The Costs and Benefits of SOCIAL INCLUSION


June 10, 2017

The Costs and Benefits of SOCIAL INCLUSION

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | Amongst inclusion, integration, affirmative action, ethnic preference or similar policies implemented to redress perceived socio-economic differences or imbalances in social groups, probably the longest lived and arguably most successful of those pursued by the world’s nations have been those of Malaysia in the field of education.

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The beginnings of this achievement in education can be traced to active measures undertaken by the British colonial government to upgrade the economic progress of Malays in 1950 through the establishment of the Rural Industrial Development Authority (Rida).

According to an official history account, Rida had first opened its doors to some 50 students to help in the training of rural Malays in 1956.

Following independence and the May 13 racial violence, Rida morphed to become Majlis Amanah Rakyat or Mara as everyone today knows it.

Since then, this modest educational component of Rida/Mara has grown to become the largest higher education institution in the nation.

Today, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) comprises one main campus, 13 state campuses and 22 satellite campuses. With 17,000 academic and non-academic staff, UiTM offers over 500 programmes ranging from foundation to postgraduate level.

It has some 170,000 students – all bumiputeras and a small number of international students – and teaching is fully conducted in English.

There is no disputing the benefits and advantages that ethnic preference policies in higher education have had for the Malays. UiTM can be said to have spawned an entire generation of the Malay middle and upper class. It has also been the catalyst to the rapid proliferation of Malays in key targeted professional and high income groups during the New Economic Policy (NEP) and post-NEP era.

Putting UiTM under the microscope

The Economic Planning Unit does not appear to have updated a key table showing the racial proportion of professional and high income groups for some years now.

This is probably because Malays have comprised the largest number among accountants, architects, dentists, medical doctors, lawyers, veterinary surgeons, engineers and surveyors in the country for at least one decade, if not longer now.

Less easy to assess are the costs and the impact of this racially structured affirmative action education and training agency on the country’s manpower needs and talent pool. The most contentious issue relates to the closing of the university’s doors to non-Malay students.

Although the university’s Pro-Chancellor, Arshad Ayub, in 2015 called for opportunity to be given to non-bumiputeras to study there, so as to encourage healthy competition and produce more intellectuals among students, his proposal – even though he qualified it by stating that these opportunities should be opened at post-graduate levels and not at diploma and bachelor’s degree levels – has proven to be a political minefield and non-starter.

Contentious issues aside, it is also unclear today the extent to which the Malay poor – indeed, the entire bumiputera poor – are the prime beneficiaries according to the mission objectives of the institution.

Or whether the institution is catering to a privileged Malay middle and upper class which can well afford to meet its educational needs in the same way that the rest of the country’s citizenry are doing. If the latter is happening, not only are non-Malays being marginalised, but also poor Malays and poor non-Malay bumiputeras.

According to a recent report, 3,000 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) and Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) school-leavers who failed to pursue further studies despite obtaining excellent results were offered placements at UiTM in 2016.

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Vice-Chancellor Professor Emeritus Hassan Said said the opportunity was being given to to students from poor families and rural areas who could not continue their studies due to various factors, among them financial constraints. This total – even if increased greatly – will be a miniscule of the total number of 200,000 students envisaged for the year 2020.

A stand alone comprehensive and independent review of UiTM is not only necessary. It is overdue for at least three reasons.

One is the dominant role of UiTM in the country’s higher education and manpower planning system.

The second is the very large amount of public expenditure that has been spent during the past four decades on the institution. According to the latest data, the operating budget for UiTM alone in 2016 came up to RM2.23 billion of the total RM7.57 billion allocated to all 20 public universities in the country, or nearly 30 percent.

Even after the latest round of budgetary cutbacks, UiTM is slated to receive an allocation of RM1.67 billion of the RM6.12 billion allocation for all public universities in 2017.

 

Finally, a rigorous assessment is necessary because the government is continuing to position Mara and UiTM as the crucial driver of bumiputera economic and educational development for the coming decades.

