Knowing the sensitivities surrounding the various issues, I had expected a watered down course which doesn't deal so much with the issues of the past, but to focus on the cultures of the various ethnic groups and promote greater friendliness and understanding. But never did I expect a textbook on ethnic relations which not only atttempts to distort the truth but promoted historical falsehoods as well. If the historical revisionism in our textbooks were bad - blogged here and here, then this is many times worse, for it redefines the essence of Malaysia.
So, what's the fuss? Thanks to an excellent report by Malaysiakini, the following are some of the contentious issues raised in the new textbook.
- The textbook focussed solely on the role of ruling party Umno and the Independence of Malaya Party set up in 1946 and 1951, respectively which made it seem “as if there were no other parties and organisations in Malaysia participating in the political arena and the country’s nation-building.”
As rightly pointed out by Professor Emeritus of History at Universiti Malaya, Khoo Kay Kim, this represents a grossly "selective representation of history".
- In the case of the May 13, 1969 riots,
... the opposition party DAP was singled out as a Chinese-majority party that had ‘upset the Malays’ and contributed to the conflagration that occurred "...the DAP, which is made up mostly of Chinese, conducted a procession in Kuala Lumpur in which they insulted and uttered statements that upset the Malays."Once again, this is a factual concoction as "it was BN coalition member Gerakan and not DAP which had participated in the procession in Kuala Lumpur's Kampung Baru that triggered the 1969 riots."
- With regards to the 2001 Kampung Medan fights between Indians and Malays, the Indians were blamed.
"The Malay community in the said area had lost their patience with the anti-social attitude of groups of Indian youths and wanted to teach them a lesson..."The connotations behind the above statement clearly points to unsubstantiated allegations which borders on racism. I wonder if the text is meant to promote understanding or trigger fights within the classroom.
- Similarly, the book referred to the call for a non-discriminatory affirmative action policy by the Malaysian Chinese Election Appeals Committee (Suqiu) in 2000 as ‘extremist’.
"Such (extremist) demands should no longer exist, in order to defend the harmony that has so far been experienced and to preserve the relations and cooperation between the various races in Malaysia.".So if Suqiu, who submitted a peaceful memorandum to the Prime Minister of the day requesting for the rights of the community to be protected (rightly or wrongly) is regarded as "extremist", then there should be equal mention of a whole bunch of jokers and idiots from a certain youth wing of a political party who will every now and then decide to illegally storm private talks and seminars. Who are the "extremists"?
An attempted politicisation and revisionism of the historical events will not only result in the objectives of teaching the ethnic relations subject not being met, it may actually cement the racial polarisation through perceived bias and injustice in our education and administration system.Who are the guilty parties for coming up with some of the above nonsense? Well, clearly some half-baked academics from Universiti Putra Malaysia. The editors whose names are published on the cover of the textbook, are Dr Zaid bin Ahmad who is the Head of the Department of Government and Civilisation Studies, Faculty of Human Ecology, and Prof Jayum Jawan, who is a professor of Politics and Government. I think they are an absolute disgrace to the academia, their university and country.
However, historical revisionism and fictional concoction isn't the only thing that this new Ethnic Relations textbook is guilty of. But more on that in the next post.