Why I left Malaysia

May 18, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider

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.


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.

* ES reads The Malaysian Insider.

  1. #1 by wanderer on Wednesday, 18 May 2011 - 8:19 pm

    Do it my way, my friend. “Drop your pants and show these racist Ar-sos your cute little butt!” Come back when PR take over Putrajaya.

  2. #2 by dagen on Wednesday, 18 May 2011 - 11:28 pm

    When pakatan takes over pakatan should seriously consider allowing dual citizenship. This is one practical and effective way to encourage malaysians in foreign lands to return.

    I fully believe that the author has made the right decision to stay away. I would stay away too if I were in his shoes. In fact I too have plans, one day, to move to australia. But hey its no loss to umno. On the contrary, umno would see it as a gain. A loss is translated into a gain in umno perverse equation. Of course I would gladly change my mind the moment pakatan moves into putrajaya.

  3. #3 by raven77 on Thursday, 19 May 2011 - 1:11 am

    In Malaysia…civil servants are King and the rakyat slaves….

  4. #4 by zhukoilman on Thursday, 19 May 2011 - 9:19 am

    raven77 says civil servants are kings and the raayat slaves,you hit it right on the nail.That was why I suggested that:
    1. No bintang kebesaran ie Datok,Tan Sri`s ,Tun ,Tin whatever,should not be given to any servant of the public during their tenure of servicewith us the Raayat, Accord them these honors after retirement,and that to be established what significant contributions have they made to the Raayat.
    2. No politicians should be accorded any recognition,they are also paid by the Raayat,Only and after they retire from politics and served the raayat with honesty,and accepted by all as a good leader the Nation will accord him what he deserved.
    3. Datos.Tan Sris,Tun, can and should only be accorded to the private citizens such as Philanthropists,social workers, anybody not under the payroll of the Raayat who have done something voluntarily to benefit the Raayat.
    Can somebody tell me what have Shah Rukh Khan did or contribute to Malaysia to deserve a Datoship?
    What significant and beneficial contribution to the Raayat did so many Singers,Actors,did to be accorded Datoships?
    There too many Datos` and Tan Sris`who are civil servants and politicians under our (the Raayat)payroll( and not all are clean,)and YES Raven77 thet are most arrogant because we have to address them as Dato or Tan Sris.
    I can name more deserving personalities who deserves such recognitions.

  5. #5 by bush on Thursday, 19 May 2011 - 1:18 pm

    PR Government not able to change the sweetener given out by the BN after 50 years. They can improve it better but no way to abolish the NEP. Any abolishment or removal of subsidy will commit suicide in Malaysia politic. Majority people in Malaysia (65%) is dependent on biased policy to get paper qualification and subsidy to get contracts/AP and G’s job to survive.

    The only drastic change can be materialized when the natural resources dry out and increase in bumi population to provide more subsidies till the G bankrupt and allow IMF to take control of all the companies. (Happened to Korea, Thailand, indo and their market is ahead of us in term of Investor) During this period of time, a fair policy can be established by the new G.

    This event only happen after 2020 when the bumi population hit 75% (more subsidy)and brain drain and investor (less tax or revenue to G) keep flowing out.

    So, to return and expected to see a fair policy need another 10 years and the next generation of Bumi will suffer if they keep voting the BN to benefit the UmnoP….

    Therefore, the new generation of Bumi need to be alert if produce more kids and hope for long term subsidy. Correction will take place when all wealth taken out by certain group of people (like our ex fin.. mi…etc..) and left all the tongkat people behind.

    All we need is to hope the Bumi able to change their own mentality and change the G now rather than regret later with all the “Disabled Tongkat” kids need help.

    Malaysia future depend on the Majority Bumi to say no to “Tongkat” or keep taking the free “Opium” that will spoil them.

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