Why some Malaysians want to stay abroad

The prime minister has issued a call for overseas Malaysians to return home, but not all are convinced that they should. (AFP pic)

PETALING JAYA: Some overseas Malaysians have cited the alleged persistence of official bias favouring Malays and Muslims as the reason for their reluctance to answer the prime minister’s call for their return.

Commenting on an appeal Dr Mahathir Mohamad made in a speech in Beijing, they said they hadn’t seen any evidence that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government had the political will to reverse decades of preferential treatment by race and religion.

Remarks made by Adelaide-based Kien Wong were representative of the reactions of several overseas Malaysians interviewed by FMT.

He said it appeared to him that it would take a long time before a mindset change could be seen among the politically powerful.

He added that he saw no reason for him to give up the quality of life he was enjoying in Australia.

Canberra-based Maryam, who told FMT not to disclose her full name, said Putrajaya had shown no strong inclination to check religious intolerance. She said she always felt like a second-class citizen in Malaysia.

Daren Devendran, who lives in London, said he was disappointed that politicians were still concerning themselves with race and religion after 61 years of independence. He could never accept unequal treatment of citizens, he added.

Malaysia’s affirmative action policies have often been cited by critics as one of the reasons for a brain drain from the country.

However, a Malaysian living in Singapore gave economic reasons for his reluctance to return. Asking that he be named only as Lee, he said the cost of living was lower and the quality of life was better in Singapore.

He said one Singapore dollar could buy more in Singapore than a ringgit could in Malaysia. “Chicken rice costs RM8 versus SG$3 and a shirt of the same brand costs RM50 versus SG$20.”

But he also said he was concerned over the stability of the new government, noting that cracks between political factions within PH could already be seen.

“Until there is a clear trajectory to an unshakeable future, there is too much for me to lose,” he said. “I’ve built a life and career here and I need to think of my kid’s future as well.”

He spoke of himself as a proud Malaysian and said there were many ways to contribute to the country besides going home for good.

Radzi Mohd Noh, a medical doctor in Scotland, said he had been thinking about returning to Malaysia for some time and his resolve was strengthened when PH took power in May.

He said he now planned to return in a couple of years despite fears of having to adjust to new working conditions and a different lifestyle. He also expressed anxiety at having to surmount bureaucratic barriers.

However, he said his return would be worth the trouble if he could help in the development of an improved healthcare system.