Why I’m Returning Home to Malaysia

By Idzwan Husaini
8 June, 2011 | LoyarBurok

While The Malaysian Insider asks readers to reveal why people choose to leave or stay in the country, Idzwan Husaini, a medical undergraduate shares why he is coming back to stay in the country. Hopefully in the near future.

I have been studying in the United Kingdom for almost three years now and I have enjoyed the enormous sense of freedom, liberty and equality that is widespread in this country.

Freedom of expression is celebrated here. Rather than oppressing the movement or suppressing the voice of the minority, they are given a chance to prove to the majority their abilities and worth. I was surprised to see an entire family of grandparents, parents and little children joining the throng of people watching the parade during the London Gay Pride summer last year. Rather than teaching their kids to hate people who have, and are proud of their differing sexualities, the parents chose to expose their children to a completely different lifestyle so they can later choose what is best for them in the future. Freedom of expression is allowed to take place in all forms and shapes. I do not remember ever hearing any agencies involved in banning books, films, songs or even cartoons for that matter!

Discourse and dissent are not tolerated, they are encouraged. When the coalition government began to put in effect the new and more expensive student fees, universities had no qualms allowing their students, through the student unions, to organise marches and protests to voice their discontent. My university even allowed the staff and the lecturers to protest in the middle of the city against the proposed cuts they would have to endure due to David Cameron?s ‘austerity’ scheme. Emails were circulated to students to remind us to check with our lecturers if they were taking part in the protest to see if the lectures for the day were cancelled.

For every rotation I do at various hospitals through out my third year, I think up to 70% of the senior doctors and consultants involved in the teaching are foreigners coming from all around the world like India, the Middle East, the East Asia, and several from Malaysia. If this is any indication, it reflects the country’s policy of pure meritocracy regardless of race, religion, ancestry, and nationality in its employment.

While everything seems fine and dandy, it does not mean social prejudice with respect to race and religion never takes place. Living in the UK has led me to experience what I have not had the chance to feel living in Malaysia. While I enjoy being born in the so-called Malay race with all its privileges, living in the UK turns the table and makes me the minority, especially with regards to my religion. It throws me off the silver platter and it makes me realise what my fellow Malaysian friends, who are not born the same race as I am, have been feeling their entire lives – marginalised, discriminated and under-appreciated.

I had to endure the eyes of doubt from patients who thought me incompetent simply from my appearance. I have to constantly challenge that assumption and do so by demonstrating to them my firm command of their language and that I am competent in my work.

Yes, racism does continue to exist but only in a small proportion involving the NEDs (non-educated delinquents), scallies or chavs. These slang terms describe a group of hooligans, uneducated, unemployed and living on benefits, who go around town causing trouble, committing petty crimes and using vulgar language whilst drunk. I have only heard of a case in which a fellow Malaysian was bashed on his way home in the middle of the night. Aside from getting a black eye simply for ‘looking’ different, none of his belongings were taken from him. As for my religion, let’s not even talk about the flicker of fear and prejudice I could see in their eyes when they know my first name is Muhammad.

Social prejudices do exist. They hurt just the same despite being uncommon. It remains a comfort to know that such behaviour is not tolerated in society. Racism and religious intolerance certainly hardly occur in matters pertaining to education and employment.

Because of those reasons above, the United Kingdom seems like a good place for me to pursue my future. The minor glitches aside, I am not worried one bit about its progress because I know it is my talent that will count. My abilities will not be judged based on my race and religion.

Why, then, have I decided to come back?

I have lost count of the numerous times when the many consultants that I have sat in their various clinics during my rotation asked me about my plans after graduation. The conversation tends to follow this one pattern:

Consultant: So, are you planning to go back and practice in your country or stay here in the UK?

Me: I?m going home. I might do my two-year foundation here but I?ll eventually go back to work there.

Consultant: Is it any good over there? I?ve heard the working condition is not very good. And you?re probably paid more here.

