Tag Archive: Migration Stories


by ES

MAY 18 — I’ve left Malaysia for about nine years now, and lived and worked in several countries such as Singapore, China and, now, Hong Kong.
The past and recent news reports on brain drain have pretty much summarised the reasons for leaving Malaysia except they were not accepted by our leaders. I’ll just echo some of the findings by relating my personal experience.

Social injustice

Unable to get into local universities even with good academic results. Mine was a working-class family and my dad had to work extremely hard to save (barely) enough money to put me through a private college (whose quality could be questioned).

It was a twinning program with an American university. A large portion of our class (100 per cent non-Bumiputera) didn’t end up going to the America for their final year to “twin” with the university because of financial difficulties. Those who did, like me, mostly have remained overseas.

Low income

I did return to work in Kuala Lumpur briefly. My salary was so pathetic I was constantly worried about having to work for 10-15 years before my dad’s investment in my education could be recovered.

Lack of meritocracy

My first job was with a government-linked corporation. We were educated, but quite explicitly some management positions were only given to the Malays. On the other hand, and to be fair, many private companies selectively avoid hiring Malays because of a general perception that they are less competent compared to the other races. Neither the GLCs nor private firms were actively promoting or hiring the best without an implied policy based on skin colour.

Barriers to returning

Today, after over a decade of working, I’ve established my finances, and started up a family in Hong Kong. Returning to Malaysia is not impossible but many barriers lie ahead.

My wife is Korean. We have heard of horror stories about the difficulty of foreign spouses not being able to get permanent residence/citizenship in Malaysia despite years of residency.

Our son was born in Korea. When we approached the Malaysian consulate to register him, we were told we would have to wait up to a year to get a reply. A year to register a child with an uncertain outcome? Something is very wrong.

At the same time, a friend’s construction company doesn’t seem to have any problem getting his Indonesian workers ICs with speedy approvals.

Education

If it’s so difficult to register our son, will he be able to get into a local school? What about quality of education? If I have to take a pay-cut (easily 60 per cent) to return to the country, I’d need to be reassured that quality education can be obtained cheaply (or at 60 per cent discount too).

It’s not very encouraging to learn from the news and ranking of Malaysian public universities that have been on the decline year after year. Will I want to return to the country and repeat the same history my dad went through to put his son to college?

Lack of economic focus

Years ago, this was manufacturing. What about now? What has happened to MSC and the various corridors? What’s our niche? What sectors can overseas Malaysian go back to? Banking? Biotech? Agriculture? Oil and gas? All I hear thousands of miles away in the past few years is some sexual allegations about Anwar Ibrahim.

Lack of positive publicity and encouragement

Every time when we return to Malaysia for holidays or when we meet Malaysians outside of the country (getting very often these days), we are asked not to return by friends, relatives and strangers.

Some even asked us how to get out of the country! Imagine having your foreign spouse hearing all these negative comments about your own country… not to mention, it’s getting easier to meet your friends and relatives outside of the country than in Malaysia.

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by NARAYAN

MAY 18 — I am Narayan, aged 44, and an Australian today. I was Malaysian till last year. I moved to Australia in February, 2007. My family joined me in Australia in July, 2007.
My children are Australian and my wife is Malaysian… still holding on to a string of hope to maybe retire in Malaysia.

Why did I leave? Am I a “pengkhianat” (traitor)?

Let us examine it from my family’s eyes.

Economy of the middle-class: In Malaysia as a senior manager in various private sector companies and even in a GLC at one time, I would be paying 30 per cent tax. In return, I could keep a reasonable home 45km out of the city, travel by public transport, have a maid, kids in suburban Sekolah Kebangsaan, need insurance to top up for medical costs, and go to a private hospital each time.

My workdays were 10-12 hours a day, plus/minus travel if I want the kids to go to a private school for the obvious reasons of not growing up with bad English and numeracy skills, not to forget low self-esteem, and my wife would need to work. If she was a stay-at-home mom and tutored the kids, we might overcome some of the issues above.

As an Oz middle-class family: My wife works three days a week as a part-time Montessori teacher, in total nine hours a week. My work hours are 8-10 hours a day. No maid, we do everything we need for our children and she generally takes them to school and comes back home.

I do occasional school trips and some of the extracurricular activities. I do my own garden. I get out a lot actually and enjoy nature a lot. So cooking, cleaning, gardening are not a chore, but rather, different activities that are simulating. My work days are not as stressed with less politics within the company. Do my job, go home, help the kids with homework etc. I even do volunteer community work.

