He believes in us

Today, I shall post an article from Malaysian Insider by one of our regular commentators, Prof. Phua Kai Lit, on why he decided to stay back in Malaysia when he could have easily found a comfortable life overseas.

I believe in us

Phua Kai Lit

May 31- I had the opportunity to work and settle down in two rich foreign countries. Why did I return to Malaysia (in 1996, with a PhD and years of work experience in hand) and stayed?

Growing up in Kuantan (now in grave danger of being turned into a dumping ground for toxic waste material) and Malaysia during the 1960s and 1970s instilled in me a deep love for this country and appreciation of its mix of peoples and cultures — best exemplified by our wonderful food and our delightful dialect of English called “Manglish.”

Living in two foreign countries for almost 20 years (the years of study and work drifted by quickly — the thought of emigrating never even crossed my mind right from the beginning when I first went overseas for my higher education on a generous scholarship from a foreign university) made me realise that one can never feel truly “at home” in a foreign country even if one has lived in that foreign country for years and years.

In spite of the many things that are wrong with Malaysia today — e.g. the decay of our political institutions and the greatly coarsened state of our political discourse and deplorable public policies which are threatening to turn us into a Nigeria-type “failed state” — there is still hope that Malaysia can change for the better.

This is why a patriot like me who wishes to contribute to the betterment of our society is staying. If enough of us say, “Enough is enough!” and work actively together for change, Malaysia can truly become a better home for ALL Malaysian citizens.

Whom do I mean by “us”? “Us” means the vast majority of decent Malaysians who are sick and tired of unprincipled politicians who play racial politics to divide and fool the people so that they can continue to enrich themselves at public expense; who are sick and tired of racists/fascists who engage in irresponsible stirring of racial tension; who wish to see a society where there are no desperately poor people living in a country blessed with an abundance of rich natural resources; who wish to live in a truly democratic country where there is rule of law, where the economy is properly managed, where corruption is under control, where poor people get to share in the fruits of economic growth, where there is affirmative action for the poor of all ethnic groups, where there is equal opportunity for all, where there is tolerance of the cultures and beliefs of others.

I believe that the “us” consist of people of all creeds and colours and make up at least 75 to 80 per cent of all Malaysians. I also believe that this “us” can come together in social solidarity and change things peacefully through the ballot box. In other words, I believe that Malaysia can change for the better, and that change is possible. This is a major reason why I am STAYING!

Finally, a message for the estimated one million overseas Malaysians and ex-Malaysians: please work with us who stayed for change too. Come back and vote, contribute financially to progressive groups in Malaysia, provide moral support.

In return, we will all work together to pressure for public policies that make it easier for ex-Malaysians to be granted Malaysian permanent resident status and to regain your Malaysian citizenship (such as through the government’s recognition of dual citizenship).


17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. monsterball
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 13:03:09

    Prof. Phua has much to be admired and respected.


  2. beh tahan
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 13:36:35

    Indeed a very optimistic and patriotic countryman.Salute to you,Prof.Phua.


  3. A true Malaysian
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 15:15:02

    ‘US’ includes me, Prof Phua.

    I believe ‘US’ can make Malaysia like you want, I want, ‘US’ want.

    Hope to meet you one day.


  4. Phua Kai Lit
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 16:01:29

    Dear Fellow MALAYSIANS or all creeds and colours,

    Thanks for all your encouraging words.

    I’m just a simple man who has been much blessed.
    Blessed with the opportunity to study
    overseas where I was exposed to an environment of true
    academic freedom, with freedom of thought,
    freedom of speech, freedom to read all kinds of political
    and social writings etc.

    Ordinary people need to realise that we are not as powerless as we seem.
    There is strength in numbers and peaceful, mass mobilisation. But first,
    we need to discard cynicism, apathy, fear and participate fully in political life as “citoyen” (in the sense used by progressives during the French Revolution). Why are 6 million Jews able to shpae American foreign policy?
    Because they are politically active. Why has a “Black” American become the President of the USA? Because the black people and the progressive people in America mobilised during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

    Remember how Gandhi and the Indian nationalists overcame the mighty
    British Empire? Through mass mobilisation. How Nelson Mandela and the ANC got rid of the fascist apartheid regime in South Africa in 1994?
    Again through mass mobilisation.

