by CY

MAY 25 — I actually returned to Malaysia after around 18 years overseas in the United Kingdom. I am originally from the peninsula but have now lived in East Malaysia for the last one and a half years.

Malaysia is in some ways still a land that is blessed by God. It is largely free from large scale natural disasters and its land and shores are rich in natural resources. Sabah and Sarawak are filled with wonderful places to visit and its beaches, rainforests and climate bring many visitors from across the globe. Moreover its peoples throughout the federation are mostly incredibly friendly, hospitable and kind-hearted to locals and visitors alike notwithstanding their race or religion.

Malaysia boleh! Malaysia really can be better. And that is truly why I and other like-minded Malaysians have decided to come back. We can have the tallest twin towers in the world but yet many large towns on the east coast of Sabah have interrupted power supplies on a regular basis.

Needless to say the interior villages have it much worse. We talk about Johns Hopkins medical facilities in the country but yet many district and even general hospitals in the country have inadequate or often poorly functioning equipment.

Our people are keen to learn and gain skills but when our expatriate communities try to come home they are often met with stifling bureaucracy. I personally asked the head of a university department if I could have a look around the department whilst still overseas with the purpose of evaluating if I could contribute at the department on my return. I was told flatly that the department was full and a visit would not be encouraged.

Conversely my request to visit or co-operate with “Ivy league” universities in Europe have always been greeted with enthusiasm. However, on a more positive note my experience has been different with other departments. Unfortunately the former experience has also been reported by other Malaysian expatriates.

The federal government has been talking about cutting wastage. Good idea! Let’s start with middlemen functions that have no or little value added purposes. Why is around three per cent of public hospitals’ drug budget given to companies that simply order drugs, which the hospitals can do themselves. These companies do not make, package or deliver the drugs at all.

Our media talks about Bumiputera rights. However, I hear constant complains from East Malaysian native Bumiputeras claiming that they get fewer opportunities for jobs and government contracts because they are non-Muslims. Where in the federal Constitution does it say that Bumiputeras are given preference based on their ethnic or religious backgrounds?

In Sabah, you will hear complaints from every ethnic group that the state has large communities of illegal immigrants and people who have been given ICs illegally. Our federal government is in talks with the Australians currently about potential immigration co-operation yet Sabah’s longstanding immigration issues remain unresolved. Where are our government’s priorities? Our own nation’s or other’s?

One of the most striking differences on my return that I have noticed is the main issues discussed daily in our media. In Europe, the important issues are mainly economic growth, educational progress, good and accessible healthcare. In Malaysia sadly and significantly more so than in the past, it is about race, religious issues and political voyeurism.

Isn’t our nation’s prosperity, our children’s education and our parent’s healthcare infinitely more important than the colour of our skin or the private lives of our people? Despite the guarantees of religious freedom in the constitution and the respective 18-point and 20-point agreements promising the same for Sabah and Sarawak, our politicians continue to use these sentiments to divide the people and certain paternalistic authorities continue to force their religious views and practices on what should be personal decisions for the people.

Yet “Malaysia boleh”, “1 Malaysia also can” — if we the people of Malaysia whether staying, left or returning — stand up and unite against the divisive, corrupt and intolerant elements of our society and demand that whoever our political leaders are, that they act as they say.

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