Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Letter From A Frightened Malaysian Abroad.

The following was received by email and is probably an imaginary letter relating to some of the things going on in Malaysia.

Dear Mr Ooi,

I have been meaning to pen some thoughts for some time now, to let people actually read the views of the typical ‘overseas Malaysian’ who is kept away. I realise that my email is rather long, but I do hope that you would consider publishing it (and also keep my name private!).

I shall start by telling a little about my background. Mine is a rather sad tale – of a young Malaysian full of hope and patriotic enthusiasm, which is slowly but surely trickling away.

I am very different from many other non-bumiputeras, as I was given tremendous opportunities throughout my childhood. Born into a middle-class Chinese but English-speaking family, I grew up with all the privileges of imported books, computers, piano/violin lessons and tuition teachers.

My parents insisted that I should be exposed to a multi-racial education in a national school. In my time, my urban national school (a missionary school) was a truly happy place – where the Malays, Chinese and Indian students were roughly equal in proportion. We played and laughed with each other, and studied the history of the world together during Form 4, with one interesting chapter dedicated to Islamic history.

Though 75% of my teachers were Malays, I never really noticed. My Malay teachers were the kindest to me – teaching me well and offering me every possible opportunity to develop. I led the district teams for English and Bahasa Malaysia debating competitions. I was the only non-Malay finalist in the Bahasa Malaysian state-level elocution competition. My Malay teachers encouraged me to transfer to a government residential school (sekolah berasrama penuh) so as to enable me to maximise my academic potential. I refused because I was happy where I was, so they made me head prefect and nominated me as a ‘Tokoh Pelajar Kebangsaan’. Till this day, I am absolutely certain that it was the kindness of all my Malay teachers which made me a true Malaysian.

I excelled at school and was offered a Singaporean government scholarship to study overseas. I turned them down because I wanted to ensure that I would remain a ‘true Malaysian’ in the eyes of Malaysia. So I accepted a Malaysian government scholarship to study at Oxford University. Throughout my three years as an undergraduate, the officers at the MSD looked after me very well, and was always there to offer support.

I graduated with first class honours, and was offered a job with a leading investment bank. The JPA released me from my bond, so as to enable me to develop my potential. I shall always be grateful for that. I worked hard and rose in rank. My employer sent to me to Harvard University for postgraduate study and I climbed further up their meritocratic ladder.

Now I am 31 years old and draw a comfortable monthly salary of US$22,000. Yet, I yearn to return home. I miss my home, my family, my friends, my Malaysian hawker food and the life in Malaysia. I have been asked many times by Singaporean government agencies to join them on very lucrative terms, but I have always refused due to my inherent patriotism.

I really want to return home. I have been told by government-linked corporations and private companies in Malaysia that at best, I would still have to take a 70% pay cut if I return to Malaysia to work. I am prepared and willing to accept that. My country has done a lot for me, so I should not complain about money.

But of late, my idealistic vision of my country has really come crashing down, harder and faster than ever before.

I read about the annual fiasco involving non-bumiputera top scorers who are denied entry to critical courses at local universities and are offered forestry and fisheries instead. (My cousin scored 10A1’s for SPM and yet was denied a scholarship).

I read about UMNO Youth attacking the so-called meritocracy system because there are less than 60% of Malay students in law and pharmacy, whilst conveniently keeping silent about the fact that 90% of overseas scholarship recipients are Malays and that Malays form the vast majority in courses like medicine, accountancy and engineering at local universities.

I read about the Higher Education Minister promising that non-bumiputera Malaysians will never ever step foot into UiTM.

I read about a poor Chinese teacher’s daughter with 11A1’s being denied a scholarship, while I know some Malay friends who scored 7A’s and whose parents are millionaires being given scholarships.

I read about the brilliant Prof. K.S. Jomo, who was denied a promotion to Senior Professor (not even to Head of Department), although he was backed by references from three Nobel Prize winners. Of course, his talent is recognised by a prestigious appointment at the United Nations.

