Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Giving my family a better chance — Narayan

May 18, 2011
The Malaysian Insider

MAY 18 — I am Narayan, aged 44, and an Australian today. I was Malaysian till last year. I moved to Australia in February, 2007. My family joined me in Australia in July, 2007.

My children are Australian and my wife is Malaysian... still holding on to a string of hope to maybe retire in Malaysia.

Why did I leave? Am I a “pengkhianat” (traitor)?

Let us examine it from my family’s eyes.

Economy of the middle-class: In Malaysia as a senior manager in various private sector companies and even in a GLC at one time, I would be paying 30 per cent tax. In return, I could keep a reasonable home 45km out of the city, travel by public transport, have a maid, kids in suburban Sekolah Kebangsaan, need insurance to top up for medical costs, and go to a private hospital each time.

My workdays were 10-12 hours a day, plus/minus travel if I want the kids to go to a private school for the obvious reasons of not growing up with bad English and numeracy skills, not to forget low self-esteem, and my wife would need to work. If she was a stay-at-home mom and tutored the kids, we might overcome some of the issues above.

As an Oz middle-class family: My wife works three days a week as a part-time Montessori teacher, in total nine hours a week. My work hours are 8-10 hours a day. No maid, we do everything we need for our children and she generally takes them to school and comes back home.

I do occasional school trips and some of the extracurricular activities. I do my own garden. I get out a lot actually and enjoy nature a lot. So cooking, cleaning, gardening are not a chore, but rather, different activities that are simulating. My work days are not as stressed with less politics within the company. Do my job, go home, help the kids with homework etc. I even do volunteer community work.

I pay 40 per cent tax, which is returned in good schools, clean political system which has zero tolerance for corruption, good medical services.

I lost some things like a maid, and lower tax system, but have cheaper options of spending weekends and holidays with good parks. In fact, most cities in Australia are all like one long big garden, which is very soothing. You need to be here to notice the blood pressure dropping and other faculties rising.

My kids enjoy school; in fact, they dread holidays in general as schooling is holistic and they have special way of drawing parents in. For the taxes we pay, the returns are clear.

I would put it this way: If my kids did not graduate and bummed around, etc, it would not be because there is no opportunity. The system is fair, which brings me to working conditions.

There is a term called Aussie fair go. This is instituted at every level, where the very language people use are non discriminatory. All positions of power, be it in management or government take discrimination seriously.

Back to my days in GLC, well I even had kowtow to my office boy sometimes because he is from the “special race.” Need I say more? Moreover corruption was rampant, it was obvious and it was even a wonder at that time I got sign offs for the project I was doing.

It is important whilst we do work for money, we also must derive satisfaction of working in a good environment and do good work, reap the rewards of the good work.

I worked 18 years before I left Malaysia, studied in some of the so-called premier institutions and supported my own education right up to MBA and other industry certifications. I know what an uphill battle this is and when observing resources being squandered rampantly, I see too much money, the people’s money which should come back to help people who need it, being wasted.

A case in point, when the Johor floods displaced 30,000 people in 2006, the government took over six months to dispense a few hundred ringgit for each person. At the same very time, there was a floral festival in Putrajaya that cost the government RM1 million every week and went on for six months. Where is the priority?

When we in Australia had the Victorian bush fire and the recent Queensland fire, the action from the public and government was swift. Well if it wasn’t, rest assured the Australians would have replaced the government at the very next opportunity.

Same thing with corruption. In Wentworthville, a councillor was booked for receiving A$200. He went to jail for six months and the entire council was impounded for six months until authorities were sure nobody else was on the take. They went through seven years’ worth of books to ascertain veracity.

A couple months later, Morries Immea lost his job as premier of New South Wales, when the Wollongong council scandal surfaced. It was not the premier’s fault but he had to take the blame as it was during his watch. The point is even though I have only been five years in this country, I am convinced my tax money and others like me is not squandered.

How can I put my family in a country that cannot care for flood victims? The tsunami was another case in point, what happened to the monies collected from the public? How many of the 25 people actually got houses? Has anyone visited Gemas or other Indian communities in rubber estates lately? Check it out. I cite this as it is something I know intimately.

I am sure it is no different in many parts of Malaysia for the Ibans, Senois, Kadazans, and Muruts. In general, the feeling is if you are not Malay, you have no chance. For the Chinese, there is enough private sector support. This may not be true but that is how the message has been driven down.

Any country that does not respect the underclass has a serious possible revolution on its hands.

So, there are many things I can say but this is enough. I have come to the point where even if I need to be a beggar it is better in Sydney than Kuala Lumpur.

Before someone goes accusing me of being a “pengkhianat”, I have contributed by working on a naval project, been on the school alumni board, collected funds and helped across all races; everything a common man with reasonable resources can do to serve my family and community.

I also voted in every election since the age of 21 and encouraged everyone I knew to do the same.

So now I will continue the same actions here where I rate my family’s chances are better. I truly wish Malaysians who stayed back to fight it out and build a better Malaysia all the best.

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

* Narayan reads The Malaysian Insider.

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