Me: Yeah, I’ll probably be paid more here. And yes, the working condition back home is not that good. There are very few doctors so we?ll be working long hours but that is why I’m going home. If every Malaysian medical student studying abroad chooses not to go back to work over there, naturally the hospitals are gonna be understaffed and that’s what’s causing the poor working conditions for the doctors there. The cycle is just going to go on and on so somebody has to go back to fill up those positions and I’m going to do it. It is, after, all home.

No, I did not make up that conversation. Some of my friends here are actually surprised that I still want to go back despite the better opportunities and future I would have here.

I have been lucky to get the opportunity to study abroad and learn from excellent and dedicated doctors and consultants from around the world. It is a privilege to have my eager, keen and thirsty mind fed and filled by these experts who are willing to take time out of their busy and hectic schedule to educate and nurture future generations of doctors.

The same cannot be said about medical students in Malaysia. Due to lack of senior doctors and consultants in hospitals, medical students and newly-graduated young doctors do not receive the adequate amount of guidance during their foundation year to cultivate consistent and systematic working habits that is necessary for every doctor. I have felt the frustration of not having anyone to learn from during a hectic Accident and Emergency (A&E) session when my brain was eager and excited but with few doctors available to teach. I have also seen the tired look in the eyes of the patients in the waiting area hoping that their names would be called after waiting for more than two hours.

So I am coming back because I want to give back. I want to serve every Malaysian either by using all the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired to treat the sick or share those same skills and knowledge with fellow young doctors and future medical students. I know it will not solve the brain drain in the country or reduce patients’ waiting time at the A&E but at least I am doing the little I can about it.

Some of you will probably think that I should come back to serve the country out of sense of duty. After all, my entire education here and all the great things that I have gained and experienced for the last three years have been funded by my fellow Malaysians who pay their taxes.

Yes, I believe in that sense of duty but no, I am not coming back because I need to hold up my end of the contract I signed with MARA three years ago. In fact, I am not even bonded to MARA the way PSD scholars are. I could just stay in the UK and make my fortune without having to deal with the incompetence of a corrupt government making ridiculous and unfair policies that are poorly thought out. And I do not have to worry about enrolling my future children into a sub-standard, exam-oriented education system that encourages dogma instead of independent-thinking apart from its lack of tolerance for diversity.

My desire to come back stems from the simple basis that I love my country so much that leaving it and its people simply because of its faulty modus operandi is akin to a coward running away from the problems instead of tackling them. I want to give other young Malaysians, medical students or not, the opportunities that I have gained during my study abroad. It is, of course, impossible to ferry all the country’s youth abroad but I can come home to bring and share the important values of freedom, equality, meritocracy, diversity, tolerance and fighting for what is right with the youth in the country.

Signs of great changes are already sprouting in the country with the alternative media encouraging voices of dissent and discourse to provide check and balance to whatever the Powers That Be is doing. We already have human right groups who have been trying their best to promote tolerance and creating awareness among the public their rights and what they can and should do to fight for those rights.

Although limited, it is still a good start that we already have bright and educated Malaysians pushing for those changes. I believe that if Malaysians who have had the opportunity to enjoy the greater freedom and liberty abroad were to come back and share the experience and work together with the ones at home, we will be one step closer to bringing our country to the much civilised and progressive nation it should be.

Some of you are probably laughing at my naivete and simple-mindedness. But I remain a believer for that is what being young is all about. I apologise if I come across as patronising or condescending but I believe in the people of my country. I am coming back to do whatever I can to contribute to the change no matter how slow and tiring the struggle will be. And it really is just because Malaysia is home and there is no place like home.

Idzwan Husaini believes in the joy and energy of being young. He believes in being optimistic and hopeful of what lies ahead rather than being doubtful and fearful of the future like most old people do these days. He wishes old people would grow up and out of the old prejudices and start looking forward rather than focusing on what has happened in the past.

  1. #1 by monsterball on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 6:03 am

    One who travels or stay out can see the differences.
    Malaysia is governed by UMNO B dictators.
    Glad one coming back and hope more will do so to stand tall against rouges and thieves with no fear.

