Former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin made the headlines recently when he acknowledged that there was another factor contributing in part to the continuing and worrying brain drain faced by the country.
In his popular “Keluar Sekejap” podcast, Khairy partly attributed the talent migration to “second-class citizens” treatment that has been accorded in varying degrees to the ethnic minorities over the years.
His comment, made in relation to the role played by Talent Corporation Malaysia Bhd (better known as TalentCorp), caught the attention of some people – not so much because it was bold but because it came late in the day from a politician many assumed would have been well informed about and sensitive to the dangers of racial and institutional discrimination all these years.
For many years, many politicians – the ethno-religious nationalists in particular – had avoided the elephant in the room. A few of them have even ventured into imagining Malaysia as a Malay-only land.
TalentCorp is an agency under the Ministry of Human Resources that has been tasked to attract, nurture and retain Malaysian talent and expertise in our collective desire to become a developed nation.
Although there are other roles played by TalentCorp, what it is normally associated with is its “returning experts programme”, a government scheme designed to encourage Malaysian professionals abroad to return home through the use of various incentives. The programme aims to stem the brain drain – caused by highly educated professionals emigrating to take advantage of better career prospects abroad – by offering returnees benefits such as tax breaks and permanent residency for family members.
To reiterate, a factor often cited as playing a vital role in luring some people to seek greener pastures abroad is the eroding sense of belonging to the homeland among those who feel that they’ve been treated as second-class citizens. So, they leave, often with a heavy heart, to places where they feel they will be better appreciated.
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It doesn’t help to improve the situation when there are quarters who still insist that communities other than the majority ethnic Malays are considered “pendatang” (immigrants). Obviously, it is not comforting for the ethnic minorities.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean that only the minorities are affected. There are also Malays who have made the tough decision to leave their beloved tanah airku (homeland).
Apart from economic reasons, they also feel alienated by the lack of appreciation for meritocracy as well as discrimination due to their having the wrong political stripes.
As alluded to above, money is not the only reason. Overseas jobs that match the high-level skills certain Malaysians have acquired, greater democratic space in foreign countries, and a good education system for their children are some of their other reasons.
That is why many Malaysians who left our shores regard Singapore as “the most favoured country”, followed by Australia, the UK, the US and other nations.
In other words, we have lost our own talent who went to schools and public universities funded by our taxpayers, only to be snatched by interested parties in foreign lands.
That was how we ‘lost’ the creator of the world’s first pen-drive, Sekinchan-born Pua Khein Seng, who, after graduating from a Taiwanese university, set up shop in Taiwan.
The current situation must have been so dire that it prompted House of Representatives Speaker Johari Abdul to visit the prestigious Tsinghua University in China, where he urged Malaysian students there to return home after graduation to help develop the country, which is facing many economic challenges.
These students are presumably top scorers of the Unified Examination Certificate, which, incidentally, the Malaysian government has yet to recognise.
Recognising the elephant in the room is only the first step. Next come concrete measures to make these talents from diverse backgrounds feel at home once again. – The Malaysian Insight