Malaysia

I will not give in to fear — Lim Ka Joy

June 01, 2011

JUNE 1 — Dear Malaysia,

It is with great joy and hope and also some apprehension that I undertook this task of writing why I have decided not to forsake you even though I have watched you grow from bad to worse over the years.

I speak to you as a single entity because that is what you are. You are a nation. Though not every part of you will understand this, but I am sure your brain does and that is all we need at the end of the day.

Just for the purposes of a personal intro, I am your average Gen-Y Malaysian who hails form Kuching, Sarawak. I was a victim of discrimination after SPM and STPM. However, thanks to my parents who funded the major portion my tertiary education, I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in December 2008.

That year, my dad encouraged me to look for a job overseas. “Don’t work in Malaysia,” he said, “it is not worth it. Salary is one reason for leaving, but with the current un-meritocratic and un-progressive stance on politics, education, economics and social issues, our country is going down the proverbial drain.”

I knew where he was coming from. He is not the only one who has been asking me to migrate overseas. My relatives have asked (and are asking) me to follow in the footsteps of my cousins who have migrated to Australia, United States, Canada, Singapore and New Zealand to chase economic opportunities.

And yes, they are now earning big bucks (if converted to ringgit) and driving cars like Audi, Lexus, Peugeot etc. Even my friends who furthered their studies overseas did not return to you for good (though they did say that they might consider spending their old age in Malaysia!) Some went to the extent of giving up their Malaysian citizenship. None of them, it seemed, were proud to be a Malaysian. I do not blame them.

Truthfully speaking, Malaysia, I am frustrated at how you are being run. I feel destitute and utterly overcome by your current state. I remember Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala saying [1] Malaysia will be bankrupt by 2019 if it does not cut subsidies and rein in borrowing, only to be [2] refuted by Deputy Finance Minister Senator Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussein a few days later. So who’s telling the truth?

I have heard of many instances of scaremongering — threats of not getting any development if the people do not vote for the ruling party, [3] threats of crusades and holy war. I saw the race and religion card being played — accusations of being a racist party that used racial politics to win nearly all the seats it contested.

I saw how the Performance and Management Delivery Unit spent taxpayers’ money to put an advertorial in major newspapers defending and promoting the RM50 million private-sector 1 Malaysia Email Project; and how the government allowed some people who have been inciting racial disharmony to be let off the hook.

I read about [4] the new Istana Negara bill rising to RM935 million from the original RM400 million. I read about the [5] government spending RM3.4 million in 2010 to maintain the official residences of the prime minister, deputy prime minister and ministers in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Now, what about the PKFZ case (which I shall not go into detail here on the grounds it is subjudice), and [6] the stolen jets? Need I mention more? Then [7] the government increased the price of sugar, citing reasons that the country could no longer maintain the current subsidies. Yet, our 1 Malaysia People First, Performance Now government has millions of ringgit to spend on themselves. Oh, [5] the government is setting aside RM65 million to renovate the Prime Minister’s official residence over the next two years!

So why am I still here, Malaysia?

The stubbornness in me refuses to move. I’d prefer that each person maintain a distinct individuality, instead of being part of a group consciousness. I always believe that we should make our own choices and decisions, not just follow the majority. Just because most people I know have migrated does not mean that I have to follow suit.

My friends think that one of the reasons why I am still living in my country of birth is because of the lack of an ability to separate myself from it when required. But that is not the case. I know that there is hope for you, Malaysia. I know, some day, we can change the direction you are heading towards. That is why I chose to work here — to build a better Malaysia.

**

“Are you sure you want to remain in Malaysia?” my dad asked upon hearing my decision.

“Yes,” I replied, “I do not think Malaysia is a lost cause. *308 has proven it. We have people like Tony Pua, Nathaniel Tan and Nik Nazmi with rock solid credentials coming back to serve the society and country into which they were born.

Remember, Tony’s an Oxford graduate, Nathaniel’s a Harvard graduate and Nik Nazmi’s a King’s College, London graduate. They could just as well remain there and earn USDs and pounds, but they did not. What about the Sim Tze Tzin who left his USD-paying job in California to become a political aide to Anwar? These outstanding talents came back to help change Malaysia to a better Malaysia. That is why, Daddy, I feel that I have to remain in Malaysia to support the cause of those who are fighting for a better Malaysia.”

He sighed. I could sense his disappointment. I knew he cared about my future. I knew he wanted the best for me.

“How do you intend to help those YBs?” he asked.

I kept silent for a while thinking about the concept of democracy. “Daddy, all of us have friends who are apathetic. But the irony of some is that they complain, and complain about how Malaysia is being run, and when it comes to actually doing something, they sit back and do nothing. We have to change their mindset. We have to get them to register as voters and come polling day, we have to get them to cast their votes.”

Today, I am glad my parents are still proud of me even though family friends and relatives think that I have wasted my future by staying in Malaysia. During those “parent-talk” sessions (where parents come together over a meal or drinks, having children working overseas entitles one to some bragging rights), my dad stands up for me.

**

Malaysia,

Deep down in my heart, I am convinced that my decision to remain here was the right one, even if the effect has not been pleasing to my material assets. My income is not rising at the same pace as the cost of living but I am sure that everyone in Malaysia is in the same predicament, except for those walking the corridors of power who do not seem to understand the sort of lives and problems that normal Malaysians face.

I hope it is a consolation to you, Malaysia, that I feel honoured to be your citizen. Above all, Malaysia, I want you to know that the decision I made to remain here — whether right or wrong in the eyes of others — was born out of my love for you. I know that I am not walking this road alone and there are many others who hold you in their hearts. Though we have been victimised in one way or another, we know, Malaysia, it is not your fault because you are only a country. After all, Malaysia, you are our home and we are Malaysians (although I have been labelled a “pendatang”). We can never throw away who we are.

Malaysia,

Your 13th General Election is coming soon. It is my Constitutional right as your citizen to have a say in where you will be heading in the next five years. I will vote according to what I believe is best for your future and I hope every Malaysian will do the same too. I will not give in to fear. The collective heart and the kindness of your people have saved you and will continue to save you. After all, you are our country. Your beauty is legendary and your food arguably one of the best in the world.

Yours truly,

Lim Ka Joy

P.S. To my brothers and sisters who have not given up hope on this country of ours, I am proud to be in your company.

Footnote:

*308 in the political lexicon of numbers refers to the 12th General Election which was held on March 8, 2008.

[1] Idris Jala: M’sia must cut subsidies, debt by 2019 or risk bankruptcy. Taken from http://www.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?sec=nation&file=/2010/5/27/nation/20100527171008

[2] Malaysia will not go bankrupt in 2019. Taken from http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/Malaysiawillnotgobankruptin2019/Article/#ixzz1NK6sTwje

[3] As police probe, Ibrahim Ali threatens crusade against Christians. Taken from http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/as-police-probe-ibrahim-ali-threatens-crusade-against-christians

[4] New palace bill rises to RM935m. Taken from http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/new-palace-bill-rises-to-rm935m/

[5] RM1.76m to maintain Seri Perdana. Taken from http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/rm1.76m-to-maintain-seri-perdana/

[6] Stolen jet engine “tip of the iceberg”. Taken from http://www.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne+News/Malaysia/Story/A1Story20091220-187021.html

[7] DPM signals price hikes. Taken from http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/dpm-signals-price-hikes/

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