  2. #2 by k1980 on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 7:26 am


    she was adopted at birth and never knew her parents, … brought up in an illegally constructed tin shack with no utilities in Kampar Perak where floods were common and food scarce … she moved to Singapore at the age of 15 and supported her schooling through tutoring and sales jobs eventually graduating with an Honours degree in chemistry from the National University of Singapore NUS in 1986. The rest is history, bringing her to her current brilliant achievement and praiseworthy status.

    So according to the tuans’ GAPS, matasepets should not be given scholarships because they can achieve on their own. In that case, they should stop paying taxes to the govt.

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 7:34 am

    Good, come back lah, and serve the cause of Change. Being enthusiastic is good but learn to empathize, ie see from the angle of the other person, young or old. You’re coming back but you should see why many young are leaving. They cannot get equal opportunity here – unlike you whose education is “funded by my fellow Malaysians who pay their taxes” and though having signed with MARA a contract “three years ago” are “not even bonded to MARA the way PSD scholars are”! It is an irony you say that in UK -unlike here- “your abilities will not be judged based on my race and religion”. Yes here you will be so judged – but even more positively! In the byline you are described as “optimistic and hopeful of what lies ahead rather than being doubtful and fearful of the future like most old people do these days, that you wish “old people would grow up and out of the old prejudices and start looking forward rather than focusing on what has happened in the past”. Hey that sounds “patronising or condescending” – you are talking of Octognerian Tun Dr Mahathir or what – lumping all old people in one group?

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 7:58 am

    Its easy for you to say “old people would grow up and out of the old prejudices and start looking forward”. Looking forward to what? True, one is only as old as one’s enthusiasm for life but the latter is severely circumscribed. Perhaps you in bloom of youth lecturing the old on looking forward can emphatize what it is to look forward to when everything dries up (in the case of women) or leaks (in case of men) like a dripping faucet in the day and fireman’s host in the night due to uncontrollable bladder and after doing your business forget to zip up ; when legs are weak, have to money to travel but cannot do so, as walk is a difficult endeavour (others walk, you hobble with help of a walking stick and one is prone to slip or stumble with fatal consequences when taking a bath; when you can see neither far nor near without bifocals and after a stage the vision dims due to degenerative eye condition, when even if you could still read, your fingers tremble and type wrong words on the key board, when people call you pedantic and long winded; when you think know all the answers, but nobody asks you the questions; when you have to frequently attend the wake of your friends passing on; when you feel a burden to your children who get irritrated…

  5. #5 by dagen on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 9:00 am

    Oh well. He has seen the world. Yes. He is unlike any of those umnoputras, in outlook and in attitude. Yes. Yes. I know. I am not being pessimistic here. But that umno culture is a huge magnet to anyone who wants to get rich fast. Dont forget it. The same goes for mca mic and all of barisan component parties – not just umno. You see outlook and attitude could change if one has weak or no principles. That is the real problem. The hairy monkey has the benefit of foreign education. He is actually a worse example because he lives outside the country for a number of years. Look at him now. Soaking up all the finer elements of that despicable umno culture of greed and power. Look at kerismuddin bin lembuddin and his older cousin, jibby jib. Isnt taib of sarawak a foreign uni grad too? Oh there are so many of such people in umno, in mca and in mic.

    Anyway, its still good if the writer doctor returned. The country would welcome him. We certainly would.

  6. #6 by wanderer on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 10:13 am

    Firstly, if the hospitals in Malaysia are understaffed, blame it on the UMNO elites with their discriminating racial policies!
    ……being a Malay it is your duty bound to return, afterall, you have enjoyed the taxpayers sponsorship for your degree but, if you wished to be recognized for your professionalism and patroitism, make sure you join UMNO for fast track promotions!!…not all Melayu think alike when it comes to getting the “juicy pies” in their work. We have witnessed recently, especially in the SodomyII trial, we have a lot of sub-par medical professionals who were ready to sell heir souls to the “Devils” just be promoted not out of merits but, how talented they are in marbles licking.
    Welcome home!

