PETALING JAYA (April 19, 2011): A new controversy is threatening to erupt over the inclusion of the word “paria”, this time in the Kamus Dewan, a main source of reference for Malay words.
Tamil daily Makkal Osai had on March 31 reported concerns that the Kamus Dewan, published by the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, contained words which are considered offensive to Indians.
In response, the Education Ministry said the dictionary should only be viewed from a Malay perspective.
The ministry, through a statement published on its website, argued that all the words recorded were rooted in a Malay context, including words with foreign origins.
The stand was also supported by several leading Malay writer groups which went on to accuse Kayvan Laureate Group, which represents Indian authors who write in Malay, for trying to stir up trouble by highlighting the issue. [READ HERE]
When contacted, Kavyan president Uthaya Sankar SB denied that the group was “questioning” the inclusion of any word in the dictionary.
Rather, it was merely responding to the government’s stand that the dictionary be viewed only from the Malay perspective, which it claimed runs contrary to the central goal of getting young people of all races to use Bahasa Malaysia. [READ HERE]
Historian Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim said that while there are dictionaries that limit or omit certain words which are deemed to be offensive, the “most advanced” editions would typically include all words used in any language.
“If something is real, then we can’t hide it,” he said in reference to derogatory terms listed in a dictionary.
However, Khoo said he disagreed with the sentiment that the Kamus Dewan should only be viewed from a Malay perspective.
“People in Malaysia are increasingly becoming very sensitive. The government should instead be adopting a more progressive approach by looking at how other developed countries have been handling similar issues,” Khoo told theSun.
He also questioned why the issue was only brought up now, hot on the heels of the Interlok controversy, as the word has been included in the Kamus Dewan since its first edition was published in 1970.
Several groups have objected to the use of Interlok as a text book in schools as it contained words deemed offensive to the Indian community. The Education Ministry has agreed to amend future editions of the book to remove the word “pariah”.
(Alyaa Alhadjri, Updated 09:23PM Tue, 19 Apr 2011 at www.thesundaily.com and also published in theSun, 20 April 2011.)