Glaring bias in history book


  • Letters
  • Friday, 13 Mar 2015

I WOULD like to draw the attention of the Education Ministry to at least five factual errors in the current Standard Five History textbook first published in 2014 (See diagram).

What disturbs me most is the glaring bias towards glorifying one particular ethnic group and religion whilst downplaying the role of the other ethnic groups and religions, a continuing trend which started in the 1990s.

Our textbooks in the 1970s and 1980s used to have separate chapters on the impact of Indian civilisation (e.g. Hinduism and its Impact on Malaysian Society, and Buddhism and its Heritage in Malaysia).

 

The current Standard Five History textbook sums up the influence of Hinduism and Buddhism on local society in merely one sentence on page 14.

The textbook greatly downplays the role of Yap Ah Loy (not even mentioned in the main text) in developing Kuala Lumpur.

All historians worth their salt will admit that Yap Ah Loy was primarily responsible for rebuilding Kuala Lumpur after the Selangor Civil War.

According to J. Kennedy in his book (A History of Malaya), Yap Ah Loy “... did more than anyone to establish the little township destined to become Malaya’s capital”.

Kennedy’s views are shared by other historians. Margaret Shennan writes that “Kuala Lumpur was another town created by the enterprise of the Chinese”.

In the words of J. M. Gullick, “Down to 1879, Yap Ah Loy was Mr Kuala Lumpur.”

The Chinese played a significant role in the development of the tin mining industry in Malaya.

However, this fact is downplayed on page 42 of the Standard Five History Textbook. The textbook fails to mention that tin production in Malaya increased greatly with the involvement of the Chinese and their far superior mining methods (e.g. gravel pump and open cast mining) compared to the traditional Malay dulang washing method.

It appears to highlight the conflict between the Ghee Hin and the Hai San miners (with an illustration) and how it resulted in losses for the Straits Settlement investors.

The textbook conspicuously avoids stating that the Malay chiefs themselves took sides in the conflict between these two secret societies.

It is rather unfortunate that my repeated pleas since the 1990s to the Education Ministry to publish history textbooks which provide a balanced and an objective account of the origin and development of our beloved nation have fallen on deaf ears.

Malaysia’s history should be written on the premise that our nation today is the result of numerous sacri­fices and contributions by the various ethnic groups, and not just one ethnic group. Enough is enough!

Associate Professor Dr Sivachandralingam Sundara Raja, Emeritus Professor Dr Ahmat Adam and I (with Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim as the consulting editor) have agreed to undertake a four-year project beginning 2016 to write an authoritative, objective and balanced History of Malaysia and a Pictorial History of Malaysia which would be most useful for our students.

We sincerely hope that fellow Malaysians will contribute generously towards this worthwhile and long overdue project which involves extensive research and numerous foreign trips.

DR RANJIT SINGH MALHI

Kuala Lumpur


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