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.


andre said...


This brain drain has been going on for 20 years and it's not likely to get better. Unfortunately, after another decade or so, Malaysia will feel its effects.

I am not gifted and brilliant like the individuals you've noted but as you know, I understand the lack of incentive in returning. I don't think it's just about the pay - it's mostly about recognizing and respecting individual achievement. Individuals want an equal chance to succeed or fail based on merit.

There are Malaysians all over the world - building companies, writing software, doing research and doing creative work - and getting rewards based on their abilities. That's motivating to the individual and beneficial to the countries that host them

Meng said...

You're one of the brilliant ones Malaysia lost!!

The politicans continue to play their little racial games in this little coccoon called Malaysia to the detriment of the country. Its losing out in everyway (economically, technically, HR etc.)

ndyeow said...

Why come back? Well, I would actually find it difficult to come back because there are other places that better meets my needs. I see a country a little like an employer. If the employer is able to meet my needs, I stay. So far, Malaysia meets some needs (reasonably good for doing business in some areas), but not enough for me to consider staying on a permanent basis. To me, infrastructure and cultural issues are strong disincentives.

hm said...

Patriotism has never been my strong point. It has only grown worse as I grew older. I cannot see why I should contribute to a country where I am generally a 2nd class citizen - I think I am treated more equally and with less discrimination in many other "foreign" countries where I have lived in the last 20 years (Aust, HK, SG).

I see my trips back to KL and Penang these days as visiting family and friends. I agree wholeheartedly with the general tone and comments here - there simply isn't any incentive to return and live in Bolehland and it is simply not about money. Many overseas Msians that I know are succesful enough for the money not to matter and yet choose to visits friends and family frequently rather than return "home"...

Is it really so bad ??

human book said...

List of racial discriminations in Malaysia, practiced by government as well as government agencies. This list is an open secret. Best verified by government itself because it got the statistics.

This list is not in the order of importance, that means the first one on the list is not the most important and the last one on the list does not mean least important.

This list is a common knowledge to a lot of Malaysians, especially those non-malays (Chinese, Ibans, Kadazans, Orang Asli, Tamils, etc) who were being racially discriminated.

Figures in this list are estimates only and please take it as a guide only. Government of Malaysia has the most correct figures. Is government of Malaysia too ashamed to publish their racist acts by publishing racial statistics?

This list cover a period of about 49 years since independence (1957).

List of racial discriminations (Malaysia):

(1) Out of all the 5 major banks, only one bank is multi-racial, the rest are controlled by malays

(2) 99% of Petronas directors are malays

(3) 3% of Petronas employees are Chinese

(4) 99% of 2000 Petronas gasoline stations are owned by malays

(5) 100% all contractors working under Petronas projects must be bumis status

(6) 0% of non-malay staffs is legally required in malay companies. But there must be 30% malay staffs in Chinese companies

(7) 5% of all new intake for government army, nurses, polices, is non-malays

(8) 2% is the present Chinese staff in Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), drop from 40% in 1960

(9) 2% is the percentage of non-malay government servants in Putrajaya. But malays make up 98%

(10) 7% is the percentage of Chinese government servants in the whole government (in 2004), drop from 30% in 1960

(11) 95% of government contracts are given to malays

(12) 100% all business licensees are controlled by malay government e.g. Approved permits, Taxi permits, etc

(13) 80% of the Chinese rice millers in Kedah had to be sold to malay controlled Bernas in 1980s. Otherwise, life is make difficult for Chinese rice millers

(14) 100 big companies set up, owned and managed by Chinese Malaysians were taken over by government, and later managed by malays since 1970s e.g. MISC, UMBC, UTC, etc

(15) At least 10 Chinese owned bus companies (throughout Malaysia, throughout 40 years) had to be sold to MARA or other malay transport companies due to rejection by malay authority to Chinese application for bus routes and rejection for their application for new buses

(16) 2 Chinese taxi drivers were barred from driving in Johor Larkin bus station. There are about 30 taxi drivers and 3 are Chinese in October 2004. Spoiling taxi club properties was the reason given

(17) 0 non-malays are allowed to get shop lots in the new Muar bus station (November 2004)

(18) 8000 billion ringgit is the total amount the government channeled to malay pockets through ASB, ASN, MARA, privatisation of government agencies, Tabung Haji etc, through NEP over 34 years period

(19) 48 Chinese primary schools closed down since 1968 - 2000

(20) 144 Indian primary schools closed down since 1968 - 2000

(21) 2637 malay primary schools built since 1968 - 2000

(22) 2.5% is government budget for Chinese primary schools. Indian schools got only 1%, malay schools got 96.5%

(23) While a Chinese parent with RM1000 salary (monthly) cannot get school-text-book-loan, a malay parent with RM2000 salary is eligible

(24) 10 all public universities vice chancellors are malays

(25) 5% - the government universities lecturers of non-malay origins had been reduced from about 70% in 1965 to only 5% in 2004