I read about UMNO Youth accusing Chinese schools of being detrimental to racial integration, while demanding that Mara Junior Science Colleges and other residential schools be kept only for Malays.

I read about the Malay newspaper editors attacking the private sector for not appointing enough Malays to senior management level, whilst insisting that the government always ensure that Malays dominate anything government-related.

I read that at our local universities, not a single Vice-Chancellor or Deputy Vice-Chancellor is non-Malay.

I read that in the government, not a single Secretary-General of any ministry is non-Malay. The same goes for all government agencies like the police, armed forces, etc.

I read about UMNO screaming for the Malay Agenda, but accusing everyone else of racism for whispering about equality.

I read about a poor Indian lady having to pay full price for a low-cost house after being dispossessed from a plantation, whilst Malay millionaires demand their 10% bumiputera discount when buying RM2 million bungalows in a gated community.

I read about my beloved national schools becoming more and more Islamic by the day, enforced by overzealous principals.

I read about my Form 4 World History (Sejarah Dunia) syllabus, which now contains only one chapter of world history, with Islamic history covering the rest of the book.

As I read all this, I tremble with fear. I love my country and long to return. I am willing to take a 70% pay cut. I am willing to face a demotion. I honestly want to contribute my expertise in complex financial services and capital markets. But really, is there a future for me, for my children and for their children? I am truly frightened.

I can deal with the lack of democracy, the lack of press freedom, the ISA, our inefficient and bureaucratic civil service, our awful manners and even a little corruption. But I cannot deal with racism in my homeland. I think this is the single biggest factor which is keeping people like myself away. And bear in mind – there are so many of us (researchers, scientists, bankers, economists, lawyers, academics, etc.). What people read about in Malaysia (like Dr Terence Gomez) is but the tiniest tip of the iceberg. You will be amazed to know about Malaysians denied JPA scholarships (which would have made them civil servants), took loans to attend Ivy League universities, but who are later asked to advise our government (on IT, economics, etc.) at fees running to millions of US dollars. Such information will never be published because it is politically incorrect.

As a Christian, I pray for God’s blessing on this great country of ours. I pray that He blesses our leaders with the foresight and humanity to see that this will not work and cannot continue. I pray that they will have the strength to make our country a home for all Malaysians and that they will have mercy for the poor, including the non-Malays. I pray for true racial harmony and acceptance (not just tolerance) in Malaysia.

Yours sincerely,
A very frightened Malaysian abroad.

***** Does this letter strike a chord? You bet!


Blogger toniXe said...

a very honest opinion from a decent Malaysian, what many of us feel but were afraid/ too tired/ too sick to mention

The Frightened Malaysian is one lucky fellow, he has a choice,
most of stuck here have none, need I say more ?

11:22 AM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those of us living here have to deal with the "racism" constantly even though it has made us who and what we are today while people such as himself are going to complain non-stop but are not willing to lift a finger to help "solve" the problem.

I am one of those people who grew up in a background similar to his (middle class, importer books, computer, piano/violin BUT no tuition coz my parents didn't believe in tuition) and who went abroad to study. I was never on a scholarship. I went to a SM and SRK school during my pre-college and pre-uni years. I stayed in Australia doing my MA and yet I came home even though I could have stayed on in Sydney.

Why? Why did I choose to come home even though my parents told me not to?

Because I was sick and tired of complaining, complaining and MORE complaining about life in M'sia while I was enjoying the fruits of my labour in another country that has given me more and while my fellow M'sians are earning less than myself and *HAVE* to make do with what they have AND at the same time, try to live and perhaps fix the shitty problems in this country.

The problems in this country IS my responsibility and hence, I came home. I wanted to try it out and see if I *could* make a difference, if I *could* contribute positively.

What I will not put up with is for people like this person who complains non-stop yet is not willing to be responsible enough to at least try living here for a few years before truly deciding if M'sia has already gone to the dogs.

I am sorry (actually I'm not but it's just a phrase) but this person has a very utopian ideal of what/how a country is suppose to develop and run. No where on earth will you find the perfection which he seeks.

