MAY 24 — I read with interest the many stories of migration published here. I can fully understand why some of these individuals chose to leave the country. It must not have been an easy decision to make as it takes a certain amount of courage and determination to start life anew in a wholly new environment. Having said that, I think it is worthwhile that I share some of my thoughts on why I came back. Granted, I did not exactly migrate, but I had every opportunity to not come back.

I was a student in the United States (sponsored by the Malaysian government, no less). I enjoyed all my classes, made friends with many wonderful people from different countries and travelled across the US.

Suffice to say, I had a great experience and truly enjoyed every minute there. Nonetheless, I decided to come back right after I graduated. I could have stayed back and worked a few years there before I came back, but I knew fully well then that it’d be more difficult for me to want to come back the longer I stayed.

Let me make it clear that I came back not because I had to fulfil my obligations as a government scholar, I came back because I wanted to. The fact is that there is no real effort being undertaken to ensure that all sponsored students come back and serve the country.

But, I digress. I brought that up simply because I wanted to make it clear that I came back fully on my own accord and not because I had a contractual obligation to do so. Anyway, I came back and applied for a job with the government, but was not offered any. I ended up working with a multinational corporation instead.

I was fully aware that I might not get a job with the government when I decided to come back but I decided to come back anyway mainly because I wanted to be closer to my family and also because I felt that it was my duty to come back. Despite the fact that I may not be working with the government, I am at least working here and paying taxes here. And hopefully, the taxes that I pay will be used to build much needed infrastructures or sponsor another well-deserving individual’s education in the future.

Yes, I see all sorts of problems here e.g. rampant corruption, wastage in government spending, low purchasing power, almost non-existent customer service, widespread racism, overly religious leaders and people who harp on religious/moral issues all day while missing the point on all the things that really matter, etc. But that’s exactly the reason why I came back.

How many of us here complain about corruption but will turn around and bribe the next policeman that stops you for making an illegal U-turn? How many of us here complain about corruption but will gladly pay “under-table” fees to some clerk to get your application for a low-cost apartment approved even though you are earning well above the low-income group so that you can then rent the unit out or resell it and make a quick profit? How many of us here complain about racism and yet will go around happily slapping racial stereotypes on every individual we come across? I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Maybe I’m overly idealistic. Maybe this is an exercise in futility. But, instead of complaining, why not try making a change. Isn’t there a popular refrain from a song that goes: “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change”?

It may not be much and it definitely won’t be easy, but we’ll have to start somewhere, won’t we? If we could all be responsible for our own actions and start making a real effort to understand each other more, maybe, just maybe, we could all make this a better country.