Brain drain and migration, so who’s left to save Malaysia?

By Yee Ziherng | June 02, 2011
The Malaysian Insider

JUNE 2 — My name is Yee Ziherng and I am a Malaysian. I stand firmly on the ground that I am a Malaysian first, Chinese second. So there are no debatable issues about races and religion here.

I have been gravely disheartened by the recent deluge of stories of Malaysians migrating. More and more people are jumping on the bandwagon of supporting the move while enumerating lists of alleged flaws and problems facing those who choose to remain, all the while without providing viable solutions to the problem.

I am not against people who work abroad; far from it, in fact, I admire them for working far away from their family in alien countries, earning in different currencies and, hopefully accumulating knowledge acquired abroad to contribute back to our country.

So what is the problem?

It would be very convenient if we were blessed with complete equality (in terms of education, work and business opportunities, etc). Convenient, but no more than a utopian dream. Race is not the question, nor the answer; how can it be, when emigrants consist of Malaysians of all races and faiths?

People leave for various reasons: be it due to low pay, rising inflation, poor governance at the helm, lack of structure and initiative to retain, attract, or nurture talents, flaws in the education system, or even because they feel that they or their talents would be better appreciated elsewhere.

Those who studied or worked abroad are being asked to remain abroad by their parents; peers complain that their salaries just about make ends meet; and every day we see new lows as politicians bicker about anything and everything except the economy and pressing social issues.

So after 54 years, the problem still boils back down to the issue of “equality, education, standard of living and, not to forget, dirty politics.”

Why has the situation kept its unsatisfactory status quo?

Simple, we only complain!

How many of us have actually tried to change? I am certainly not expecting Malaysians to think of “changing” as an act of running around the streets shouting (and later being hit by tear gas and water cannons). Change comes in many forms, and can be as simple as registering yourself as a voter. We have no right to complain if we don’t even bother exercising our basic rights as a Malaysian.

Here are some popular sentences that you might have heard before: “It doesn’t make a difference, so why vote?” “I will return to Malaysia when things get better.” or “I will be back when the country starts to appreciate me.” Sounds familiar?

Let me get things straight, change doesn’t happen overnight! You can’t expect things to be great and wonderful the next day when you just fold their hands and sit back. We should also stop blaming the system, the government and the country — basically everyone else but “us” — while enjoying perceived “equality” overseas.

We have people constantly blaming the politicians for failing to change, but the fundamental thing is, change actually starts within us, politicians are just a medium to represent the voices of the people.

Reasons to stay

It’s a truism that nothing will change for the better while we rest on our laurels: What matters is our initiative to work for it.

I too have friends who refuse to come back after graduating from foreign universities. They’ve seen the wider world, and are afraid of being ill-treated if they return, moreover they received no discouragement for their plans to pursue their careers overseas.

As I’ve mentioned, there is absolutely nothing wrong with not working in Malaysia, or even being an “ex-Malaysian”, but surely for every person who chooses to chase their overseas dreams, there is one who can’t, for financial or social reasons.

This latter group of people have no choice but to stay in the country and face the problems head-on, participating in the change they wish to see, while those who supposedly have a more worldly mentality and have had the advantage of a broader, wider education have rushed on ahead to allegedly greener pastures with nary a glance back.

Does the phrase ‘“Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country” by John F. Kennedy ring a bell? Most of us have directly or indirectly taken something from Malaysia — at the very least it shaped us into who we are today.

So why can’t we temporarily set aside our personal interests and fulfil our duty as a Malaysian? Of course if it critically concerns a person’s survival if he continues to stay in Malaysia then leaving might be justifiable. But how many of us leave because eking a living in Malaysia is no longer a viable option?

I am certainly not a jingoistic type of a Malaysian, but I will proudly declare that I am Malaysian. For this is the place I grew up in, this is home.

Trust me, Malaysia has not “gone to the dogs” yet, nor is it “doomed to fail” — there is huge potential for this country we love so long as we all do our part. We stay and we fight not only for ourselves, but also for a better future for future generations.

The question remains: “If all the Malaysians who are capable of contributing/changing the country left, who is left to save Malaysia?”

* We asked readers to tell us in their own words why they stayed in Malaysia… instead of migrating. This is one of the stories.

