Why should I go back to Malaysia?

Discordant Dude


I am an ordinary Malaysian who has been living in United Kingdom for almost half a year now. I have never felt more Malaysian until I reached the UK.

I take pride in my identity as a Chinese Malaysian, in that order. It never tires me to point out that being Chinese does not automatically mean that I come from China, Hong Kong or Taiwan.

In the course of my work in a hostel here, I recently encountered verbal abuse which was racial and religious in nature from a resident. Not realising the gravity of the situation, I briefly recorded the incident in the logbook.

The next day I received a call from my immediate boss telling me to see the deputy housing manager as my complaint was viewed very seriously. To cut a long story short, the deputy housing manager assisted me in filling out an official hate crime/incident report that resulted in the resident being booted out from the hostel a few weeks later.

Just when I thought that the whole matter was over, I received a note from a police officer today leaving me his contact number. He asked if I wished to pursue the matter further and told me that in the future such abuses can be reported directly to him if I do not feel comfortable going through the channels in my workplace.

As a non-citizen, I felt amply protected by the laws of this country. It’s not that UK has a perfect system or that racism does not exist in this society. At least I am institutionally protected from overt discrimination such as racial and religious prejudices.

It has never occurred to me that racism was taken so seriously as per my case. This is probably because I grew up in an environment where racial discrimination is institutionalised and accepted as part and parcel of our life in Malaysia. After 50 years of independence, our education system, economic policy and political sphere are still ruled according to the dictates of race. It seems to me that we have not been freed after all from the shackles of colonial mentality divide-and-rule..

Maybe I am not seeing the bigger picture of our country’s laws and policies. But I am not the only one. Contrary to the landslide election results cited by our government every time criticisms are mounted, I can confidently say that the realities around me are very different.

I know of brilliant overseas students who refuse to return to Malaysia upon graduation. There are diligent local graduates working their way out of the system and dissatisfied friends and family who have no other recourse but to spend their time grumbling at mamak stalls. To say the least, our laws and policies are damaging the psyche of our nation.

How can we supposed that the general election results represent our public and political consciousness when the minister in the prime minister’s department so bluntly said in an Al Jazeera interview that the views of opposition members carry no weight?

This is contrary to the tenets of democracy. How can we reasonably believe in clean and fair elections when efforts to publicly debate such issues were reduced to childish name-calling and trivial bickering?

Yes, I am making a comparison between UK and Malaysia. The prime minister recently said that public security is of paramount importance but I cannot help but feel more secure and protected by a foreign country’s rule of law of a foreign country rather than my own. My short stint in the UK has exposed me to a law enforcement that takes the extra mile to assuage me of my fear of discrimination while my many years of encounters with the Malaysian police force was of intimidation and bribery.

All these are compounded by the discrepancy between what our mainstream newspapers report and the personal realities around me. The media tells me that the disgruntled are only a small segment of Malaysian society but everyone around me seems to be dissatisfied. The media says that only a minority in the police force are corrupt but everyone I know has at least one bad tale to tell. The media’s estimates of participants in recent demonstrations were hard to reconcile with what I saw on Youtube.

I am not saying that Malaysia should emulate her past colonial master all-and-sundry. No doubt we have much to learn. If I may take the comparisons one step further, the UK treats me, a migrant worker, more like a human being than we in Malaysia treat our migrant workers.

How can our migrant workers be more than a commodity when we have legislation against their love lives and none to provide them with more humane conditions of labour? Given the way we alienate our Indonesian neighbours in our country, no wonder they do not see that we share the same cultural roots.

Dear prime minister, I have been asking myself again and again why I (or anyone else in my shoes) should go back to Malaysia? An ordinary Chinese Malaysian like myself is more protected by the law, has more merit-based opportunities and can live a more comfortable life in the UK.

The only reason I tell myself is that Malaysia is where I belong – the people, the culture, the history and all. Tanah tumpah darahku. This is my society. This is where I want to contribute my productive and creative energy.

The recent events have distanced me from such sentiments altogether. Honest and loyal citizens struggling for a better Malaysia have been made to look like the worst traitors, charged with attempted murder and accused of conspiring with terrorist groups. The rhetoric of Ketuanan Melayu is getting louder by the day, nurturing a cultural and political system that I am becoming more and more estranged with. People in positions of power to affect change remain in absurd denial of a reality that all sane people know to be true.

Dear prime minister, I am writing and expressing my thoughts simply because I still believe and hope. Despite the many who have chosen to opt out of Malaysia, I still want to be optimistic about the possibilities for change. I trust that you still hold on to your promise of working with and for the people.

I am just an ordinary Malaysian who wants to see a better Malaysia. I pray that you will hear the concerned voices and reinforce my conviction that Malaysia is a country for all – regardless of race, religion or creed.