Meanwhile there should be concern about the quality of higher education provided by UiTM. In the current Wikipedia article on UiTM, the table below shows that hardly any progress has been achieved by the university in its standing among universities in Malaysia, the region and world.

What is preventing UiTM from living up to its self characterised description of being “a research-intensive entrepreneurial university’ leading the way for Malaysia to become an innovation-based and knowledge-based economy are just two of many questions that need to be asked by all concerned Malaysians, not just politicians and the university’s staff and alumni.

Legendary Motorcycle Author Robert Pirsig Dies Aged 88


June 8, 2017

COMMENT: What do Farouk A. Peru, a much younger man at least a few decades apart chronologically speaking, and I (78 years old last May) have in common? Well for starters, we are Facebook pals; we  love to read and pen our thoughts in print; we appreciate culture and the arts and all things of beauty; we are unafraid to express our views openly and critically; we are Muslims; we are Malaysians and we enjoyed reading ZEN.

We admire Singapore’s Pak Othman  Wok, and Robert Prisig who wrote Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (first published  in 1974 and that was when I read it). Both men have since died, and May God Bless their souls.

I stumbled upon Farouk’s article  on Prisig’s magnum opus and also learned of his passing in The Malay Mail this evening (see below).

Like Farouk, I recommend the Zen book (which is subtitled An Inquiry into Values) to my young readers. It is tough reading at first, but it gets easier as you go along with the help of a good English dictionary. But to assist you, I would recommend The Guide Book  To ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE by Ronald L. DiSanto, Ph.d and Thomas J. Steele, S.J., Ph.d (New York: William Morrow, 1990). I congratulate Farouk for reading the book and for his article.–Din Merican

Legendary Motorcycle Author Robert Pirsig Dies Aged 88

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance author Robert Pirsig has died at the age of 88. Pairing motorcycles with philosophy, Pirsig was responsible for inspiring countless motorcycle journeys and road trips.

The book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” sits on bookshelves all over the world. It’s by no means a book about Zen, nor is it a book that tackles the mechanics of motorcycles – it’s a story about a father and son journey aboard a motorcycle that takes them across the western United States. It’s not necessarily a road trip book either. In fact, it’s hard to classify exactly what the book is, but that doesn’t matter – and that’s the beauty of it. It was a book that appealed (and still appeals) to audiences over the world, and is an essential book for any motorcyclist. If you’ve ever been drawn to the road, you and Pirsig would have a lot in common.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence authot Robert Persig

Robert Pirsig: 1928 – 2017

An announcement by Peter Hubbard, the Executive Editor of William Morrow & Co, recently announced the death of one of our favorite authors. Robert Persig passed away on April 24th 2017, “after a period of ill health.”

Zen was first published back in 1974. Pirsig had been rejected by more than 100 publishers before the iconic, semi-autobiographical book ever hit the stores. Despite the difficulty finding a publisher, Zen became a best seller. Pirsig described the nature of the book as an effort to “set out to resolve the conflict between classic values that create machinery, such as a motorcycle, and romantic values, such as experiencing the beauty of a country road.”

Robert and Chris Pirsig

Born in Minneapolis, Robert Pirsig was very well educated and went on to earn a degree in Philosophy, working as a technical writer and English teacher before suffering from mental illness. His battle with mental illness resulted in a motorcycle trip with this son Christopher in 1968 through the western United States, which would become the inspiration for his story.

The preface to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is the best way to sum up his iconic book: “What follows is based on actual occurrences. Although much has been changed for rhetorical purposes, it must be regarded in its essence as fact. However, it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It’s not very factual on motorcycles, either.”

Robert Pirsig and his motorcycle

If you haven’t read it, we urge you to pick up a copy and enjoy Pirsig’s journey along with him and his son. It’s a great American story and should be celebrated – and a fantastic read for all of those who appreciate the liberty and freedom associated with the open road.

Here’s to you Robert Pirsig, and thanks for your wonderful insights. You will be missed.

