Why I joined the Malaysian diaspora

by LHC
June 06, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider

JUNE 6 — I was born to parents who were themselves born, and lived their entire lives, in Malaysia. Yet, solely due to the colour of my skin, I was called a “pendatang” (immigrant) by the Malaysian government, whereas someone who hails directly from Indonesia would be welcomed as a “Bumiputera” (“prince of the soil”) and be accorded the unfair privileges that came with that title.

I was, however, more fortunate than many of my other non-Bumiputera compatriots, because my parents were middle-class professionals who could afford to send me overseas to further my education. I obtained my medical degree from the British Isles, following which I was faced with the decision either to return to Malaysia, or continue my stint overseas.

After much soul-searching, I decided to do the latter. That was 15 years ago. I am now happily married, financially secure, and live a fulfilling life in the heart of the Silicon Valley in the US. I voted in the last US general election for Barack Obama not because or despite of the colour of his skin, but because I thought he was the best person for the job.

Why was I in a dilemma 15 years ago? After all, wasn’t I a second-class citizen in the country of my own birth and not welcomed there, while the Irish and British treated me so much better and offered me an equal opportunity to progress in my profession, based only on my skills and competence? The reason for the dilemma was because I retained an emotional link to the country of my birth — my childhood memories were memories of my time in Malaysia, and my parents and most of my close childhood friends who were still in Malaysia at that time.

However, I knew then that the entrenched government practice of racial discrimination was not about to change for the better anytime soon, and I could not endure a lifetime of discrimination when I had a much better alternative. I never would have imagined then that racial discrimination would actually worsen, extremist racial rhetoric would be allowed to go unchecked, inexplicable deaths would happen under police custody, mainstream media would be silenced into compliance, and blatant corruption in the hundreds of billions of ringgit would consume the entire nation.

Now, in retrospect, I know that I have made the right decision for myself and my family. The US is now my home, but Malaysia can be my second home. I remain passionate in advocating for equal rights and an end to corruption in Malaysia.

There is a lot that I can do outside of Malaysia, including highlight the injustices and corruption to my Congressman and to a worldwide audience via the Internet, and provide financial support to organisations that seek to restore equal rights to my Malaysian brothers and sisters.

Like the lyrics of the Wolfe Tone song “Flight of Earls” that goes: “… but if we see better days; Those big airplanes go both ways; And we’ll all be coming back to you again”, I now make up one of the many in the Malaysian diaspora who shall be willing to return to Malaysia to help reconstruct the nation if or when a new, all-inclusive government of the people is finally installed in Putrajaya.

I hope I live long enough to see that day.

  1. #1 by digibee on Monday, 6 June 2011 - 3:36 pm

    You can’t. You pledge allegiance to the flag of the US. You are no longer citizen of Malaysia. You are really now a pendatang :-)

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Monday, 6 June 2011 - 3:42 pm

    Nothing wrong with joining Malaysian diaspora. Its also where a person having regard of his unique circumstances has comparative advantage. For eg if that person has a niche here and comparative advantage in work or business to be financially secure he can also priorotise emotional link to the country of birth, friends parents & relatives, buy properties in US and make that (or any where else) the second or third home whenever they’re fed up of being called “pendatangs” by some racist politicians. Your children can also study there. It is only a question of money?

    [By the way I don’t remember the government of Malaysia calling you a pendatang”. Do you feel so just because some racist politicians define and frame you as so?]

  3. #4 by frothquaffer on Monday, 6 June 2011 - 3:43 pm

    Malaysia should allow dual citizenship like all advanced countries do. Not to do so will keep Malaysia a backwater and underdeveloped country. The USA continues to stay ahead of the curve in technological advancement because they can and do draw citizens from around the world.

  4. #5 by limkamput on Monday, 6 June 2011 - 4:02 pm

    It is another ordinary story. I think it is too frequent already and frankly what purpose does this serve? Is it supposed to make us feel better or make the writer feel better? I think we have enough of this, cukup lah.