  1. #1 by Winston on Thursday, 2 June 2011 - 7:56 pm

    I truly think that the author is too simplistic in his views!!
    Don’t we witness what’s happening in the Middle East countries like Libya, Eygpt, Tunisia and Yemen?
    Closer home, Myanmar is a very good example.
    All these countries have governments that held on to power come hell or high water!
    To them, votes don’t count; only the militaries that back them up count!
    The reason for this is very simple.
    Those who have wielded absolute power will not give it up just because the opposition won at the polls!!
    Also, when they are in a position of absolute power, they literally have access to Aladdin’s cave!
    The latter is all the more reason why it’s so difficult to give up the “throne” when they lost the election.
    Added to this equation is the fact that they may very well face trial when they relinquish power.
    All in all, these are very, very compelling reasons why incumbents, especially those who had held power for a long time will not easily give it up.
    It’s akin to taking a cocktail of opium, cocaine and amphetamine!!!!

  2. #2 by Godfather on Thursday, 2 June 2011 - 10:56 pm

    “Let me get things straight, change doesn’t happen overnight! You can’t expect things to be great and wonderful the next day when you just fold their hands and sit back. We should also stop blaming the system, the government and the country — basically everyone else but “us” — while enjoying perceived “equality” overseas.”

    For over 50 years, we actually believed in this. Now your duty – and mine – is to vote for a change of the corrupt regime.

  3. #3 by wanderer on Thursday, 2 June 2011 - 11:20 pm

    Talk is cheap! to perform, it takes a lot more than talking and plenty of real actions to achieve the goal for “change”
    Remember, UMNO mongrels are Smart Cheats, it will take a very formidable opponent to knock them off from Putrajaya. Is PR ready for the task?

  4. #4 by passerby on Friday, 3 June 2011 - 12:36 am

    The only way it will change is when the country is bankrupt. Just look at Indonesia. They changed because the country has no more money. You can’t run a country or a company without money. Got it?

    Asking for change in the system, you must be crazy. Do you think the 70% who live comfortably based on robbing from the 30% who work their ass off. It’s so easy and simple. Will you destroy a system which benefit you and your children? No you don’t.

    The only way for them to change is when there is nothing left to rob from the 30% and every has become poor. Even if they changed after reaching that state, there is only that much a muslim country can do. Just look at the countries like Egypt, Tunisia, which are undergoing changing, do you think anyone dare to invest in that kind of countries?

  5. #5 by Bigjoe on Friday, 3 June 2011 - 8:27 am

    As much as I admire and support those who have and continue to stay and fight, let me be realist coming from years of global experience – the most likely answer to Yee Ziherng answer is the same as that for Pandora’s Box – after the evil and chaos have taken over, then hope arises to spread through out.

    Truth be told, all the effort put in by so many people cannot compared to the forces of nature and natural selection. Look at what is happening in the middle east – its not as if they have not fought for change all this while and its not as if money is not pouring in from high oil prices but its inflation, global and unrelenting that is causing the change.

    And so it will likely be the same – the forces of natural selection of talents going away and our industries unable to deliver deliver income against rising global forces, that will prove be the trigger to the changes. Those who are here will be the one ultimately to take charge of those changes.

    The only question is at what point will that happen, what is the level of chaos of our Pandora’s Box. The answer may not be that bleak, may not be completely dismal but it will painful and each of us must make up our own decision what pain we are willing to give in return for what we want. Its each and everyone of our right of natural selection.

  6. #6 by Mae1000 on Saturday, 4 June 2011 - 7:47 am

    I am very happy when someone want to leave Malaysia. I would say “oooh there is more space for me”. Those people who think they are clever are only feeding themselves. Their brain is used to find ways to fill their stomach.

  7. #7 by Fern on Tuesday, 7 June 2011 - 12:19 am

    I don’t want to label anyone anything, but I’d like to emphasize on a part that was in the above article. Who’s going to fight for the underprivileged? Those incapable of leaving due to financial constraints or social circumstances? Maybe I’m too idealistic and optimistic. But I’d like to believe, that by staying to contribute, at least, I made an impact in the lives of those who couldn’t leave.

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