Here is why I stayed

John Rahman
The Malaysian Insider
May 28, 2011

MAY 28 — I shall start with a story of hope.

Two, actually.

I had an ex-colleague who runs a car wash business in one of the most ulu places in Peninsular Malaysia. It’s a simple business, so simple that his wife just sits under a tree all day long collecting money and supervising some school kids they employ to do the dirty work. He keeps his day job while earning a cool RM7,000 side income every month.

In my skyscraper of an office now, an old makcik pushes around a shopping cart (probably nicked while the guards at the nearby hypermarket weren’t looking!) filled to the brim with knick-knacks, kacang, muruku and stuff. She comes by once a week and without fail, my colleagues and I will stock up on junk food to munch on while working. Based on sales on our floor alone — okay, maybe we are gluttons! — but we estimate she profits around RM50 per floor, and with well over 50 floors in the building, she must earn at least RM2,000 a week (tax free!).

We can complain about spiralling cost of living, but these are ordinary people taking full advantage of the abundance of opportunities in Malaysia to earn a living. This is the land of opportunity. If an illegal immigrant can come here and earn a living, justly or not, there is no reason why a person like me, born and bred in this environment, with ample knowledge of how things work — for better or for worse — cannot make it big.

I shall say this, whether or not people choose to leave the country is entirely up to them. Everybody has their own dreams and ambitions, and if migrating overseas takes you closer to those dreams, so be it. But do not give excuses to justify you leaving. You don’t need an excuse, certainly not a bad one, to pursue your life-long goals.

You do not need to blame the crummy education system — it is crummy, but it is an education system we all grew up with and I would like to think that a lot of us turned out fine.

You can’t blame racism or glass ceilings because everyone honest enough to admit will tell you that glass ceilings exist EVERYWHERE. The current debate over the “tradition” of Europeans as the de facto head of the IMF should tell you more than you need to know about glass ceilings.

All those crummy reasons don’t hold up because while Malaysians are busy flocking to Singapore, Singaporeans are busy flocking elsewhere too. That is where the whole argument falls apart. Do we see some green pasture across the straits that the Singaporeans don’t see? And do the Indonesians see something green about KL that we don’t?

My friends, this is the age of globalisation. Borders between countries are blurring. This is not like the time where miners came to Malaya from China with the sole purpose of better economic prospects. Today, there are Malaysians working in Sudan, Dutchmen working in Nigeria, Americans working in Siberia. Do you think these people are where they are because of some misguided notion that these places are better than their homeland? No, people work where they work and people build a home where they do because this is where life takes them.

When addressing his own country’s emigrant issue, Rajiv Ghandi once said: “A brain drain is better than a brain in the drain.” That we, as Malaysians, are deemed capable enough to be able to work anywhere in the world is a clear indication of our talents. And whether the people migrating will choose to admit it or not, these are talents nourished by the foundations we built for ourselves while growing up on the streets of KL, Ipoh and JB.

I can go on and on about how I want to change this country, how I want to make a difference. That is all true, but that is also secondary. People can claim that they are leaving because of better prospects, a more comfortable life. That is probably true as well, but still a secondary issue.

I propose a simpler explanation. I stay because I want to. People leave because they want to.

We go where life takes us.

  1. #1 by raven77 on Sunday, 29 May 2011 - 2:43 am

    Well said….

    Go..if you have to..

    Stay …if you want to….

    Wherever you are…do what you have to , to make the world a better place

    Let’s move on..

  2. #2 by pulau_sibu on Sunday, 29 May 2011 - 5:39 am


    The rich non-bumi migrated physically to search for greener pastures and rounder moon overseas. They think there is a fair political and social environment for them to live in, and is good for the future of their children. The job and educational opportunities are without racial boundaries.

    The rich bumi, on the other hand, don’t migrate. They have to be here physically in order to acquire more relatives, and their relatives migrated for them. Who are their relatives? They are the money. It is no stranger news to us about a chief minister who acquired billions and set up business empires overseas and have the relative deposited in a Swiss banks.

    My friends, it does not make a difference if you are rich, be a bumi or non-bumi. Either you or your relative (money) would migrate from this country. We would miss you!

  3. #3 by wanderer on Sunday, 29 May 2011 - 10:37 am

    The writer touched on mostly the economic benefits…this blooming mercenary! There are a lot more better things in life than just money…for a change, maybe, you should give some space in your life and talk of your siblings education, morality, the quality and the values of life.
    You seemed to enjoy being called a Pendatang by the self-claimed Bumis, then,you have failed to recognize your rights as a citizen of a country.
    Enjoy your knick-knacks, kacang and muruku…don’t blame you, small mind with small satisfaction…one day, when you leave this world, your siblings will piss at your grave!

  4. #4 by limkamput on Sunday, 29 May 2011 - 10:57 am

    It is not as simple, wise guy. How about I choose to stay but at the same time want to make this place better and more conducive for living, never mind other places are better or worse than Malaysia. You see, for you, everything is based on earning a living. That could be important, but life is more than earning a living. We want an clean and safe environment to live in, we want better schools for our kids, we want better medical care and standard, we want better government and governance so that resources in the country are better managed for the benefits of more people, we want better administration of justice so that wrongs are made right. All these are not just about earning a living. That is why I have always insisted that good people should not just be in business making money. They should be judges, civil servants, professional and politicians that can safeguard other aspects of good living. Just look around you, people who migrant permanently are not just about earning a living. It is about having better schools for their kids, better environment and a fairer system to live. How else can you explain engineers migrated as technicians and accountants migrated as account clerks?

  5. #5 by Indon Planter on Sunday, 29 May 2011 - 2:04 pm

    How shallow can the writer be? Is everything about money? Dumb ass!

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