Thursday, October 21, 2010

Taking False Pride: Are these accomplishments Malaysian?

Eds.: The following is written by Tee Sui Seng, a Cantabrigian.

The news that a Malaysian has been recognized as the top law student at the University of Cambridge initially filled me with much joy and pride and I wasted no time in letting my friends from all over the world know that we Malaysians are more than able to hold our own academically amongst the best brains in the world.However, this feeling of pride gradually gave way to a more sobering disappointment and eventually, even a little embarrassment as the facts of the story slowly sunk in.

It did not take long to find out that the young man in question has spent his pre-university days in neighbouring Singapore, taking his A-levels on a scholarship there. This then led to the discovery that our dear neighbours very quickly realised his talents and wasted no time in offering him a scholarship to the University of Cambridge. It then came as no surprise why further down the article, it was then stated that our prodigious young talent will be joining the Singapore legal service.

This disappointment was poignant, but however, upon further reflection, should have been expected. The local media can never be accused of lacking patriotism. The newspapers have always been very quick to seize upon stories of successful Malaysians all over the world and credit must definitely be given to them for sourcing them out. Unfortunately, these reporters may have sometimes been a little over-zealous by stretching the Malaysian connection a little too far. A recent example that comes to mind would be the appointment of the Malaysian-born Penny Wong as finance minister in Australia. I dare not assume to know how much the minister would take pride in her Malaysian connection, but I am assuming that becoming a minister of a nation state would definitely require taking up citizenship of that country. It then follows that since Malaysia does not allow dual-citizenships, the good minister's Malaysian connections would be distant at best.

Patriotism is a virtue if we know what to be thankful and grateful for. The accident of being born in a certain nation state is not reason enough to imbue one with a sense of pride for being a citizen - this pride needs to come from appreciating one's achievements in the context of the opportunities that are endowed with being part of that nation. If the achievements of an individual cannot be attributed to the opportunities gained by being part of the nation state, we must then be very careful in sharing the accolades that were showered upon an individual who happens to share our citizenship.

Upon further reflection, the news article was about the achievements of a young man, who did exceedingly well in Law at the University of Cambridge, who clearly impressed his very experienced tutors there and who has also shown tremendous humility when talking about his achievements. It is only mere coincidence that this young man is also Malaysian. When we as a country has shown little effort or foresight to acknowledge or reward his talents before these accolades, we should not be too quick to claim collective pride over his praise.

All is not lost - at the very least, we are heartened by the fact that the country has no lack of talented citizens, although the sceptical among us would very quickly question how long we can retain them. Much has been said about the brain drain from all layers of the society including those in power, so the severity of the problem is nothing new. Now let's hope the next news story would be how we are successful in luring these minds back onto our shores. In the mean time, it would probably be wise to be a little less excited the next time a Malaysian connection arises in the news. We can only share praise if we have invested in it, lest we be too distracted in cheering our neighbours on to mourn our own loss.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Will Tee Sui Seng return to Malaysia after graduating from Cambridge?
Or will he remain in the UK or go to Singapore, Australia, etc?

Anonymous said...

Based on the way you write I am convinced that you have had the benifet of a good education. But always remember that Brain Drain is better than Brain in the Drain

seriati said...

It is a loss indeed, and it is an unnecessary loss. However, it proves that our early education system (at least in towns) is still capable of producing such talented students. Lets hope we can move on to rectify our fault and past mistakes.
I am proud of his achievement, regardless of where he lives and serves. Lets hope the next batch of talents will return home.

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Xenotzu said...

Why should any Malaysian who's a non-Malay and successful overseas, want to return to Malaysia where they face discrimination, lousy pay and less recognition?

Anonymous said...

We are also very good at attracting talent. For example, the previous Menteri Besar of Selangor, Khir Toyo's father was from Indonesia.

Anonymous said...

Every coming election the authorities would promise that they would do more for homecoming graduates to prevent brain drain. However, this is lip service as all is forgotten the minute the election is won and over. How many times have graduates returned to Malaysia to be only discriminated on the grounds of colour and creed.

Anonymous said...

Recommended reading - http://www.pscscholarships.gov.sg/Chairman+Speech+at+2010+Singsem.htm

Anonymous said...

It's hard when Singapore "plans to attract" and Malaysia "don't plan to retain", making Singapore a nearby country enjoying a nearby talent pool. I'd say Malaysia did not plan to succeed!

sakura said...

hye..sory to interrupt. i just need to know bout sumthing, i've read your post about monbukagakusho scholarship for 2008..i want to ask either u know anything related to my course, fisheries sc. is there any place for my course in japan university. i wish to further master there. hope u can help me..i really want to further there in field of bacteriology on fisheries field. do u know anything about this field in japan university? which 1 should i apply for? pls pls n pls help me..big thx for ur help.. =)

lishun said...

i didn't like that people immediately lamented that he "chose" to work in singapore. he only did what a responsible scholar should do - fulfill the conditions of a contract he signed with the government that gave him the means to go to cambridge.

Anonymous said...

when I was in UK, the orang puteh tend to distingish malaysian by their names.ie, Malaysians with short names and malaysians with long names.They said one is much better then the other in term of achivement.Why? mat salleh are racist.

Nick said...

I was more than just disappointed when I read about this achiever - I was angry, in fact. Once again we've let slip someone with great potential. Imagine if he stayed. For all we know he could be a great leader here. But instead he chooses to go.

While I always hold a little personal disapproval for Malaysians who choose to ditch their country, it's not hard to see why - who doesn't want to go where they're appreciated? But I do say that Malaysia has to some degree made him what he is - if not Singapore would not have taken him on.

As a Malaysian studying in Singapore myself, I see why he plans on working here - it's comfortable, clean and friendly. Yet, I plan on going back to Malaysia eventually...which makes me think that another reason for the brain drain, besides policy and politics and society, is patriotism (or lack thereof).

