MAY 27 — It has been two years since I left my adored country to seek my fortune Down Under. A year ago my family decided to settle down here.
Throughout the two years since I have been away, I have followed the social, economic and political backdrops in Malaysia via both the mainstream and alternative electronic media. Strangely, I have been keeping close tabs with what is happening back home much more than when I was physically present in Malaysia.
It hurts not being close to what is going on as the love for Malaysia has not transformed in any way though like many of my friends (there are now seven of us who have settled Down Under — six information technology consultants and one accountant), we had to leave.
As I recollect the reasons we left home, there were several contributors to our departure.
On the economic front, we were getting exasperated with the high standard of living and nuisances surrounding us. Pictured the high cost ordinary citizens had to bear once we stepped out of our home, for example, the petrol price, tolls, parking, and ordinary fast moving consumer goods (baby milk power).
More importantly, there were no worthwhile measures taken to address to problems. Businesses, traders and government agencies took turn to inflate ordinary folks’ sentiments by price increases and intractable policies. As things were getting expensive, the quantity and quality eroded.
We envisaged (from past experience) that the government would not do much to solve the people’s livelihood. We just did not like to be constricted in such a manner. We decided we wanted to create another lifestyle in a more structured society where the government would be more willing to help.
Socially, there were prevailing emotional distresses that we had to endure, for example, rude drivers, traffic hold-up (drivers who shaped their own rules), escalating crime rate (witnessed several snatch thieves in action and the grieved for the victims but police were nowhere to be seen) and broad disgruntlement among friends about living in Malaysia.
I was also appalled by the mind-sets of several government departments such as the Ministry of Education, Inland Revenue, and Dewan Bandaraya when I had to carry out numerous errands. Government servants were rude, unconscientiously and irresponsible. The systems in place in most of the country’s organisations left a lot to be desired.
Any rational individual would start to ask whether it is a place worth living. The government had no sense of urgency to address the contorted public order and peace. We honestly felt unsafe to venture out of our homes even though the mamak stalls were near.
Politically, Malaysia has never been able to be isolated with the persistent racial issues. The government and its component parties were always practising double-faced roles of subduing and fanning race sentiments. Intellectuals like us could see the schema behind.
We knew very well that those in the politics would prepare to sacrifice the well-being of ordinary folk for their greed though these people in power carried a different message on their lips. These people needed to safeguard their political livelihoods as they are nobody without power.
Two years have passed. It hurts to watch from here when people continue to stand up against unjust systems but are frustrated by the tough and insensitive stance adopted by the government and its ruthless police force.
Look at what has transpired in the Perak debacle. Forgive my ignorance in politics but personally I am sad to see how the authorities handle the situation. We just cannot use the approach during the 1987 Operasi Lalang to suppress and oppress the people of today.
We are living in the 21st century and too many things have changed. The government is just too conceited to admit and discover a different strategy to tackle political issues. Just look at the sweeping action and arrogant speeches delivered by the people (OCPD from Brickfields, gosh !) representing the government.
How can we teach our children about humbleness and politeness if the politicians seem to have a different school of thought. With the latest happening in the Malaysia scene, we have no qualms that we made the appropriate decision two years ago even though the choice was difficult and agonising.
Many fellow Malaysians have no alternative but to brush aside all the inconveniences. Many brave ones have embarked to fight against the issues and unfairness. I salute all these brave ordinary folk and wish that they have a copious amount of energies to carry them through.
Two years ago, it had come to a juncture where I could no longer sweep all these tribulations under the rug and the eventuality was to go away. However, everyone has their own temperaments and beliefs. We would love to do something such as creating awareness for the betterment of Malaysia if we can find the platform and opportunity.
Having lived Down Under for two years, it puzzled me why the systems here can be so efficiently coordinated and run. The councils and government are very much in control. Most importantly their feedback and replies are prompt and updated. Filing tax returns here is convenient and fast that I got my refund back within 14 days consistently for the past two years.
Here, we could be paying more taxes but I get some back via the structured family assistance allowance, free medical benefit and very reasonable school fees, etc. Lately, we even obtained a stimulus payout from the tax office due to the effects of the economic downturn. These measures have received great appreciation from the people.
The obvious question here is why can’t Malaysia adopt some of the systems so successful in place here. One need not be superhuman to get things going except dedication which Malaysia is so lacking. I can see that the Penang state government is starting to perk up the government delivery systems that are conspicuously missing in the Malaysian governance structure.
Many of the systems in Malaysia are more form than substance. One of the most important components that is noticeably missing is the integration between the different government bodies. Conversely, this is so successful incorporated Down Under which has curtailed loopholes and acted as a check and balance mechanisms for the local government.
Ordinary Malaysians would like to be treated uniformly. If there is any trace of the adverse happening, that would widen the disparity gap. What the government should be doing in my modest opinion is to have a mechanism to encourage the mediocre group to catch up and this should be attained not by protecting or spoon-feeding the group.
The government should have a far-sighted view and not worry about temporary setbacks (not depend on opinion polls as they would go up when the end results are derived). Just like us, we were “compelled” to learn things in a hard way after we arrived in a new place.
Initially it was hard but eventually we triumphed. Frankly, things are not so hard but politicians like to think in a complex manner. It is time for the Malaysia government to take stock and revert to basics else we could expect a change of the guard in four years time though it is probably too late now.
George CN Lee is a reader from Down Under (Australia).