KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 — Indian community activist S. Shankar Ganesh today issued a letter of demand through his lawyer to Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP), demanding an immediate public apology after the department used keling to refer to the Indian community on its website recently.
Lawyer Datuk K. Ganesh, who is representing Shankar, confirmed that the letter of demand was issued to DBP director-general Datuk Abang Sallehuddin Abang Shokeran earlier today.
Ganesh said that should DBP fail to act on the letter, his client was more than prepared to file a legal suit against them.
“Though the derogatory word and its twisted meaning were removed, only after the matter was raised in the press, there was no apology made to the Indian community at large.
“We have now been instructed to demand that you make a public apology to all Malaysians for intentionally publishing the word knowing that it is derogatory to the Indians or an apology for your ignorance of not knowing that the word was derogatory.
“Take notice if the above is not adhered to then we have firm instructions to commence legal proceedings against you to ensure our clients demands are met, and to ensure no racial disharmony is caused, that will affect the fabric of Malaysian society,” the letter sighted by Malay Mail reads.
Apart from seeking a public apology to Malaysians and the Indian community, Shankar is also demanding for Abang Sallehuddin to take action against the individual who had caused the word and its derogatory meaning to be published.
When contacted, Shankar said he hoped DBP would act swiftly on his demands as the issue has gone viral over the term which is regarded as a slur.
For the uninitiated, the word keling is a pejorative term to the Indian community. In its early usage keling was a neutral term for people of Indian origin but was perceived negatively due to derogatory usage to imply immigrant status.
Social media was abuzz after DBP’s reaction to the controversy with a statement dismissing claims that the word is not malicious, clarifying that the dictionary allows the use of such words that express certain concepts in various fields of knowledge and social settings.
Following the uproar, Abang Sallehuddin said the department will replace the word keling with the word “Indian”.
A recent check on DBP’s website today defined keling as people originating from the southern Indian subcontinent or the southern geography of southern India.
The language agency said its publications were a “living dictionary” that recorded history but were also updated with the changes in time.
It said that in 2003, a legal challenge was mounted to remove keling from the Kamus Dewan, but the court ruled that the word could be retained as “there was no mala fide”.
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