(26) Only 5% is given to non-malays for government scholarships over 40 years

(27) 0 Chinese or Indians were sent to Japan and Korea under "Look East Policy"

(28) 128 STPM Chinese top students could not get into the course that they aspired e.g. Medicine (in 2004)

(29) 10% place for non-bumi students for MARA science schools beginning from year 2003, but only 7% are filled. Before that it was 100% malays

(30) 50 cases whereby Chinese and Indian Malaysians, are beaten up in the National Service program in 2003

(31) 25% is Malaysian Chinese population in 2004, drop from 45% in 1957

(32) 7% is the present Malaysian Indians population (2004), a drop from 12% in 1957

(33) 2 million Chinese Malaysians had emigrated to overseas since 40 years ago

(34) 0.5 million Indian Malaysians had emigrated to overseas

(35) 3 million Indonesians had migrated into Malaysia and became Malaysian citizens with bumis status

(36) 600000 are the Chinese and Indian Malaysians with red IC and were rejected repeatedly when applying for citizenship for 40 years. Perhaps 60% of them had already passed away due to old age. This shows racism of how easily Indonesians got their citizenships compare with the Chinese and Indians

(37) 5% - 15% discount for a malay to buy a house, regardless whether the malay is poor or rich

(38) 2% is what Chinese new villages get compare with 98% of what malay villages got for rural development budget

(39) 50 road names (at least) had been changed from Chinese names to other names

(40) 1 Dewan Gan Boon Leong (in Malacca) was altered to other name (e.g. Dewan Serbaguna or sort) when it was being officially used for a few days. Government try to shun Chinese names. This racism happened in around year 2000 or sort

(41) 0 churches/temples were built for each housing estate. But every housing estate got at least one mosque/surau built

(42) 3000 mosques/surau were built in all housing estates throughout Malaysia since 1970. No churches, no temples are required to be built in housing estates

(43) 1 Catholic church in Shah Alam took 20 years to apply to be constructed. But told by malay authority that it must look like a factory and not look like a church. Still not yet approved in 2004

(44) 1 publishing of Bible in Iban language banned (in 2002)

(45) 0 of the government TV stations (RTM1, RTM2, TV3) are directors of non-malay origins

(46) 30 government produced TV dramas and films always showed that the bad guys had Chinese face, and the good guys had malay face. You can check it out since 1970s. Recent years, this tendency becomes less

(47) 10 times, at least, malays (especially Umno) had threatened to massacre the Chinese Malaysians using May 13 since 1969

(48) 20 constituencies won by DAP would not get funds from the government to develop. Or these Chinese majority constituencies would be the last to be developed

(49) 100 constituencies (parliaments and states) had been racistly re-delineated so Chinese voters were diluted that Chinese candidates, particularly DAP candidates lost in election since 1970s

(50) Only 3 out of 12 human rights items are ratified by Malaysia government since 1960

(51) 0 - elimination of all forms of racial discrimination (UN Human Rights) is not ratified by Malaysia government since 1960s

(52) 20 reported cases whereby malay ambulance attendances treated Chinese patients inhumanely, and malay government hospital staffs purposely delay attending to Chinese patients in 2003. Unreported cases may be 200

(53) 50 cases each year whereby Chinese, especially Chinese youths being beaten up by malay youths in public places. We may check at police reports provided the police took the report, otherwise there will be no record

(54) 20 cases every year whereby Chinese drivers who accidentally knocked down malays were seriously assaulted or killed by malays

(55) 12% is what ASB/ASN got per annum while banks fixed deposit is only about 3.5% per annum

There are hundreds more racial discriminations in Malaysia to add to this list of "colossal" racism. It is hope that the victims of racism will write in to expose racism.

Malaysia government should publish statistics showing how much malays had benefited from the "special rights" of malays and at the same time tell the statistics of how much other minority races are being discriminated.

Hence, the responsibility lies in the Malaysia government itself to publish unadulterated statistics of racial discrimination.

If the Malaysia government hides the statistics above, then there must be some evil doings, immoral doings, shameful doings and sinful doings, like the Nazi, going on onto the non-malays of Malaysia.

Civilized nation, unlike evil Nazi, must publish statistics to show its treatment on its minority races. This is what Malaysia must publish……….

We are asking for the publication of the statistics showing how "implementation of special rights of malays" had inflicted colossal racial discrimination onto non-malays.

Sylvia said...

Hi Meng, I'm Sylvia, the very Sylvia whose article you displayed in your blog.

I'm glad my ideas aired in my blog and through the media have been discussed by many including LKS himself.

You're welcome to read my blog at

sloone said...

Hi Meng, nice blog. I like this post. How true? Can I use this for my "nation building or nation breaking" page which I set up in counjunction with Msia's 50th anniversary? I will sure give you the credits :-). email me:

Meng said...

Hi Susan;
Thanks for visiting and thanks for the compliment on the blog. Its an honor to have you here and yes, please feel free to use any postings from here.

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