CHOOSING MALAYSIA: Their wealth allows them to leave
By Syed Azauddin, Kuala Lumpur
RITA Sim's article, "A lack of belonging sees them leaving our shores" (NST, Aug 9), is well-written and shows the psyche of Chinese Malaysians.
True, the "lack of belonging" of a Chinese Malaysian to Malaysia is because of the overwhelming sense of a minority group that feels "deprived" of equal opportunities in political, economic and social aspects, as compared with the majority Malays. But is such "dissatisfaction" or sense of "deprival" justified, or is the "lack of belonging" to Malaysia due to other reasons?
Sim mentioned that in her conversations with some Chinese Malaysians in Australia, they told her that they were settling in the continent because "they hoped that life in Australia would offer better prospects for their children".
The same thing happened about a century ago. The Chinese migrants who came to Malaya then perceived their needs would be better catered for in this country than in their native China, and most of them brought their families to settle here.
Granted that the Chinese immigrants to this country were hardworking, and because of this, they have created wealth for themselves.
Even today, Chinese Malaysians are dominant in business and commerce, controlling about 70 per cent of the economy.
The Chinese have concentrated themselves in urban areas.
The better facilities in urban areas attracted more Chinese from rural areas.
They are always a more transient lot than other ethnic groups, and the economics of a place seem a strong factor to attract or distract them from a location. The fact is, their wealth allows them this choice to move or not to move.
Australia, to all the peoples of the world, is a land of opportunity. It is a developed nation, and attracts thousands of immigrants, legal or otherwise.
It is, therefore, of no wonder that Chinese are also attracted to settle there.
It is no different from other developed nations, like Canada and the United States, which are also magnets to the Chinese Malaysians for the same reasons. With their wealth, Malaysian Chinese migrate to these countries with little hesitation.
Thus, in truth, one tends to believe that when these Malaysian Chinese emigrate to these countries they say they leave for "lack of belonging". Yet, it is more of an after-thought to justify their action, rather than their heartfelt truth.
One wonders why Sim said: "While many Chinese cannot imagine any other home than Malaysia, they can't help but feel that they are adrift in their land."
As it is, most private Malaysian corporations are owned and are predominantly staffed by Chinese.
The richest strata of Malaysian society is of Chinese descent. Most of the biggest houses in Malaysia are owned by the Chinese, and the prime residential areas of Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Ipoh are, again, predominantly populated by the Chinese.
The politics in Malaysia show ample evidence that Chinese Malaysians have much say, through the many Chinese-based political parties, in shaping government policies.
So why is it they are still feeling they are "still adrift in the land"?
What else do Chinese Malaysians want to feel less "adrift" in their own land?
Sim extended Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory to include a "sense of belonging" to the larger community and the country, and added that the Chinese Malaysians "do not feel truly connected as Malaysians and still very much live in fear". Malaysians like me are perplexed why this is so.
Fear of what?
No other country, except Ma-laysia, has given the freedom for ethnic groups to operate their own schools.
The government has liberalised the education sector and foreign universities can establish branches in Malaysia easily.
Quite a number of Malaysians and foreigners have established private schools and colleges in Malaysia, which, in actuality, benefit the higher earning Chinese as these institutions charge high fees and are in urban areas.
In addition, the government gives the freedom to Malaysians who want to send their children to study in foreign lands.
The Chinese are not harassed by the authorities.
They are free to do anything legal, including remitting money to support their family or children living or studying overseas.
Perhaps I would do the same if I were the mother (as mentioned by Sim), to migrate to Australia once my two children (like the mother's) are studying in the country.
But it is unfair of her to talk negatively that she did not have anything binding her to Malaysia.
Sim was simply wrong when she concluded from this that, "what she (the mother) wants is for her family and children to be a part of a community, to have their achievements acknowledged and to be respected by others".
Indeed, it is true for Sim to say that the 1Malaysia People's Aid and the 1Malaysia People's Shops "did not gain much traction" among the Chinese.
The Chinese are in the income group far higher than those who feel these programmes are blessings to them.
There are many Malaysians who feel that Chinese Malaysians seem unable to grasp the reality of politics in Malaysia.
The ruling political party since independence has been a coalition of parties of the various ethnic groups. It has issued policies based on compromises.
Perhaps the separate education "route" (vernacular schools, private schools, foreign universities) Chinese Malaysians tend to go through, away from the masses in Malaysia, is the reason why "they are adrift in their own land".
Chinese Malaysians who wish to migrate and see a "better future for their children" in their adopted country are free to do so.
However, please do not say that you are not "recognised or respected" when you were in Malaysia.
Malaysians who prefer to live here, with all its warts and woes, really hope you will find what you are looking for in your newly-adopted country.