  5. #6 by bush on Monday, 6 June 2011 - 4:07 pm


    Smart people like those politician don’t have to use the word “Pendatang” to discreminate you.

    What they need to do is to implement a racist policy (NEP) to kick you out from the country.

    As always said, smart people don’t use mouth but our MCA can not visualise the impact on the racist policy.

  6. #7 by boh-liao on Monday, 6 June 2011 - 4:09 pm

    He just heard of d Polygamy Club n d Obedient Wives Club, soooo nice 1
    He’s drooling n wants 2 b back here lor 2 enjoy good seks fr whores/wives

  7. #8 by cemerlang on Monday, 6 June 2011 - 4:28 pm

    The word pendatang is used lately. But the general impression is this discrimination has been happening gradually since the independence of Malaysia. Many Mat Sallehs of the first world countries are speaking out for Malaysia. Not just Malaysians with another passports, PR and what not. Home is where your heart is. If you are borned here, you will have feelings because by nature, we all need to feel belonged, to have that sense of belonging. You can go to China and even immigrate there but you would not feel at home though you can speak good Mandarin, good Teochew, good Cantonese and whatever. The people who feel the most discrimination will be those having links with the government like government servants. The people who feel less will be in the private sector. The people who will feel nothing at all and see Malaysia as the best are those with the ability to compete and win handsomely. Meaning those with big money because at the end of the day, money does talk. Money comes first followed by your biological data. If there is somewhere in your identity card which says your status, it should be money. Money 1 plus or 2 plus or 3 plus and so on and that will put you in a better position of respect.

  8. #9 by dagen on Monday, 6 June 2011 - 6:13 pm

    Just got back from shanghai. And wooow, can anyone be faulted to have observed that the grass outside malaysia is actually greener? Toyo-the-indon was a pendatang too but as umnoputra he has the unquestionable right to tell us to leave – to balik cina.

    The author above made a grave mistake in thinking that ///… the entrenched [umno] government practice of racial discrimination was not about to change …/// Racial discrimiation in malaysia was never entrenched as a practice but much worse, as laws. In fact, umnoputras are going further than that. They are arguing that the constitution of the country actually embodies racial discrimination in their favour. They have a right to discriminate against us and that is how the country is and was constituted. And much much worse, umnoputras see the right to discriminate as a birth right – not merely a legal or constitutional right but a birth right.

    That is severe. And supremely stupid at the same time. Anti discrimination has not only gone round the world, it has also been extended to animals, in the form of basic rights and fair treatment. And here in umno land umnoputras are still talking of anti-discrimination as a birth right. How totally backward. They are killing themselves

  9. #10 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 7 June 2011 - 8:13 am

    What Cemerlang said in #8 is true: it depends on a person’s unique circumstances and where he has comparative advantage. Thats why the debate of whether to emigrate or stay has no hard an fast rule. There are people here who in spite of the NEP & Umnoputras do very well, especially some of the entrepreneurs…The UMNOputras get the contracts but they can’t work and commercialise these unless they work with and tap on these entrepreneurs. Take the case of (say) the Malays : as a group many have been told by politicians of their special rights etc but individually many Malays and Chinese have cooperated as friends an business partners. Its not unusual if you ask for eg some Chinese, they’ll testify from experience their Malay friends have helped them more in business than persons of their own race who tend to be somewhat calculative. Vice versa there are Malays who much prefer to collaborate with Chinese than persons of their own race in business or other endeavours. So there are those who thrive well -NEP or no NEP- and those who do not and its natural or those at the wrong end of the stick to want to emigrate, blaming their frusrations on the system here. Some (esp employees) do much better in adopted country, whilst there are others who don’t, and these either accept the situation and carry on or in other cases return to Malaysia.