    Politics and political participation by ordinary citizens are “necessary evils”.
    We always need to remember this if we do not want our lives dictated, distorted and deformed by uncaring ruling elites.

    Political participation (peaceful) includes:
    Voting; supporting political candidates by donating money & one’s time and energy; setting up a political blog, writing letters to the mass media, signing petitions, running for political office, taking part in peaceful demonstrations,
    lobbying politicians, monitoring and exposing abuse of power and corruption by politicians or public officials etc.


  5. Phua Kai Lit
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 16:12:17

    “Political participation” :



  6. Phua Kai Lit
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 16:31:19

    May I add one more comment.

    On political philosophy (quick introduction):



  7. DG
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 22:14:31

    Finally someone who will stay and not take the easy way out.
    So much complain…blah..blah…blah…. that is why we’re leaving…
    Not appreciated .no future….better leave..
    Sick and fed up of hearing …excuses..excuses….
    There are people who sacrifice their livelihood and time, to make things better.
    Thumbs up to those who stay to make a difference.


  8. monsterball
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 23:25:48

    I recalled Horrice Santa Maria a teacher from Malacca was the first Malaysian announcing his migration to Australia….giving up his Malaysian citizenship.
    He main reason was unfair treatments.
    There was a Dr. Wong..from Malacca also left Malacca for Australia.
    Years later…I met the doctor . Firstly…his clinic in Sydney failed. So he took up doing something else.
    His father was the ACS Primary School…HM.
    Then the truth came out from the good doctor…why he migrated.
    He said…it was his wife’s decision and he has to follow.
    The wife said the educations for their children will be free and better.
    As you can read from these two cases….migrations were based on self interests and self benefits…more than anything else.


  9. monsterball
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 23:55:08

    I also had lots of opportunities to migrate.
    My US partner in business keep urging me to go over to America and sure to make much more with my business there …which I knew all along…it was true.
    So was my Australian partner.
    Then there was a powerful bank manager who simply trust me too much…..keep offering me US$10 million to start business where ever he was transfered to.
    Originally from K.L….then to S.Korea..and then to Saudie Arabia…..always tempt me to go over…for he knew I can be 100% trusted and have lots of ideas how to make his money grow for the bank and myself.
    I refused..even though I know South Korea well.
    My sister married and reside in S’pore told me to be a S’pore permanent citizen like her..and I the S’pore authorites will welcome me..it I invest RM3OOK in S’pore. At that time Ringgit and Sin $ are almost at par..few cents difference.
    I refused…for my childhood life …up to doing a successful business….all due to so much support I get from Malaysians..trusting me as a truthful business man.
    My company grew and grew through good reputation.
    I love travelling and was blessed with money and time to see the world…..and the more I see …the more I am homesick for Malaysia.
    I feel not only at home in Malaysia…but my Malaysian Chinese population is so great and a force to be reckoned with…why should I leave to be a real minority elsewhere?
    I have great friends from all races…in Malaysia.
    Ofcourse….my taste for Chinese…Malay and Indian food..all originally found in Malaysia….not imported at all.
    There is no doubt…my children education was my top priority…and I sent all to S’pore…under the care of my sister.
    But did all produce better future than those studying locally in Malaysia?
    It is a dream and based on luck too…depending the children’s attitudes and mentalities.
    As for me….there is a saying children from wealthy familes are a pampered lot…and will not do well.
    They say….children from poor families…sent overseas do become very successful Malaysians.
    In any case…all my children love Malaysia too….as from young….we are kampong folks…mixing with all races…living in areas with all races….and that helps them to be proud to be Malaysians.


  10. Li Li Fa
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 00:07:22

    Prof. Phua Khai Lit,
    Your message rings loud and clear. I believe it will touch many people. It should be read and understood by all Malaysians, including those who want to seek greener pastures and those who are now ‘grazing’ on greener pastures.

    May your thought seed germinate into a culture of change to a reformed peaceful and progressive nation.


