Malaysiakini Letter

Don't think that because we left, we don't care

Teh Thian Hwa  |  Published:  |  Modified:

I refer to the letter Search for better lives, non-bumis face dilemma .

The writer wrote that ex-Malaysians like George Lee are too afraid to take part in the movement for change. He further suggested that Lee (and by implication ex-Malaysians like him) have decided that flight is better than fight.

The writer also wrote that his ancestors fled China because they were left in dire conditions. His ancestors didn't remain in China to fight on, presumably because it wasn't a battle they could win.

The writer said he considered emigrating but decided not to. He then provided a brief lecture on the difference between a home and a house. He looks at Malaysia as his home, and not merely a house.

The writer is, of course, right in saying that everyone has a responsibility to clean up his home. His concern appears to be that Lee's letter may persuade many to conclude that cleaning up Malaysia belongs in the ‘Too Hard' basket and will pack up and leave.

For that reason he chose to accost Lee after giving him a scolding. He appears to chide those who like Lee, chose to leave and accuses them for being apathetic, suggesting that they probably ‘never voted in their lives'.

The ills of the country were blamed on this apathy and the implication was that those who leave are mostly of the apathetic type. He suggests that those who leave have no role to play in the cleaning-up exercise.

The writer is to be applauded for being noble and patriotic. He should, however, be corrected for saying that those who leave are apathetic and should be excluded from fighting the ills of Malaysia. He implies there is more nobility to staying and fighting than leaving.

He equates leaving to fleeing which by implication smacks of cowardice. I suppose he would also point an accusing finger at Raja Petra Kamaruddin for leaving Malaysia?

Many have said Malaysia is at a crossroads. It has been for a long time now. When Dr Mahathir Mohamad stepped down from the role of prime minister many thought Malaysia was at a crossroads. At various points during Pak Lah's administration, many thought Malaysia was at a crossroads. It has been six years since Mahathir left office. Where is Malaysia now?

Malaysia now has a prime minister who has serious credibility issues. This prime minister has taken office for barely two months and he has been beleaguered by issues and discontent the likes of which have never been seen before in Malaysia. The police and the judiciary, too, are also suffering similar problems. The public has been extremely dissatisfied with all of them.

Is the writer suggesting that apathy is the single largest cause of this ill (and of the myriad of ills plaguing Malaysia) and is he further suggesting those who chose to take their battles elsewhere have no right to express their discontent and have to leave such expressions to those who remain in the country?

He laments complacency and apathy. He is right but only partly so. The bigger problem is a complacency and apathy of the mind. The writer's apparent simplistic views are reflective of the bigger complacency and apathy which is that of the mind. Admittedly, the required course of action at this point in time is less cerebral and more vocal and participatory. That cannot mean surely, that you park your brains behind?

Indeed a complacent and apathetic mind would lead all the vigils, demonstrations and hunger strikes down a blind alley. Use your broom and sweep away with all your might if you will, but if you don't outwit that culprit dumping rubbish all over your house you can sweep till kingdom come and still be mired to your nose.

Cleaning the Augean Stables was made possible not by industry but by cunning - a trait which hapless people like the writer appears to lack.

To the writer, I applaud you for staying to fight. I assume you did not abandon your plans to emigrate because you lacked courage to start again. I urge you, however, to not exclude those who left Malaysia. The term ‘brain drain' wasn't coined by someone who smoked a funny cigarette. Many who left are talented people.

You need all the brains you can get to fight the ills plaguing Malaysia now. You need people to be brave and show up, of course, but now more than ever, you also need good thinkers. Witness the silly horse-trading going on within PKR and the stench that escapade stirred up?

That is another symptom of the guileless taking to the battlefields. Fight by all means, but fight principally the battle of the minds. If more had fought with their minds 30 years ago, Malaysia would not require such an almighty sweeping exercise today.

The racial harmony of 60 to 70 years ago was maintained while the British were telling the locals what to do. Does the writer prefer that? Since the locals started running the show, racism in the form of racist policies have had the better of everyone. These policies drive good people away. You cannot blame anyone but the propagators of those immoral policies.

I stood outside the Kuala Lumpur High court participating in a vigil on the night Lim Guan Eng was imprisoned for defending a helpless grandmother and her abused granddaughter. I worked with the opposition at every single election before 2004.

I wrote to the press, participated in forums, and chided political appointees in corporate boardrooms. I argued against policemen, council workers and land office officials. I harangued politicians in airport lounges.

I did everything I could and continue to do so. I may have left Malaysia but no one has the right to tell me I have lost my right to speak up against a wrong. I left because I chose to fight my battles from where I think I can win more of them. That doesn't mean I cannot fight the wrongs in my country of birth.

To the writer and all Malaysians, surely what we are all fighting for is a more just and equitable place to live in. That battle can and must be fought by everyone who cares. Please don't be presumptuous or simplistic and think because we left we don't care.

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