Malaysia

Why I left for our ‘poorer’ neighbour — E

May 25, 2011

MAY 25 — Contrary to most Malaysians who work overseas, I chose a less popular destination. I have been based in Jakarta for the past year and a bit. Most people look down on Indonesia as the poorer neighbour, much like the way Singapore looks at us. However, after living here, there is much to like, and below are some of the reasons why I prefer life here and do not plan to return anytime soon:

1. Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world. However, you will find that most Indonesians are very open about their religion and respectful of the rights of others. Muslims here have no problem with patronising outlets that sell alcohol or non-halal food, even if they choose not to have any. In Malaysia, the Muslims make a big fuss over small things which they claim are not halal. You may argue that there are fanatics here, but the number is small relative to the population. Just look around Malaysia. Everywhere you look, you get fanatics.

2. The work ethic and culture here is better than in KL. People here are less racist. In Malaysia, you identify companies as Bumi companies, Chinamen companies, Indian companies and so on. Here, it is easy to work with people no matter what ethnic group. Again, you may mention the race riots during Suharto’s era, but the problem is practically non-existent in everyday life nowadays. People here respect talent and ability no matter your background, religion and skin colour.

3. There are unlimited opportunities here for those who want to do business. No such thing as Bumiputera quota, etc. If you see an opportunity, you are free to pursue it. Where Malaysia could once boast of being a strong regional player, our government is now coming here to woo Indonesian investors. I have dealt with local Indonesian companies for a number of years and all dealings are reasonably fair and transparent. This is unlike Malaysia where Bumiputeras are highly favoured no matter how incompetent.

4. Free and open press. It’s no secret our mainstream media is heavily self-censored, and Utusan is openly inciting racial hatred. Here, the Jakarta Globe and Jakarta Post are two publications that are highly regarded for their unbiased reporting and open criticism of the government. We are able to keep ourselves informed without having to log onto alternative news portals.

Of course, Indonesia shares some of Malaysia’s current shortcomings including widespread corruption, and the country is still very poor, but they are on the way up and it is only a matter of time before Malaysia is the one exporting maids to Indonesia.

There are those who will criticise my points above, but I believe the majority have never set foot in Jakarta and understand very little about the place. If you feel proud to be a Malaysian citizen, and look down on Indonesians, just remember that internationally, especially in the US or Europe, people generally put us on a similar standing as other Third World countries regionally.

* We asked readers who have migrated to tell us in their own words why they left. This is one of the stories.