I have wondered whether I'll follow through on returning to Malaysia. I worry that I may get too comfortable and choose the easier way out. But when I think about how this brain drain may be a huge factor behind the country's backwardness, I feel like I have to help somehow. Maybe that's the key - who really is patriotic nowadays? In school I kept hearing about people wanting to leave Malaysia. Not many seemed keen on actually doing anything beyond complaining and joking about the country.

So perhaps we need to do more to make our youths love Malaysia. When you love something it overrides certain other things: it's the reason people choose career pathways that pay less, for instance - simply because they love doing it. So if we can keep our people invested in our country - be it for their family, their friends, or just the nation itself - then maybe more of them will come back.

zibin said...

if anything, such reports will only end up inspiring aspiring young citizens to leave our beloved country in search of greener pastrure. Singapore has been openly courting our brightest for decades. Recently a high level singaporean official gave a speech at a ceremony celebrating outstanding olympia math results in penang. And apart from congragulatory, he openly said on stage that if any of the winning team members are interested they are welcomed to join singapore. Pick any school, any major. Just imagine, he said that in public.

As for attempts to brain gain, I've personally received a powerpoint presentation. And dare i say that the only benefit from the scheme is that I can take my car back tax-free. The powerpoint was done in such unprofessional manner, and the terms so unattractive that it just spoils my mood. If any, people who apply for such return program have already set their mind on returning. So the numbers of returnees under the program are really people who have already decided to come back.

I was told that one out of two Singaporeans are somewhat related to Malaysia. Singaporean I meet says that one or both of their parents are originally Malaysian. While at the same time, many Malaysians I meet oversea are related to Singapore as well, they studied there and are considering to settle down in Singapore when they return to Asia.

With the rise of China, brain drain will get worse. Experienced Malaysians are offered a good package to work there. Many will still return to Malaysia, but some will end up staying.

Anonymous said...

good!!!Malaysia needs more lawyers!!more bankers too!!more accountants,businessmen, we are after all a capitalists' nation.

Anonymous said...

May I just regurgitate the old saying that an empty vessel sounds the loudest. We ALREADY know that our big brother is NOT colour-blind, so why NOT look inward for solutions? May I just shift the focus a bit by tabling the possible remedial action to be taken by the successful ethnic-based businesses in nurturing the talents, for these talents ARE their potential sources of workforce. HOW MANY OF THESE COMPANIES HAVE VISION to nurture US? Frankly, I got fed-up of constant disappointments from OUR OWN KIND - just look at 'SEMI VALUE' and 'ONG CAN"T THINK', what have they done for US! I lament more on OUR own backyard disappointments than insults inflicted by our BIG brother!

Anonymous said...

Quote>>> Xenotzu said>>>Why should any Malaysian who's a non-Malay and successful overseas, want to return to Malaysia where they face discrimination, lousy pay and less recognition?

Sigh... whining...whining ...whining. All baseless! Discriminated? Hey... open your eyes! Do those NON-MALAYS graduates coming back from the so called overseas universities, doing law or business or engineering prevented from practising or working? Does the Malaysian government stop them from setting-up their businesses? Were they arrested and jailed for graduating and working in Malaysia??? Hey moron.... if you are not happy with this country, go back to China. See if they welcome you or not? or you can go, live and die in Singapore. We don't want a stink like you in Malaysia. Shit.....

Anonymous said...

Xenutzu Said.... Why should any Malaysian who's a non-Malay and successful overseas, want to return to Malaysia where they face discrimination, lousy pay and less recognition?

My response... BERAMBUSLAH!!! we all lagi suka. People like you are not assets to our country. No one stop you from leaving this country! Tapi kenapa orang-orang macam kau masih lagi melangut kat Malaysia ni heh?

Teck said...

Has anyone ever asked how these successful and talented Malaysians working and living abroad really feel about their place of birth and infant nurture?

It seems to matter not to the ruling political class as long as its members are secure.

Anonymous said...

I have the clue to why Malaysian study overseas want to come back to Malays Country and get abuse because there are acres of diamonds and lazy and greeds will put us all to prison. And the biggest prison in Malaysia is Malaysia or use your imagination as Kingdoms of Heaven. Our fore parents escape proverty due to obstacle and survived in Malaya ( Malau ya ) and it is wise to think of what's next.

Regards,
Asylum Seeker.

Sang Kancil Guru said...

So what if this dude is the best Cambridge law student ever? He's joining the Singapore legal service! What a waste!

Instead of using his fine law-attuned brains to serve society or protect the human rights of some poor soul, he's going to either be a fat cat earning big bucks in Spore as a corporate lawyer, or at most, be the Lee family's future favorite legal rubber-stamp as their future Chief Justice of Singapore. I bet if he ever sits as a judge on a case of human rights involving a Spore opposition lawmaker vs Spore's royal Lee family or PAP vassals, he ain't got the balls to rule against them.

Anonymous said...

didn't think they teach shariah law at cambridge

Anonymous said...

actually,i am not surprised at all because in fact if i had given a chance to further study to Japan,i will definitively stay there instead of return to Malaysia..living here like living inside the cage with lot's of lock...especially if that country have better perks compare the one that offered in Malaysia..i don't give a shit if people accuse me of being non-patriotic ...what importantly is how much money i bring home....if Japan pay me more,of course i will choose Japan...no one care if i live in poverty,so why should i give a shit about what other's thinking.....

Anonymous said...

Sorry was the fact that Malaysians with long names are usually Chinese and those with short Malays? Who has to work the hardest to get where they are? Is this the best way to run a country? Are you supprised that talented students/people prefer to go else where when merit plays no basis in their future career?