I pay 40 per cent tax, which is returned in good schools, clean political system which has zero tolerance for corruption, good medical services.

I lost some things like a maid, and lower tax system, but have cheaper options of spending weekends and holidays with good parks. In fact, most cities in Australia are all like one long big garden, which is very soothing. You need to be here to notice the blood pressure dropping and other faculties rising.

My kids enjoy school; in fact, they dread holidays in general as schooling is holistic and they have special way of drawing parents in. For the taxes we pay, the returns are clear.

I would put it this way: If my kids did not graduate and bummed around, etc, it would not be because there is no opportunity. The system is fair, which brings me to working conditions.

There is a term called Aussie fair go. This is instituted at every level, where the very language people use are non discriminatory. All positions of power, be it in management or government take discrimination seriously.

Back to my days in GLC, well I even had kowtow to my office boy sometimes because he is from the “special race.” Need I say more? Moreover corruption was rampant, it was obvious and it was even a wonder at that time I got sign offs for the project I was doing.

It is important whilst we do work for money, we also must derive satisfaction of working in a good environment and do good work, reap the rewards of the good work.

I worked 18 years before I left Malaysia, studied in some of the so-called premier institutions and supported my own education right up to MBA and other industry certifications. I know what an uphill battle this is and when observing resources being squandered rampantly, I see too much money, the people’s money which should come back to help people who need it, being wasted.

A case in point, when the Johor floods displaced 30,000 people in 2006, the government took over six months to dispense a few hundred ringgit for each person. At the same very time, there was a floral festival in Putrajaya that cost the government RM1 million every week and went on for six months. Where is the priority?

When we in Australia had the Victorian bush fire and the recent Queensland fire, the action from the public and government was swift. Well if it wasn’t, rest assured the Australians would have replaced the government at the very next opportunity.

Same thing with corruption. In Wentworthville, a councillor was booked for receiving A$200. He went to jail for six months and the entire council was impounded for six months until authorities were sure nobody else was on the take. They went through seven years’ worth of books to ascertain veracity.

A couple months later, Morries Immea lost his job as premier of New South Wales, when the Wollongong council scandal surfaced. It was not the premier’s fault but he had to take the blame as it was during his watch. The point is even though I have only been five years in this country, I am convinced my tax money and others like me is not squandered.

How can I put my family in a country that cannot care for flood victims? The tsunami was another case in point, what happened to the monies collected from the public? How many of the 25 people actually got houses? Has anyone visited Gemas or other Indian communities in rubber estates lately? Check it out. I cite this as it is something I know intimately.

I am sure it is no different in many parts of Malaysia for the Ibans, Senois, Kadazans, and Muruts. In general, the feeling is if you are not Malay, you have no chance. For the Chinese, there is enough private sector support. This may not be true but that is how the message has been driven down.

Any country that does not respect the underclass has a serious possible revolution on its hands.

So, there are many things I can say but this is enough. I have come to the point where even if I need to be a beggar it is better in Sydney than Kuala Lumpur.

Before someone goes accusing me of being a “pengkhianat”, I have contributed by working on a naval project, been on the school alumni board, collected funds and helped across all races; everything a common man with reasonable resources can do to serve my family and community.

I also voted in every election since the age of 21 and encouraged everyone I knew to do the same.

So now I will continue the same actions here where I rate my family’s chances are better. I truly wish Malaysians who stayed back to fight it out and build a better Malaysia all the best.

by SETEC, a reader of The Malaysian Insider, currently living in Adelaide, Australia.

MAY 18 — My primary reasons are different from that of most migrants from Malaysia:

1) English as the fist language — I believe English is the language for all; I do not believe in multi-lingualism, e.g. learning Chinese, Tamil, etc.

I think this idea is not anti-nationalistic. For example, English is the first language in non Caucasian-majority countries like Singapore, Zimbabwe, etc.

2) One schooling system — a good majority of people in Malaysia are racists by supporting vernacular and religious schools. Chinese go to Chinese schools, Indians attend Tamil schools, Malays get education at religious schools, and the rest end up in government national schools.

I’m a product of government national schools; however, I’d only support government national schools if all lessons are in English (pre 1971).

3) Conservatism (cultures and Islamic) — the majority of people (and the government) are religious/conservative which inhibit freedom of expression and thus suppress a culture of openness/innovation.

4) Social injustices — a needs-based system is the way to go. The government must end racial quotas and policies once and for all.

5) Higher wages.

6) Better quality of life.

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