I believe in us — Phua Kai Lit
MAY 31 — I had the opportunity to work and settle down in two rich foreign countries. Why did I return to Malaysia (in 1996, with a PhD and years of work experience in hand) and stayed?
Growing up in Kuantan (now in grave danger of being turned into a dumping ground for toxic waste material) and Malaysia during the 1960s and 1970s instilled in me a deep love for this country and appreciation of its mix of peoples and cultures — best exemplified by our wonderful food and our delightful dialect of English called “Manglish.”
Living in two foreign countries for almost 20 years (the years of study and work drifted by quickly — the thought of emigrating never even crossed my mind right from the beginning when I first went overseas for my higher education on a generous scholarship from a foreign university) made me realise that one can never feel truly “at home” in a foreign country even if one has lived in that foreign country for years and years.
In spite of the many things that are wrong with Malaysia today — e.g. the decay of our political institutions and the greatly coarsened state of our political discourse and deplorable policies which are threatening to turn us into a Nigeria-type “failed state” — there is still hope that Malaysia can change for the better.
This is why a patriot like me who wishes to contribute to the betterment of our society is staying. If enough of us say, “Enough is enough!” and work actively together for change, Malaysia can truly become a better home for ALL Malaysian citizens.
Whom do I mean by “us”? “Us” means the vast majority of decent Malaysians who are sick and tired of unprincipled politicians who play racial politics to divide and fool the people so that they can continue to enrich themselves at public expense; who are sick and tired of racists/fascists who engage in irresponsible stirring of racial tension; who wish to see a society where there are no desperately poor people living in a country blessed with an abundance of rich natural resources; who wish to live in a truly democratic country where there is rule of law, where the economy is properly managed, where corruption is under control, where poor people get to share in the fruits of economic growth, where there is affirmative action for the poor of all ethnic groups, where there is equal opportunity for all, where there is tolerance of the cultures and beliefs of others.
I believe that the “us” consist of people of all creeds and colours and make up at least 75 to 80 per cent of all Malaysians. I also believe that this “us” can come together in social solidarity and change things peacefully through the ballot box. In other words, I believe that Malaysia can change for the better, and that change is possible. This is a major reason why I am STAYING!
Finally, a message for the estimated one million overseas Malaysians and ex-Malaysians: please work with us who stayed for change too. Come back and vote, contribute financially to progressive groups in Malaysia, provide moral support.
In return, we will all work together to pressure for public policies that make it easier for ex-Malaysians to be granted Malaysian permanent resident status and to regain your Malaysian citizenship (such as through the government’s recognition of dual citizenship).
* We asked readers to tell us in their own words why they stayed in Malaysia... instead of migrating. This is one of the stories.