Robert Pirsig

“The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquility, it’s right. If it disturbs you, it’s wrong, until either the machine or your mind is changed.” – Robert Pirsig 1928 – 2017

Read Robert Prisig’s ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENCE

By Farouk A. Peru (April 28, 2017)

Not one but two writers whose works made an impact on me died. It seems that 2017 is doing to authors what 2016 did to artistes! I had written about the death of Othman Wok and now I find out Robert Pirsig has died.

Often at times, authors or film-makers are defined by a single work but that work is a true magnum opus. They never again replicate the sheer tremor of these works but they do not have to. The deed is done; they have imprinted their names in the annals of literary history.

In the case of Robert Pirsig, that work is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (henceforth, Zen, first published in 1974 ). This narrative has been available in Malaysian bookshops since my own childhood, as I remember.  However, it was only in the early 90s when I picked up my first copy. It was after my SRP and the bookshop was the MPH in Section 14 which has long since closed down.

It was in the New Age/spirituality/philosophy section and I needed something completely different from the boring schoolwork I had been ingesting since the beginning of 1991.

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Zen was not about actual Zen (the Buddhist originated tradition), as I found out on the bus home. Rather it was about a journey undertaken across the American north from Minnesota to California by the unnamed narrator and his son, accompanied by their friends for the first half of their journey.

It was set in the 60s or early 70s. What attracted me to it at first was the journey itself. I loved narratives of long-forgotten places. America, being the gigantic nation that it is, has plenty of places which are unknown even to Americans themselves.

One could liken the geography and culture to the milieu found in Annie Proulx’s works and the visuals akin to the film Brokeback Mountain. Of course, the tagline of Zen being “An Inquiry into Values”, one would rightly expect a philosophical discussion.

One would not be disappointed either but Pirsig delivers it so surreptitiously that readers would feel as if they had “gone under” in surgery and woken up with some philosophical knowledge!

Pirsig ingeniously used the literary device of a third person, thought to be the alter ego of the narrator. He named him Phaedrus who, like the Phaedrus coined by Plato in his dialogues, was an interlocutor, midwifing the truth for readers through his own experiences.

Phaedrus had mental health issues like Pirsig himself but was a child prodigy. These similarities are obviously telling us who Phaedrus represents.

Rereading this book in 2014 (I had found a milestone edition with an introduction by Pirsig himself), I found that Pirsig may have oversimplified philosophy just a little.  His East/West dichotomy saying Eastern is more intuitive and the West more rational had become too simplistic for my liking. Perhaps if he meant dominant trends in each tradition, I would have been more amenable to his view.

To me, philosophy as a subject cannot be extricated into several self-containing traditions. Rather it is a complex network of ideas which feed off its own nodes which we may not even be aware of.  Plato, for example, may have derived his ideas from Egyptian thought, thus undermining the very idea of Western philosophy!

Be that as it may, I would still highly recommend Zen to anyone who is looking for a digestible story while at the same time expand his philosophical mind. The book has, after all, sold five million copies. No small feat for a manuscript rejected 121 times before finally getting published!

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

 http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/farouk-a.-peru/article/why-you-should-read-zen-and-the-art-of-motorcycle-maintenance#sthash.5FDvKLu7.dpuf

Mariam Mokhtar: Between Hannah and Kamarul


May 30, 2017

Mariam Mokhtar:  Between Hannah and Kamarul

 http://www.malaysiakini.com

Who would have thought it possible? Three years after it was published, a single police report against Selangor State Assembly Speaker Hannah Yeoh’s short political autobiography would cause her book to become a political bestseller.

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Few of us knew that Yeoh had written the book, “Becoming Hannah: A personal journey”, until it became the focus of the Universiti Utara Malaysia’s Institute for Malaysian Political Analysis (Mapan) director, Kamarul Zaman Yusoff.

As Kamarul Zaman stated in his Facebook posting, reading the book had made him “admire” Yeoh’s God, although he disagreed with the stories and quotations from the Bible.

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We can take him out of the Kampong but not his Kampong mindset

Admittedly, some people have a strange way of expressing their admirations, because Kamarul Zaman (photo) then posted osetn his Facebook page that Yeoh had a Christian agenda, was out to preach and could influence others with her Christian beliefs. So convinced was Kamarul Zaman that Muslims would be in danger, he made a police report that Yeoh was out to proselytise others.