  7. #7 by bush on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 10:38 am

    This is what the Government pay for the NEP product that oppose/or against their own system. The G able to manipulate the system (discriminate other) to ensure that the production of graduates must achieve certain quota. (Based on quantity production instead of quality graduates)

    Any graduates that no having the “cake sharing” (corruption, hangout..Etc) will joint opposition to topple the NEP Government. This scenario can be justify if a rich Parent no able to distribute his wealth fairly to his 18 mil of children (65% of Malaysia population is umno/bumi) and they will fight among their own sibling and kill their own blood.

    The 2008 election is one of the good examples where most of the urban knowledgeable Malay vote for opposition and expected to be continued for the coming election. Without the Malay support on the opposition, no way PKR, DAPS, PAS able to win even with 100% Chinese/Indian support DAP.

    So, NEP product will eventually burn their own body due to auto correction took place.

    The conclusion, the more NEP product (heroin/opium given) produce will eventually kill themselves because the shrinking “CAKE” no longer able to sustain/feed their needs due to population increase and reduce in revenue for the country due to brain drain and NEP.

    To continue in power for coming election, BN need to get more money for free hand out to the BUMI at the rakyat’s expense to reduce the subsidy. (But not to reduce the hang-out/corruption/leakages).

    My advice to the opposition parties if they want to win the coming election, please provide your “WIN LISTS” to all the Rakyat on what you can do if you take over Putrajaya and work out the estimated saving amount per family if you going to reduce toll rate/TNB/astro/water/sugar, free internet and public transport infrastructure to be completed for the Rakyat.

    “Win list” with the amount saving per family is the most important statement to take over PUTRAJAYA.

  8. #8 by sotong on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 10:58 am

    There is home away from home…….more professionals working overseas are not going to achieve that.

    We need people who could set up businesses overseas, in particular restaurants and cafes, and employ our own people to create our environment to create a feel of being at home.

  9. #9 by PoliticoKat on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 1:47 pm

    Ah my dear countryman, you have only experience social prejudice and racialism. Which to my Malaysian toughen hide is but a gentle breeze.

    And really… i mean really…. UK has some of the nicest people around. See racism in their eyes… really.. that is nothing compared to malaysia where you can hear racism from their mouths! (and in the paper and on TV)

    And from my experience, a startling number of Brits actually have spent their childhood in Malaya! It is like… ‘I lived in Johor too..’ OR ‘Oh how is Penang, must have changed a lot in 40 years’. Malaysia/Malaya is a childhood remembered for them.

    What you need to experience is Government sponsored racialism, the stuff that BN dishes out in its policies. Those things literally crush families, dreams and ruin futures.

    But, good luck with your job in Malaysia.

    Some of us don’t have the choice of working close to family, not that I am complaining. A job is a job no mater where it is and I have very big education loans to pay off, which cannot be done with a malaysia salary in a reasonable time.

  10. #10 by cemerlang on Thursday, 9 June 2011 - 2:04 pm

    That is United Kingdom. This is Malaysia. United Kingdom is not Malaysia. Malaysia is not United Kingdom.

  11. #11 by raven77 on Friday, 10 June 2011 - 2:16 am

    Reality check..

    Did not the Malaysian Health system collapse under the Malay civil service some time ago…..all those functionless IT hospitals, hospitals running out of budget, Sabah no hospital, pen poking doctors, Pengarahs who cover up for “water in the lungs” pathologists, DGs who cover up for our massive dengue problem, all our abandoned hspital projects and leaking hospitals etc etc etc….

    If the PR comes to power….it must first correct this sector urgently as the MCA run healthcare system has just about killed many an innocent Malaysian patient…..

    This Dr is coming back because a juicy Jusa post awaits him or he cant make it in the UK…..if it is a non Malay, his application would have been lost in the mail….

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