As a Christian, he should know that God works in mysterious ways and that everything is the way it is for a reason.

ps: I am NOT stuck here. I never was. I made the choice to come back and contribute instead of just whining. You always have a choice - you can either make the best of what you have or whine non-stop.

11:35 AM GMT+8  
Blogger bibliobibuli said...

someone has been mass spamming blogs with this letter and others like it. and pretending to be a whole lot of people just to try to stir up racist sentiment. my blog has been hit twice, probably by this very same person, with post after post going up within the space of a few minutes

(the first time here

i reported the poster to the internet provider who investigated the case

although you may well cheer for the sentiments expressed (and who can deny the validity of some of the arguments) anonymous comment is cowardly and ultimately meaningless. and epiphitic (if i may borrow a metaphor from the botanists) blog-hogging entirely slimey. as you can see, these incidents have left me feeling very used and angry.

if this guy has something to say, let him have the guts to put his name to it.

as you do.

11:39 AM GMT+8  
Blogger bibliobibuli said...

btw, jeff

you can expect a lot of anonymous comments agreeing with this post (and folks apparently signed in whose links don't lead anywhere). check the ISP numbers and make sure they aren't all the same guy!!! take care that you aren't being used either

11:45 AM GMT+8  
Blogger bibliobibuli said...

sorry for a third comment following swift on the others:

here is the evidence that the same idiot is behind this letter as behind my comment-spam

see you aren't the only blogger deceived:

surely responsible blogging means taking as much care with your sources as the print media would with theirs?

12:08 PM GMT+8  
Blogger The Malaysian. said...

tonixe, with that kind of earnings this chap should stay put where he is.
anonymous, the country needs more people like you who stay back and although you have the option to leave, you still choose to remain as you consider it your responsibility. Hats off to you mate.
sharon, bibliobibuli thanks for dropping in and enlightening us on this spam of a letter. I hope that those who read your comments will take the contents of the letter with a pinch of salt, although admittedly many of the points raised are very valid. BTW I'm not Jeff and what I received was a forwarded email and I don't know who this 'Mr Ooi' is.

1:14 PM GMT+8  
Blogger bibliobibuli said...

sorry for the case of (your) mistaken identity! i realised after i posted. (i saw the mr. ooi and thought it was addressed to you!)

btw from what i managed to ascertain from my sitemeter, the letter writer was writing, not from not overeas at all, but from alor setar! we honestly can't even be sure of his race (i have my suspicions there too). all i know is that the guy is out to create as much mischief as he can ... at the expense of bloggers.

(btw - here's a link to the second time he spammed my blog with comment after comment, as well as his ISP number)

so tonixe - not a decent or honest malaysian after all.

i well understand the pain and sense of grievance that prompted you to post this up, i must say. (least you find me unsympathetic)

3:13 PM GMT+8  
Blogger Akubumi said...

Please stay away if you do not wish to come back. It's your choice. Moreover, do our country need so many Chinese? Whether they are highly qualified or not is not a question. It is better for us if all Chinese go back to their origin homeland as the Son of the Soil are the true owner of Malaysia. Please note that this is not a racist comment.

2:07 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous andyho said...

"Please stay away if you do not wish to come back. It's your choice. Moreover, do our country need so many Chinese? Whether they are highly qualified or not is not a question. It is better for us if all Chinese go back to their origin homeland as the Son of the Soil are the true owner of Malaysia. Please note that this is not a racist comment."

I find that last statement highly ironic. This statement only demonstrates your xenophobic nature. Yet if people stay away, the government complains about brain drain. Btw, the country most Malaysians migrate to would be Singapore, and by the consideration of the entrance requirements for a PR (at least a stable SGD2500 dollar a month job), it is thus safe to assert that those who leave are the more qualified and capable ones, as they possess the financial ability to migrate.

Furthermore, it is this entrenched dependency on the government policies that have resulted in the difficult situation where politicians have absolutely no space to remove these policies set by their precedents. Any politician who dares to venture into this territory will immediately be voted out of office.

10:49 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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2:55 AM GMT+8  

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