The book is all the more unusual in that Yeoh is a DAP politician and in the political climate in which we live, many Malays have been told to be wary of DAP and their policies. Yet, Kamarul Zaman felt compelled to read her book.

In a nation where the common joke is that 97 percent of the population reads around two-and-a-half pages a year, clearly Kamarul Zaman is in the three percent category, and this makes him all the more interesting. As Yeoh’s book was written in English, it makes his fears, that Yeoh can proselytise, even more fanciful.

“Becoming Hannah” is a book about Yeoh’s faith, trust, communication and hope. Faith in herself, trust in her friends and family members, and in the communication that is vital for relationships to succeed. As she is a devoted Christian, naturally it is also a story about her prayers, the signs from Him, her faith in God and trust in Him. The underlying message is also of hope. Hope for Malaysia’s future and younger generation.

Main thrust of the book

The main thrust of her book is the story of becoming an accidental politician. Of being in the right time and place. It is also about adversity and her ability to transcend all the obstacles put in her way. When she stood for her first election, a new bride of one month, with only RM700 in her and her husband’s bank account, she had to pit herself against the BN machinery, which has unlimited resources and money. It was the goodwill of the people in her constituency who came to the rescue. Her core of friends and other nameless strangers volunteered their time to get her campaign off the ground.

Clearly, Yeoh’s book is worth a read, because in her first term she won with a 13,851 majority and in the second election, won an even bigger majority of 28,069.

The book is in two parts and the first part addresses her faith. In herself. To do the things required of her as a dutiful daughter, a newly-graduated lawyer, a young wife and mother, and churchgoer. She surmounts all the challenges with references to the Bible, and, if she had been a Muslim, would probably have used references in Prophet Muhammad’s life to guide her daily life.

She describes how, in her youth, there were millions of other young Malaysians who saw former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad as someone who put Malaysia on the map: Petronas Twin Towers, KLIA, Suria KLCC, the Sepang International Circuit…

After her return from Tasmania, having graduated, Yeoh felt a little depressed and possibly unsure of what to do with her life. Her cousin’s influence and her adopting a new Christian name, Hannah, for her “rebirth”, helped her to get back on her feet. Meeting her future husband, was an unusual event as it was not the normal love-at-first-sight romance.

In the second half of the book, with her newly found self-confidence, she talks about sacrifice, and wondered if other women politicians felt as she did. She also describes the electorate who treated assemblypersons and MPs as problem solvers, and not as policy makers. An incorrect counting of her votes made her realise the importance of polling agents.

Yeoh fondly describes senior DAP people who gave her sound advice. Teresa Kok, who, like a “big-sister” told her how to dress as a people’s representative, and to prepare a portfolio of photos to show her interacting with the rakyat. Lim Kit Siang, who was keen to hear the views of young people like her, and encouraged the party to absorb the views of the younger generation. She was mesmerised, when she saw Anwar Ibrahim enthral an audience.

Yeoh pays tribute to her friends, close aides and especially her family, in particular her mother, her father and her cousin, Shelly. Special praise goes to her husband Ram, for without him, she would not have been able to prosper.

“Becoming Hannah” was written with much frankness and it could so easily have been a book about the majority of us, who have no political inclinations, who moan about the country, rather than about a woman who became an accidental politician.

The second best aspect of reading Yeoh’s book was that after reading it, my Muslim faith remained intact; but those of us whose faith is wavering, might see others as wanting to proselytise.

BolehLand (CanLand)’s Towering Academic–Dr. Kamarul Yusoff


May 30, 2017

BolehLand (CanLand)’s Towering Academic–Dr. Kamarul Yusoff

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee@www.malaysiakini.com

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Dr. Kamarul Yusoff was surely modest when he posted a small part of his credentials in responding to critics of his lambasting of Hannah Yeoh.

In fact, building on his ‘lofty’ American undergraduate achievements, he has returned to our tanah air to become a ‘highly productive’ scholar and academic.

