Tough call for Talent Corp

By R. Nadeswaran, The Sun

NOT many people have heard of him. He is 37 years old and obtained a first-class in economics from Cambridge. His task is to lure back thousands of skilled and talented Malaysian professionals who are working overseas. And soon, Johan Mahmood Merican will be making the headlines, and that’s because he assumed his post as the chief executive officer of Talent Corporation only two days ago. But he has his work cut out for him.

Figures from the World Bank are startling. In 1960, there were just 9,500 Malaysians living abroad. Today, it has hit the 1.5 million mark. It is estimated that 700,000 Malaysians are working overseas, most of them in key managerial positions. At least one attempt to talk to Malaysians in the United Kingdom in the hope of luring them home fell flat on its face because of the lack of authoritative and accurate information. Johan must be fully prepared for the type of questions he would need to answer from his target audience.

First, Johan must take control of the efforts of so-called friends of Malaysia (their intentions may be good but their delivery is mediocre) and prevent some ill-informed and shallow-minded people whose tagline has been: “There’s no winter and the weather is good. You can get hot food at even three o’clock in the morning. Where in the world can you have that kind of life?”

Please don’t laugh. I heard these words being articulated by no less than three personalities in London three months ago and they thought the audience laughed because it was a joke. We are not going to get doctors, engineers, bankers and experts with such kind of nonsensical utterances. Johan must call the shots and stop all the self-appointed do-gooders from doing any further damage.

This writer does not profess to know all the Malaysians but has met a fair share of professionals who are working and living in London. They rely very much on the Internet for their information and because we do not have government representatives who can give the correct picture, everything published is taken as the truth.

Having read about Johan’s appointment, this writer sought out more than a dozen Malaysian professionals who in his view ought to be lured home and whose talents we could use. Financial rewards are not the issue but their concerns have to be addressed. They could be real, perceived or imagined, but here are some of them:

I have 16 years of working experience and hold a senior post in the financial district in London. Would I have to work under someone who is less competent than me or someone who is not suited for the job? I understand that there are some restrictions on senior positions which are reserved for bumiputras, especially in government-linked companies.

Can I keep my job if I turn down the loan application of a titled politician because he did not meet the criteria? I am told that requirements are sometimes dispensed with on directives from the Finance Ministry or the central bank. And if these applications are not approved, banks can get into trouble.

If I notice that my bosses have compromised their personal and professional integrity for their own interests, will I be penalised for pointing them out? Can I be assured that they would be prosecuted and barred from working in the financial world?

Can I move up to the top on sheer hard work, dedication and competency and not having to worry of the colour of my skin? I am told that certain positions in GLCs are reserved for bumiputras. Shouldn’t meritocracy be the order of the day?

My wife is a Lebanese Muslim but since our marriage, she follows me to church and our two children are being brought up as Christians. Will I have problems with the religious police? I am told that in Malaysia, a Christian has to convert to marry a Muslim and that the children will be forcibly converted.

I know many Malaysians on government scholarship who went to university with me. Some of them barely made it while I got a first class. Looking at the system, I would be reporting to someone who is less qualified and perhaps less competent than me?

I went through the whole system of racial profiling and discrimination throughout my 18 years of upbringing in Malaysia. I couldn’t get this or that because I was not a bumiputra. Does this policy still exist and if so, what are my chances of furthering my career as a consultant physician with my qualifications, experience and ability? Is the post of director-general restricted to a bumiputra?

I am married to a doctor who holds an Israeli passport. Will she be able to get a job, let alone be allowed to enter and stay in Malaysia?

Having looked at the directory of Malaysian government agencies in London, I have noticed that all the senior officials are bumiputras. Is it government policy that non-bumiputras will not get posted overseas despite their talent?

Let it be reiterated that these issues are not meant to question any individual, group or the government. For people to make a move that would change their lives forever, they have to make an educated and informed decision. Answers from the Talent Corporation will once and for all bury the myths and half-truths that have permeated the Malaysian diaspora. Hopefully, Johan can provide some answers through this column to allay the fears of many who have formed their own opinions and views on the government and its policies, no thanks to the lack of accurate information from official or government sources.