the DBP.

The actual process towards final approval involves several levels of approval and review before DBP decides to publish a manuscript. Manuscripts are expected to conform to a long list of publishing standards set out by the DBP in the Gaya Dewan Edisi Ketiga, also published by DBP.

However, comparing even only the DBP’s standards for the initial review with Interlok, we are flabbergasted at why the DBP decided to publish the Student’s Edition of the novel!

Here, we’ll highlight some of the standards that DBP expects from a manuscript before is even considered for further review, and how Interlok contrasts with it.

DBP’s review process

The first step is to categorise the manuscript to determine who the intended readers are – (1) children, (2) teenagers, (3) adults/public, or (4) tertiary/scholars. After determining the category, all the criteria applied to evaluate the manuscript must be considered in the light of the intended readers.

Among the DBP’s considerations under the CONTENTS section of the initial review are:

2. Idea, teori dan pendeketan yang dititikberatkan oleh penulis. (Ideas, theories and approaches that are emphasised by the writer)

HartalMSM fails to see how the IDEAS & THEORIES behind the depiction of the races expounded at length in books 1 through 3 are can pass muster! Yes, they can only be considered ideas and theories because the author’s depictions of the Chinese and Indian immigrant community are so far removed from reality at times! Objectionable issues in Interlok include racial ideas and theories that child trafficking / selling children is a common Chinese practice, the Chinese are a heartless economic predators, the Chinese are bent on cheating the Malays out of home and hearth, the Chinese are value nothing more than money, etc.

This is the mental image of the Chinese that the government wants to plant in children's minds

Undoubtedly, there are Chinese who are like that. Just as there are bad hats in every community. But the problem with Interlok is that these negative depictions are being taught to school children as “historical facts” of entire communities, and are being promoted as an accurate basis for Malaysian race relations!  Really? The novel’s mistakes and failures have been has been proven again and again. Yet, the DBP approved these false depictions to be taught to 16 year olds.

HartalMSM cannot imagine why the DBP is endorsing such rubbish as suitable for school children!

3.  Pertanggungjawaban dari segi ilmu dan fakta yang benar dan tahan uji. (Responsibility with regards to knowledge as well as facts that are true and can withstand scrutiny)

This DBP guideline clearly requires manuscripts to have factual integrity. However, the author clearly displays a very shallow knowledge of Indian and Chinese immigrants’ culture, beliefs and motivations. It is painfully obvious that the racial depictions in the novel are nothing more than popular stereotypes circulating among one particular community. Perhaps the author had a few casual conversations with a very limited number of Chinese / Indians to clarify a few points, but there couldn’t have been much more.

How else could one explain the derogatory and inaccurate depictions of the Chinese and Indian immigrant communities in the novel? The massive outcry by NGOs and civil society groups pointing out the novel’s mistakes and misrepresentations clearly shows that Interlok’s “historical facts” are NOT true and CANNOT withstand scrutiny.

Interlok simply fails to meet the DBP’s own criteria of factual integrity!

Item 4 & 5.  Kekuatan / kelemahan isi (Strengths / Weaknesses of the contents)

Many Malaysians find the ignorant biasness towards the Chinese and Indians in this Edition insulting. Who can blame them when all their grandparents are regarded as pariahs or money-grubbing cheats?

Given the strong reactions to novel’s depictions of the Chinese and Indians, it’s obvious that the novel’s weaknesses has far overshadowed its strengths. But this is not the sole responsibility of the author, because Interlok has been edited several times in its 40-year history.

First published in 1971, it was re-edited (“diperhalusi” or “refined” was the word used in NIAT’s report to the Education Ministry) in 1973. It was then abridged and published as a “Student’s Edition” in 2005 so that it could be used in schools as an optional text. The copyright up to that edition still belonged to the author, Abdullah Hussein. But Abdullah Hussein later surrendered his copyright to the DBP, who then re-edited and published the 2010 “Student’s Edition” which was made into the compulsory text for the Literature Component of the SPM BM paper.

As the copyright owner for the 2010 Student Edition, how could the DBP not follow its own guidelines and correct the novel’s faults and mistakes before publishing the work?

Item 8.  Adakah perkara-perkara yang dibincangkan bertentangan dengan moral, agama, undang-undang dan kepentingan negara? (Are the issues being explored contradictory to the morals, religion, laws and interests of the country?)

Trying to get Interlok past this criteria would be tough as the novel questions the morals and insults the religion of the minorities. Its derogatory depictions of minorities is also an affront to the racial harmony of the country.

But this is where the DBP’s editing of the 2010 Student Edition gets interesting.

About 20% of the original novel was excised for the 2010 Students Edition. 10% was removed from the Chinese section, 20% from the Indian section, and 3% from the Malay section. What was removed?

Many elements that directly portrayed the Malay community in a bad light were removed. For example, the portrayal of a Malay woman being unfaithful to her husband (pg 243, 2003 edition) was dropped. Elements that portrayed the multi-cultural acceptance among races in Malaya were also removed, eg the description of a large Hindu temple and mosque located a stones throw from each other on Pitt Street (pg 241, 2003 edition).

The government doesn't want students to know that religious harmony like this exists in Malaysia.

If one were to believe the propaganda that this novel depicts “historical facts” and promotes good race relations, why were unflattering portrayals of one particular community and positive portrayals of racial/religious tolerance excised from the novel? And why were factual errors and derogatory depictions of other communities let through? The biased and selective editing BY THE DBP THEMSELVES is in direct contradiction of their own criteria because it has made the novel even MORE IMBALANCED against the minorities!

The DBP reviewer is also required to assess whether the language used in a manuscript is suitable for the intended readers. Since Interlok’s intended readers are teenagers, it is shocking that DBP finds nothing wrong with the novel’s racial slurs, descriptions of humans in animal terms, depictions of immoral behaviour, etc! The extensive freedom of speech accorded to Interlok is unprecedented as such degrading words (and in such large numbers) have NEVER been allowed in school texts, ever!

Racial slurs are OK in Interlok because apparently it teaches us to be one big happy family!

Again, how does DBP justify blatantly violating its own publication standards?

Why Interlok?

Interlok would not have even gotten past initial selection process. We're guessing that Simon would have a thing or two to say about this...

NIAT’s technical analysis of Interlok clearly demonstrates that the novel fails to conform to the Ministry’s own criteria for textbook selection. Yet it was pushed through into the schools.

We now know that Interlok also failed to even conform to the DBP’s initial review standards. This is incredible since the DBP OWNS THE COPYRIGHTS to Interlok, and also EDITED and PUBLISHED it themselves. This means they threw their own guidelines into the rubbish bin in order to get the novels into classrooms!

It is also clear that the Ministry’s lesson plan and study guide are heavily biased against Malaysian Chinese and Indian communities.

And now, despite the uproar from concerned Malaysians, the Education Ministry and Minister still insist on maintaining Interlok as the compulsory text for the SPM BM paper.

One naturally wonders – what is the agenda at work here?

Tepuk dada tanyalah selera…

One Response to “Interlok – DBP Violated Its Own Guidelines”
  1. sct says:

    There’s none so blind as those who will not see. But worse n more culpable are those who know very well what you’re talking about above and are intentionally pushing to use the book mala fide while blatantly singing the slogan 1Malaysia to pull wool over people’s eyes, laughing all the way to the bank.

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