Home TA Online Kopitiam talk: Should Malaysians emigrate or should they stay?

Kopitiam talk: Should Malaysians emigrate or should they stay?

Overheard – As a cloud of gloom hangs over the country, a few friends discuss a recent article by Sharifah Munirah Alatas, who wrote she would not try to discourage Malaysians who wish to resettle in another country.

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Mavis: Reading Sharifah Munirah’s piece, I wonder who and what percentage of the populace have the means and opportunity to leave the country.

It is usually the rich who already have their foreign PRs (permanent resident status) in their pockets and the means to leave… and people like Azman, by ‘accident of birth’ (who were born in a foreign land).

I really respect those who stayed on even when they could have easily left – and often these people do it for love of the motherland and for the sake of the majority who can’t leave.

Azman: I like the term “accident of birth”!

Saras: Mavis, about the “love of the motherland”, the writer answers that too. How long do we fight? Frankly, when it comes to our children, if we can, we would want the best opportunities for them.

Ask any parent. I know of many parents (some of them my students) who have used whatever little means they could spare to get their children away. Many of my students (those who were in college) have found a more affordable avenue via Singapore. 

Yes. It is sad that the poor have little choice. It is a harsh reality of life. Yet, if we can, we must improve their talents. Luck needs a helping hand. I already see some NGOs doing their part.

Hashim: How long do we fight is one question. The next question – one that I have had to grapple with my children – is, what right have we to demand that our children continue the fight?

Saras: It has to be their choice. If the ‘motherland’ had treated them kindly and with love, they would never want to leave. My children have chosen not to return.

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I, on the other hand, have different feelings. My country had been good to me, even if it was in the past. If things change, the children may want to return.

Mavis: Yes, we can’t demand that of anyone, not even our own children. Both my kids are overseas, but they know I’ll be happy if they came back or work to improve things in Malaysia from wherever they are (and) be involved in bringing about the change they want to see in Malaysia. 

Most people I know rave and rant, gripe and groan about things going wrong here when it negatively affects them or their family, directly or personally – and sometimes it spurs them into action.

But there are those who have been doing human rights work for decades, including speaking truth to power. They have been doing it for the sake of the oppressed and marginalised who are powerless themselves. We need to continue to encourage and support this.

Anyway, the grass is not always greener on the other side.

How long do we fight? I remind myself regularly that it will always be a work in progress – so I am cautiously optimistic, with realistic expectations. I believe the ‘fight’ has been going on from before I got into it and will continue even after I leave it (laughs).

Hashim: Two responses, Mavis:

One, for those I have spoken to, it is less about the grass being greener, but more about wanting an even chance, which they don’t get here.

Two, what do you do when you fight for the oppressed and marginalised, but they continue to see their oppression based on their ethnicity. I am talking about the poor Malays here who see their oppressors as non-Malays, and their liberators being ‘Bossku’ and his like?

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Mavis: Point taken, but not sure about the “even chance”. Two of my brothers are lawyers in New Zealand. They are still facing discrimination in the employment sector, although they are happy with other things related to the quality of life. 

I think the poor Malays are changing – maybe not fast enough. I see PSM [the Socialist Party of Malaysia] doing good work there.

Malik: The blaming of the ‘other’ is not only confined to the poor Malays. Even some so-called educated Malays who are financially secure succumb to the Umno mantra.

Anyway, I would think that not all of the poor Malays blame people outside of their ethnic collective for the misery they face.

Mavis: I agree.

Saras: Mavis, I really hope that they (the poor Malays) are changing. I really … really hope so. I want my country back.

I want our children to think about coming back. They know that life is so much better at home with family, but they do not want to suffer the daily dose of idiocy from our so-called leaders!  We all will want our children to come back.

I want the foreign investors to come back too. I want our homegrown start-ups to feel safe and prosper. I want them to come and spread the wealth here in a productive way instead of prospering other countries. 

Why oh why can’t they all see the duplicity of these leaders – whether they are poor or well-to-do Umnocrats? Even poor Indians fall into the BN trap – it is not just the Malays. Why can’t they see they are being manipulated?

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Hashim: Sorry Malik, regarding your comment about the “blaming of the other”, I didn’t mean to blame the poor Malays only.

Yup, many middle and upper-middle-class ones also follow the Umno way. Though, perhaps, for reasons different from the poor ones, both urban and rural.

Saras: For contracts!

Mavis: And what about the non-Malay enablers of BN? The whole or full picture is not so easily racially categorised and labelled.

Hashim: Related but different context and category. We were talking about Malays blaming the ‘other’ instead of seeing the real ones exploiting and oppressing them.

Mavis: But I have seen the concept of “bersyukur” being drummed into the students at my university for years, especially when [we had a certain] VC [vice-chancellor]. The cultural and religious brainwashing is hard to undo.

Now join in the conversation with our kopitiam friends and share your views in the comment section below.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Phua Kai Lit
Phua Kai Lit
28 Dec 2021 8.08am

One more comment: There’s also “return migration”, the possibility (although unlikely) of a future reformist Malaysian government that will allow dual citizenship, ex-Malaysians in high political office in Singapore’s government pushing for a EU-style arrangement that will help both nations to prosper together etc.

Phua Kai Lit
Phua Kai Lit
28 Dec 2021 8.02am

It’s not a situation of exclusive choices.

Overseas Malaysians and ex-Malaysians can still support reformists in Malaysia — through financial contributions to the more progressive political parties, courageous blogging of the truth, investing in the private sector, supporting NGOs of Malaysia etc. From history, we know that Diaspora communities can contribute significantly to political change in their original home countries (for example, the Chinese diaspora and the overthrow of the Ching dynasty system, Russian exiles and the end of the Czarist political system etc)

Paul Lim
Paul Lim
26 Dec 2021 2.50am

There is no easy answer. Ordinary parents who see no hope will advise their children to leave for their careers, for their future lives. Just look at the poor migrants trying to reach European shores. It is those who are idealistic, committed to change who will stay and continue the fight for justice, human rights etc….. Look at Myanmar now, the Young there who are willing to fight to did the military. Of course they have nothing else to lose which is not the case of Malaysia. Are there Young Malaysians who will stick it out in Malaysia. Are there Young Malaysian who will return to fight for the betterment of Malaysia?

Got to learn from the expériences of other peoples in other countries to get inspired and to learn new ways to proceed.

Ling Tan
Ling Tan
26 Dec 2021 2.11am

I left many years ago and ended up in Guatemala where I had the opportunity to give birth to two kids who have both Guatemalan and US citizenship and also to start a restaurant business, which I ran for 26 years. I employed 6 Indigenous women and recently gave over my business to the one lady who has been with me 18 years.
So much better to be recognized for my positive contributions than to be labelled a non-Malay and marginalized to second-class citizenship.
So much better to have a conversation that stems from what we like and want than one arising from what we don’t want.

Ong Lian Hwa
Ong Lian Hwa
23 Dec 2021 9.55am

You need an overhaul. Very committed leaders and loyal supporters to unite the people to get rid of all the crooks in power and wealth. They have the means and should be the one leaving. Their power which they abused to steal from the country and oppress the people must be returned to the people. It can be done….remember the power of one!

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