Sunday, May 29, 2011

Proud to Be Malaysian?

One of the most heartbreaking stories I've heard so far is one of our church members telling a story of her daughter. They were having a conversation around the dining table and they mentioned to the daughter on the importance of learning to speak, read and write Chinese and Malay fluently. Her response frank, unsurprising but incredibly saddening:

"Mum, I'm now 12 years old. Eventually I am going to live overseas. Everyone my age knows that."

Now, I am fortunate to have come from a wealthy and affluent background for my parents to send me to study overseas. I went to school in Singapore, completed my High School in Australia, and graduated with a law degree in the United Kingdom. I am extremely unusual as I am one of the few who came back to Malaysia, despite living overseas since I was 13.

My cousins had received similar educations and all did well in the end. My cousins now work in Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK. Once they are there, they have no intention of returning to Malaysia.

"Malaysia is so backward", or "Malaysia presents so few opportunities" or "Malaysia is too full of corruption" or "Malaysia doesn't present equal opportunities" are incredibly common for those Malaysians residing overseas, and these comments are not limited to the Malaysian Chinese, but also the Indians and Malays who have fought their way through the overseas systems and made something of themselves. It is truly saddening to see the nation's best talent fly away never to return because the opportunities beyond our shores are way more promising.

The Barisan Nasional government has recognised this problem by setting up Talent Corp through PEMANDU and also saying that those who return shall receive income tax incentives. Admirable effort, but is it anywhere good enough? How do you sell something where there is no hope for improvement? Despite all that BN tries to do, they simply cannot tear away from the fact that Malaysians are losing hope in the system due to rampant fear and corruption. Malaysians who vote for BN vote for the status quo, and Malaysians who vote for PR vote in the hope that the MPs they elect may make some noise so there is some accountability in the otherwise corrupt and ever-present BN government. There is little hope of reform, and little hope of restoring the pride.

In which other progressive country do their citizens so easily blame everything on the status quo? For example:

Q: "Why is the road so bad?"
A: "It's Malaysia Lah!"

Q: "Why can't the signs make sense?"
A: "It's Malaysia Lah!"

Q: "Why can't our children read or write?"
A: "It's Malaysia Lah!"

For goodness sake, we are not a third world country. We have come too far forward as a country for that to make any sense whatsoever. However, it is so easy to blame everything wrong about the country on the country and accept this as the status quo.

Some people ask me why haven't I just packed up and leave. It really comes down to the fact that I want to see people being proud for being Malaysian again. If thought of as a corporation, Malaysia is a failing company, but with huge pools of resources and massive amounts of cash being poured down the drain. As a smart investor, I would want to come and stop the cash bleeding, redirect the resources, increase the benefits and everyone gets a pay rise. I believe we can, and we have to make the employees, which are the good law abiding citizens of Malaysia, to believe that we are able to do this.

This is an extraordinary opportunity for the DAP and PR to set up. Penang was a great little project. Although it doesn't give automatic license in the ability to rule a country, it helps that when you have experience to manage a project successfully with a limited budget, you realise that great success can be right round the corner.

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