Why I’m back in Sarawak for GE14

My name is Jacqueline Kueh Li Ling. I was born in Sarawak and grew up in the Jalan Keretapi and Padungan areas in Kuching. I have lived overseas in many countries for a long time, but I have never forgotten my beloved homeland, Sarawak.

Wherever I go, Sarawak is never far from my mind. My beloved hornbill state is where I yearn to be and one day, I know I will be back in Sarawak for good.

Actually, like many immigrant Chinese parents who are more Chinese than the Chinese in China, we Malaysians outside have nothing much but to hang on to our roots! I think I speak for many overseas Malaysians: we have never forgotten you, our fellow Malaysians and Sarawakians!

I am excited to be home in Sarawak now because it is election time. Each one of us is mandated a golden ticket to choose the government of our choice. Did you know that you have this golden ticket? Along with this ticket comes the sacred duty to exercise our democratic right as Malaysian citizens once in every five years.

Like many returnees, I’m very happy to be home to do my little bit to help make a difference. We have seen enough of the ills plaguing our nation and the rampant abuse of power that has been going on, to the point that we just can’t sit still any longer.

It is just unbearable to see our top Malaysian leader being linked to international investigations for money laundering, among others. It has brought us shame and that is just unbearable.

My friends overseas kept asking me – what are you, Malaysians, doing about it? Why is he still leading your nation? So here I am.

Why I am back?

Spending so many years overseas taught me a lot of things. I was able to witness the different political systems at work. I also managed to learn in depth how democracies started, grew, matured and failed; and how an authoritarian system worked.

In my humble assessment, the most sustainable way for a society to progress is either via a two-party system or a clean authoritarian system, like what we see in Singapore.

This is true. I have studied and worked in the US, UK and Germany. In Germany, for example, even though taxes are high, the cost of living is low.

My breakfast in Germany is €2, lunch €5 and dinner €7, enough for two. I am a scientist, and I don’t earn much. But in Kuching my breakfast is RM7, even though the salary for employees at my level is the same.

Why is this so? Because Germany has a clean and accountable government, re-distributing the taxes properly and investing in projects that benefit everyone – urban Germans, rural Germans; rich Germans or poor Germans; naturalised Germans or native Germans and not just a group of people. Or cronies, as we see in Malaysia.

Another example: in a German village with a population of just 1,000-2,000, there is a petrol station, bank, school, clinic, supermarket, butcher (they like their pork) and bakery (Germans love cakes)! Every town usually has something unique they do like glass art, beer brewing or furniture making. These outlets never close down nor are they ever deserted.

What does this mean? People pay tax, the tax gets re-distributed back to the right places. The local authorities make sure they get funds from the federal government.

It’s well and good that the federal government changes hands every few years and different parties and leaders come to power. That way, the leaders are constantly kept on their toes. They work hard and avoid making mistakes. More importantly, a strong opposition ensures check and balance.

In this 14th general election, let me implore you all, my fellow Malaysians to take this to heart:

Vote for politicians who:

  • Share your values not just as a person, but as a community;
  • Have integrity to fight for a two-party system or even a clean and transparent “authoritarian” state, that brings progress to the nation and people; and
  • Care for all, especially the marginalised and minority groups, and not their cronies.

I am now back in Sarawak and I intend to do my level best at this crucial moment of our nation’s history to help evoke changes for the better.

This is one way I know how to give back to my beloved Sarawak what she has given to me.

Jacqueline Kueh, a neuroscientist, is the Sarawak coordinator of the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS).

The views expressed by the writer are not necessarily those of FMT.