His academic and intellectual track record can be discerned from his employer, Universiti Utara Malaysia’s website. He is listed as a Senior Lecturer and presently Director of the Malaysian Institute of Political Analysis (MAPAN) as well as is attached to The Ghazali Shafie Graduate School of Government.

In the website, he has described his work and career in capital letters in the following way

I AM A POLITICAL SCIENTIST SPECIALIZING IN MALAYSIA POLITICS. MY DOCTORATE THESIS WAS ON PARTI ISLAM SE-MALAYSIA (PAS) MAKING ME AN EXPERT ON PAS. MY MAIN INTEREST IS ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF MALAYSIAN OPPOSITION POLITICAL PARTIES. I HAVE RECEIVED GRANTS FROM UUM TO CONDUCT OPINION POLLS ON MALAYSIAN CURRENT POLITICAL ISSUES AND WILL BE RECEIVING A FEW MORE FROM VARIOUS RESEARCH AGENCIES TO STUDY CURRENT MALAYSIAN POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT. I HAVE BEEN FEATURED QUITE REGULARLY IN THE MALAYSIAN MEDIA COMMENTING ON MALAYSIAN POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT.

Members of the public interested in his work can view his ‘prolific’ scholarly output at UUM’s repository website – http://repo.uum.edu.my/profile/kzaman.

From it we can see that he has been a contributor to the country’s Malay print media – notably Berita Harian and Utusan Malaysia during the past three years. Even with his columns printed in the country’s leading media, Dr. Kamarul, alas, does not appear to have been able to generate much of an audience for his political analysis.

According to the repository portal’s records his ten most viewed articles have received a total of some 700 hits or an average of 70 hits per article. Perhaps now that he has emerged prominently in the public radar screen, he will be attracting more readers to his writing.

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His research output to date is even less prolific and appears to be focused on opinion polls. He has listed only one publication (with other collaborators) in an obscure – and what is likely to remain an insignificant – journal, The Malaysian Journal of Youth Studies.

Perhaps the most interesting part of his academic career is his current leadership of an institution, MAPAN, which is aspiring, in its words:

  • To become the eminent political research centre related to political issues, specifically in Malaysia.

  • To become a political research centre and a poll centre that is professional, independent, credible, transparent, and respected at both the national and international levels.

  • To become a political research centre that is capable of giving consultation services and becoming a reference for individuals, groups, and the nation.

  • To become a political research centre that is referred to by political adopters, analysts, researchers, and observers from all over the world, and thus enhancing the image of the college and university in the global arena.

  • To become a research centre that can assist the university to generate financial income, specifically through organising conferences, performing research consultation, and producing publications.

Although established in 2010 with these ambitious/lofty objectives, MAPAN appears to have undertaken little research.

This cannot be due to a lack of research funding or government support since the gallery section of the institute’s website shows the Director in September 2013 in prominent proximity with the Mentri Besar of Perlis, and with the latter shown opening up one of the Institute’s reports.

One can understand how impressed the MB must have been with the work of this “alternative, credible, and rational source having scientific value, high reputation, and being well respected by the general public” (http://mapan.uum.edu.my/index.php/en/corporate-info/mapan-background).

However, to date there is only one title found in MAPAN’s online publication page. In 2013, on the eve of the General Election, it co-published a 19 page poll research report jointly produced by MAPAN and the Majlis Profesor Negara (MPN) Tinjaun Pendapat Umum Di Kawasan Utara: Calon & Parti Pilihan Rakyat Dalam PRU 2013.

It will not be surprising if MAPAN led by Dr. Kamarul soon awakens from its academic hibernation to undertake opinion polls relating to the coming election, and engages in a fresh burst of activity and pro- Barisan and UMNO election analysis that will be “referred to by political adoptors [what this term refers to is anybody’s guess] analysts, researchers and observers from all over the world.”

Incidentally, the Majlis Profesor Negara which co-authored the 2013 poll report is the pre-eminent academic body in the nation. It is currently comprised of over 2,000 professors. Surely the day is coming soon when academics such as Dr. Kamarul Yusoff and his Ph. D colleagues supporting him in his memorandum to the Registrar of Societies calling on it to de-register the Democratic Action Party, will also join this august body to further strengthen the ranks of our “super gurus”.

