Many friends have frequently asked me this question, including my blogger friend A True Malaysian, who posted the question today under ‘about myself”, why did i choose to come back when I could have stayed back in Singapore after I graduated with MBBS from the University of Singapore.
My graduating class of 1977 in the Faculty of Medicine University of Singapore had 84 Malaysians, including 6 from my high school, Chung Ling High School of Penang. Out of these 84, only less than 10 came back to Malaysia. The rest are now spread all over the world, in Singapore mainly, some in UK, Australia, US, and New Zealand. Most became very prominent doctors in the land they chose to settle down.
University of Singapore medical faculty was rated then, as is now, as one of the 2 top medical schools in Asia, the other one being University of HOng Kong. Graduates were welcome all over the world.
I chose then to come back, even though i was on Asean Scholarship (with no bonds luckily), as all along I consider it a duty to serve my own homeland. I was one of those patriotic ‘idiots’, so to speak. But Alas, ideals were not entertained in Malaysia. I was posted to District hospitals (where calls were long and very frequent, and weekend calls lasted from Saturday morning to Monday afternoon, more than 56 hours at one go), to postings that nobody wanted and finally landed in IMR (Institute of Medical Research) in Kumpur Lumpur, at that time very short of doctors and no doctors would want to volunteer for the postings as this was supposed to be a research posting, where you do not see much patients, but most of the time were spent looking into the microscope.. I studied on my own and passed the MRCP part one . Passing part 2 then would enable one to be qualified to be a specialist, but to do part 2, you need to spend time in a medical unit for a certain time period.
So I applied to University Hospital for a traineeship in medicine and was accepted, but I could not go because Ministry of Health said they would not release me since they were short of doctors. I had no choice at all, since I had no strings or cables, and I never believed even in those days to bribe my way out. So while UH wanted me and would have enabled me to do a Part 2 and became a consultant physician, the Ministry of Health said, you, stay put, you belonged to us (since iwas still under the 3 year compulsory postings).. and we would not give you the necessary training, because we had to help people of a certain ethnic origin first.
Even then, in the late 70s, I had a taste of what Malaysian bureaucracy is like. You need to be somebody, or with some strings (cables are better), or use money to get what you want. The issue of race was beginning to take shape then, with doctors from a certain ethnic group given choice postings and big hospitals, local graduates or those from UK/Australia to second choice postings, and people like us from Singapore were given postings that nobody would prefer . It was a subtle form of bureaucrats practising certain form of favouritism.
I quit in disgust after 3 years of compulsory postings and started my own clinic. Later, I did a Master of medicine course in Occupation Medicine from Western Australia on my own ( a 2 year course). I am glad to say that my master’s dissertation was given distinction and was listed in the university readers as teaching materials. I could have taken up a post as a lecturer in occupational medicine in AUstralia, but I chose to stay in Malaysia here.
Do i regret coming home? Those of my classmates that did not come back all got good training in Singapore without any discrimination. But I do not regret coming back since this is my country. I have the same right as everybody else. I like the food here. I like the casual atmosphere here. I like the life style that I grew up with. I enjoy my friends here. Now that I have a blog, I enjoy talking to all my friends here in the blogs, even if we do not see eye to eye.
All of us Malaysians have the same rights here, but our rights were hijacked by certain politicians who use race card to perpetuate their hold onto power and it is up to us to get it back. A fair and equal society for all where the rich will help the poor, those with abundance will help those with nothing.
So I have no regret coming home. My only regret is seeing the country going from a nation of excellence into a country of mediocrity, seeing the polarisation of people getting more and more acute, seeing that the great institution of the country going down the drains, seeing that a lot of talents being wasted because they could not get the training they wanted locally and they could not afford the high cost of overseas education, seeing that public funds which could be used to help the needy being diverted into private coffers.
And i do intend to speak out, since we are the intellingentia and we have the responsibility to speak out for the people that could not voice out as freely as us , no matter how small my voice is… until I drop dead, and I have prepared a burial plot in NIlai for that purpose..