  10. #11 by bush on Tuesday, 7 June 2011 - 10:45 am

    #There are people here who in spite of the NEP & Umnoputras do very well, especially some of the entrepreneurs…The UMNOputras get the contracts but they can’t work and commercialise these unless they work with and tap on these entrepreneurs. Take the case of (say) the Malays : as a group many have been told by politicians of their special rights etc but individually many Malays and Chinese have cooperated as friends an business partners. Its not unusual if you ask#

    Well, very positive statement in one glance but lack of fundamental to say that Chinese get the benefit from the above deals. The deal is disaster to the country economic with free handout to the middle man that doesn’t contribute anything to their country and race.


    1) How many people able to get the benefit/cooperation from the policy that involved Umno? One of the examples is IPP (YTL-Chinese) where this crony take all the benefit and all rakyat including the poor bumi will be suffer with the deal.

    2) What is the price to pay for all the middle man (few of them) just to make them rich through AP/Contract/scholarship hand out…etc? Who will suffer with those arrangement? All rakyat including the poor Bumi need to buy expensive car/house and lack of gov fund to provide basic amenities to kampong area/school.

    3) Do you think Chinese have a choice not to partner the UMNO? Or pay extra to have some sleeping chairman in their organisation? Who pay for the sleeping chairman? Rakyat?

    The above statement is usually used by UmnoP/crony to win vote from the Chinese (you help me, I help u) and all the NEP is belong to the rotten policy that make UmnoP become Billionaire and poor people become poorer.

    Cannot understand why certain group of people praise the NEP that will benefit the minority group of people?

  11. #12 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 7 June 2011 - 11:11 am

    No one is praising the NEP here (ala SP Setia boss’s claims of how it is justifiable for some Chinese cronies of UMNOputras thrive very well under and because of the NEP). We’re not talking of the NEP but more of pros and cons of emigation and how the weighing of these is an individual decision based on his unique circumstances, niche and comparative advantage. Those who proritise family ties and whose making a living here is good in spite of the NEP (and better than if they were in other places) will of course look at the weighing scales differently from others. The NEP/racial/religious politics/institutional discrimination here is never a good thing and no one in right mind would praise it is whether for Malays or Non Malays. The main thing is to be objective ie whether one’s frustrations and lack of achievement here is really a direct effect of the NEP or some other personal weaknesses and failures not acknowledged but blamed on the NEP because if that’s the case emigrating will not cure the underlying causes of dissatisfactions.

  12. #13 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 7 June 2011 - 11:24 am

    There’s difference between saying NEP is good for minority and make them thrive and therefore NEP is good on one hand and saying whatever its iniquities – NEP is bad – but there are still members of minorities who are able (whether due to luck or other personal attributes) to circumvent the NEP (by working well with Malay partners benefiting from it) or thriving well in spite and without assistance direct or indirect of the NEP (ie without Malay partnerships) and sometimes in the face of the restrictions of NEP eg in contracting field where all of a sudden quota imposed and jobs above certain limit allotted to Bumis. Yet there are Non malays who have thrived in this sense and when they try to do their business in (say) Australia they came off worse. It does not apply for all : one must look as I said at his own case, of what suits, and like it or not where one could achieve more towards financial independence is a practical consideration.

  13. #14 by PoliticoKat on Tuesday, 7 June 2011 - 12:05 pm

    At least LHC, you could choose to become part of the malaysian diaspora.

    In my situation, I had no choice. The only job interviews I got were from for positions abroad.

    On one hand, it was awesome. I got to work abroad and see new places, experience different cultures and food.

    On the other hand, it was a guttering experience. Malaysia would not hire me, even when I was willing to work for peanuts.

    But here I am and I shouldn’t complain. I have a job and that is all that matters. Malaysia can do what it wants, like it always does.

    Malaysia doesn’t need home grown talent when it can buy it on the international market. (So long as Malaysia’s natural resources hold out). That is my impression of Malaysia with regards to skilled workers.

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