  11. monsterball
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 00:21:31

    I can never forget…my Thai friend.
    He knew I was divorced and invited me to set up a business in Haadyai.
    40 years ago…Haadyai was known as cowboy town.
    We find people travel with pistols opening shown out.
    I just started my very small business to buy and sell….simple trading.
    He told me to sell anything to Haadyai and one can sell anything…provided one give at lease 30 days credit.
    No Malaysian dare to give credit.
    I did…and my friend will collect all my invoices chopped and signed showing deliveries done..and he will pay me cash and lock up al the documents in his safe.
    My business turned to be….biggest from Haadyai..spending three days two nights for months.
    He lined up 150 young girls and ask me to choose a partner or there is 150 girls to keep me company…if I move to stay in Haadyai.
    He operate the biggest nightclub at that time.
    He has two grown up sons from two wives…and both were told to learn from me on business.
    I told him I like setting up a factory producing cassettes…and he offered me to put out the capital …amounting to millions..and give me 30% free…provide I move to Haadyai.
    His partner was Bangkok….real filthy rich…operating billiard tables saloons and coin slot music machines all over Thailand.
    BOOOM!!!…suddenly bombed to death by one of his son….end of story.
    And in Indonesia….also good friend ….knon to be the few riches man there..offered me big huge business partnership…to stay in Indonesia.
    BOOOOM …in Jakarta….by son-in-law.
    Money is not all that important.
    Love to be a Malaysian is equally important to me…especially now….where hundreds of thousands are being misguided by our dirty government.
    I have a mission and purpose in life now for country and people.


  12. monsterball
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 00:23:35

    yip Li Li Fa….you are so right.
    Prof. inspired me to pour out my story too….why I never migrate.


  13. Phua Kai Lit
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 08:20:43

    Whether to stay or to emigate is a personal decision.
    A personal decision to emigrate ought to be respected by those
    who choose to stay.

    Anway, in a globalised world, even if one is an Overseas Malaysian or an ex-Malaysian, one can still contribute to the welfare of the country and its
    people e.g.

    By investing capital in Malaysia
    By increasing trade between Malaysia and the country one is residing in
    By coming back and providing technical advice (such as Prof Danny Khoo who is now at the London School of Economics)
    By coming back to teach regularly (if one is a university professor)
    By doing research and publishing on issues that concern Malaysia
    By contributing money to support progressive political groups and NGOs in
    Malaysia (remember that Overseas Chinese played an important role in
    the 1911 Revolution in China)
    By sheltering Malaysians who have to flee from Malaysia because of
    politically-motivated persecution by the authorities
    By influencing American/Australian/NZ/Canadian/UK/etc “friends of Malaysia” (such as Amnesty International) to support us if the political and social situation here gets nasty

    I’m trying to get our reformist politicians here to seriously consider the issue of making it easy for ex-Malaysians to be granted Malaysian Permanent Resident status and to regain their Malaysian citizenship (i.e. recognition of
    dual citizenship) when PR comes into power at the federal level.

    P.S. There are also some social/psychological costs to Malaysians who emigrate. One is that your children will grow up with values that can be very different from yours i.e. they will have “American values”, “Australian values” etc. You will have to accept this. They are also more likely to inter-marry and you will have to accept this too. Finally, your grandchildren will be totally assimlated into the values and behaviour pattern of the foreign country.
    You will experience racism and xenophobia from time to time (especially when the economy of your new country turns bad). The difference, of course, is that these are isoalted cases of racism and not the semi-apartheid “institutional racism” of contemporary Malaysia.


  14. Phua Kai Lit
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 08:22:35

    Sorry, should be Prof Danny Quah (not Danny Khoo)


  15. Dr Hsu
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 09:04:49

    For those who are quite new to this blog, please read my article on brain drain:

    “Brain drain and the race politcis” written in May 2008, and which was also quoted by MI and Malaysia today.

    It has 118 comments to date, and please read the stories of most commentators, some of them prominent professors, professionals overseas. Read their stories and why they moved.

    It gives you a clearer pictures of the hurdles to talents in Malaysia.


  16. Taikohtai
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 12:32:49

    Thank you very much Prof Phua. I wholeheartedly endorse your views and values. You have put your experience to work for the betterment of your country and knows the value of maintaining friendly relations with those who have left for yonder shores instead of belittling them.
    May you be well and happy always.


  17. Dr Hsu
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 16:35:31

    I subscribe to the view that even if Malaysians are working or staying overseas, their hearts are still with the country, and most of them do ome back for short stays. Many send moneyback home. In this way, they are also playing a part in helping the nation and the economy..if only the govenrment can treasure them more, much more can be done by this group of more than a miilion Malaysians.


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