Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Why come back?

A couple of years ago I had the privelege of meeting a brilliant oncologist, a Malaysian now Head of Oncology in a leading American Hospital. She was back visiting her dying father. I asked her whether she ever had thought of returning, she said with sadness that she did try 2 years ago. The Malaysian government told her she had to take exams again as her graduate degree came from a university which was not recognized. "Forget the hassle", she says but its more the hurt I can see. She is a practising oncologist with a brilliant resume, but we want to look at her university results. Senseless.

There are thousands of brilliant Malaysians abroad, having successful carreers. Some are willing to return home to be with their families. Unfortunately, despite the leaders lip service, the racist bureaucrats see to it that these non bumiputera Malaysians find it difficult to come home.
Here are some letters printed in The STAR (local newspapers):

Malaysia’s loss is UK’s gain
I HAVE a master’s degree from Imperial College and am completing my doctoral studies in Engineering Science at the University of Oxford in the UK.
I too face a similar dilemma as Sylvia Hsu-Chen Yip from Canberra, “We need to feel appreciated” (The Star, Sept 12). I am unsure whether I would return home after completing my PhD.
This is a similar dilemma being faced by many non-bumiputra Malaysians in the UK. I joined a Malaysian public university in the hope of being able to pursue my PhD abroad.
At the university, I learned that there were two staff study support programmes for postgraduate degrees, a bumiputra programme and a non-bumiputra programme.
I was so disappointed to learn of this that I left the university in three months. MARA used to give students loans to study abroad, and students used to only pay a percentage of the loan upon completing their studies.
If you had a first class degree, the loan became a scholarship. If you had a second upper degree, you paid 10% and so on. There were also loans for postgraduate studies, but I was not eligible for them.
I am currently completing my PhD through personal funds.
Anxious to find work to support myself, I was invited as a lecturer for Magdalen College, University of Oxford, in my first term at Oxford.
Even my supervisor was amazed by this, as he mentioned that it was unusual for someone to be invited to teach, having just arrived at Oxford.
Extremely pleased with the quality of my teaching, the University of Oxford asked me to continue teaching until the end of my studies.
I was recommended to Brasenose College, University of Oxford, which subsequently appointed me to a more substantial lectureship at the college.
Recognising the quality of my work, Brasenose College Oxford also asked me to help in undergraduate admissions in December.
I will be interviewing students who apply to study Engineering Science at Oxford.
My research has not suffered. My supervisor was surprised that I could not secure a scholarship, and is trying to secure funding for me from the British government.
I have also just been invited to settle down in the UK as a “Highly Skilled Migrant”, a status granted by the British Home Office based on my education, experience and achievements at international level.
I really want to return home as I want to be with my parents and family. Unfortunately, as I need to repay the family loans which helped me to complete my PhD, I will be staying on in the UK to work.
I have been told that any company would be more than willing to employ me, what with a master’s from Imperial and a PhD from Oxford.
I feel unappreciated in Malaysia. I could have contributed so much to the country, especially considering that Malaysia aims to become a regional education hub.
Malaysia’s loss is UK’s gain.

The second letter, which appeared in the Star on Sept. 12, 2006, is from Canberra:
We need to feel appreciated
LIKE Joanna Ng, “Take our brain-drain problem seriously” (The Star, Sept 11), I am one of the many Malaysians studying in Australia.
Having been here for about a month to pursue a PhD programme at the Australian National University, I can empathise with the feelings of the immigrants and what pull factors make them decide to make this land their permanent residence.
Australia is a home away from home. Asians constitute most of the immigrants here as Australia is geographically nearer to their home countries compared with the US and Britain.
Australia also has an open society that does not discriminate against Asians or other foreigners. This is mainly due to the small population in this vast continent.
The Australian government’s policies favour the immigrants so that they can form an invaluable human resource to engineer the country’s development.
Hence, everything here is based on merit. You do well in your studies, you get the scholarship, regardless of your nationality and ethnicity.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about my own country, Malaysia. Though we are almost 50 years into independence, racial and religious segregations still prevail.
These were evidently felt after I left school and went into a public local university as an undergraduate.
It does not really matter whether a country is blessed with natural resources like rubber and petroleum.
Singapore is quite barren in that sense but it is a developed nation. What is priceless and powerful is a country’s human resource.
With abundant brains and energy only can a country’s development go far and be sustained.
And Malaysia is endowed with intelligent people and that is why our overseas students always excel in their fields.
Isn’t it a pity to watch our bright and young people slipping away from the country and contributing their work elsewhere?
Wouldn’t it be great if the Government could attract these good people to return home?
I enjoy many things in Australia that I do not get to in Malaysia. Apart from the handsome scholarship, I get opportunities to do collaborative research with scientists from top universities in the world.
But, like Ng, I know that all this excitement will wane one day and I will be beckoned by that homecoming call.
There is nothing like working and contributing to my own country. And I long to have my family beside me.
Yet, in the meantime, when I am still undecided about my future whereabouts, I hope to see more being done to make non-bumiputra Malaysians feel appreciated in their country, by their country.
SYLVIA HSU-CHEN YIP,Canberra, Australia.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Dialogue or Censor........

We missed the opportunity to move Malaysia closer towards a civil society when we stopped all dialogue because of a handful of narrow minded people. Article 11 is an NGO set up to uphold the Federal Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

We could shut the issues in the closet and wait another 20 years to discuss but we will have missed out …Sadirah in a letter to Malaysiakini put it well…

Pak Lah, please don’t tell us to shut up
Sadirah K
Sep 4, 06 5:56pm
I hope Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would not advise us from raising sensitive issues. We are currently facing several sensitive issues relating to religion and governance. The government should consider this as appropriate feedback and give the people some assurance. No point just sweeping these issues under the carpet as though they do not exist. Only considered discussions born out of respect will help us move forward. We must thus act and do something and we need an assurance from the government that they are doing so and will come out with appropriate possibilities. Just telling everyone to shut up is no solution in the 21st century after 49 years of independence.
Article 11
The coalition of NGOs known as Article 11 is committed to embracing, upholding and pursuing the realization of the following principles as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution and Human Rights Conventions:
1. no citizen shall be discriminated on the basis of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender
2. parents (both mother and father) are equal guardians and have equal say in all respects of the upbringing of children
3. children shall be protected from any form of discrimination on the grounds of religion and in all cases, the interests of children shall be paramount
4. the freedom of thought, conscience and belief for all persons shall be fully respected, guaranteed and protected
5. every citizen has a responsibility to condemn discrimination and intolerance based on religion or belief
6. every citizen has a responsibility to apply religion or belief in support of human dignity and peace

Article 11 is fully committed to upholding those fundamental rights for all Malaysians regardless of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender.

The role of government is to protect the rights of those who wish to speak, not to quelch speech. All the more when there is opportunity to dialogue on such an important issue facing the nation as the eroding of the Federal Constitution which the founding fathers established as the document for all Malaysians to find protection and refuge.