 

Losing outstanding minds to Singapore and elsewhere because UMNO practices racial discrimination


May 28, 2017

Losing outstanding minds to Singapore and elsewhere because UMNO practices racial discrimination

by Mariam Mokhtar

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In 2010, another Ipoh born caused a sensation in the newspapers. He did his parents proud, his teachers were equally elated, his birthplace was euphoric to claim he was one of them, and his country would have been ecstatic. His name is Tan Zhongshan and he was born in Ipoh. He chose to read law at university because he said, “Being in the legal line gives you a chance to make changes that have a far-reaching effect.”

Won the “Slaughter and May” prize

In June 2010, Tan received a first–class honours in Bachelor of Arts (Law) at Queen’s College, Cambridge, one of the world’s topmost universities. Cambridge, England’s second oldest university, usually contends with Oxford for first place in the UK university league tables.

Tan excelled as the top student in his final-year law examinations, but he also won the “Slaughter and May” prize, awarded by the Law Faculty for the student with the best overall performance.

In addition, he managed to bag the Norton Rose Prize for Commercial Law, the Clifford Chance Prize for European Union Law and the Herbert Smith Prize for Conflict of Laws.

Tan distinguished himself and was a source of help to his fellow students, according to his tutor and the dean of Queen’s college, Dr. Martin Dixon.

Dr. Dixon said, ““He is probably the best Malaysian student I have seen in the last 10 years. He is the most able, dedicated and one of the most likeable students I have taught in more than 20 years at Cambridge. He works really hard, has great insight and intuition. He is a problem-solver, listens well and learns.”

However, the 23-year-old Tan shrugged off his accomplishments which he said was due to “consistent work and a detailed understanding of the subjects.”

Tan, who plays classical guitar, was modest about his success, “It was a pleasant surprise as it is hard to predict the end results.” Sadly, this brilliant, young Malaysian will not be working in Malaysia.

Tan, who went to Singapore in August 2010, completed his Bar examinations at the end of 2011 and then joined the Singapore Legal Service.

 Malaysia’s loss is Singapore’s gain

 

After completing his A-levels at the Temasek Junior College, the Singapore Ministry of Education awarded Tan an Asean scholarship. Tan will not be the first nor last Malaysian who we let slip through our fingers.

It makes many ordinary Malaysians quietly fill with rage that the policies of our government reward the mediocre or the ‘can-do’ or so so” types and ignore the best and the brightest. When will this madness end?

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Our judiciary was one of the best in the region, but today…Sadly, we have clowns and fools to dictate how our courts are run. The best comedy act was played out in the Teoh Beng Hock trial when renowned Thai pathologist Pornthip Rojanasunand was cross-examined by presumably the best of the Attorney General’s bunch of merry-men.

If that is how Malaysian lawmakers prefer to project their image to the world, then they really need their heads examined.

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Follow Malaysia by setting up a Talent Corp

We are haemorrhaging our best talent to countries that receive them with open arms. Record numbers of Malaysians are leaving – doctors, surgeons, nurses, lawyers, accountants, lecturers and academics, engineers, quantity surveyors. We are experiencing the biggest exodus in our 59-year history.

It is estimated that there are over 1 million Malaysians living and working abroad, many of whom are highly qualified personnel. If the government thinks that it is only the non-Malays who are leaving then they are wrong. Malays are also leaving in large numbers.

Feeling appreciated

What other countries do is to offer Malaysians opportunities – something which is not available, to the majority of Malaysians, of whichever racial origin. Our government fails to realise that people need to feel appreciated and thrive in conditions which stimulate personal development.

Government interference in the things that affect the personal lives of its citizens is what has kept many overseas Malaysians away. At the end of the day, most people value the things that have to do with their quality of life (not just for themselves but especially for their families), the laws, bureaucracy and tax.

Malaysia will soon pay the price for its crippling policies which our government feels unable, incapable or fearful of changing.