LETTER

The sweet and bitter of emigration

Diaspora M

Published
Modified 29 Jan 2008, 10:21 am

May I be permitted to add to Helen Ang's thoughtful and sensitive piece on emigration breaking up families.

In the twilight of my years, I have come to realise the struggle of the Chinese Malaysian to break through the web of institutional discrimination and give their kids a university education is tough both in monetary and human terms.

You can only really understand it if you have been through it. I have left parents, aunts and uncles. Some have died while I have been overseas. Others, left behind, are a shadow of their former selves having lost their self-respect through years of toil and subjugation.

My school and town mates have no chance for any respectable government position. They now repair cars, do direct selling and run the odd numbers racket.

Others have turned into revisionists, doing dodgy property deals and running more questionable rackets because there is no such thing as a straight deal here.

I respect those choosing to remain behind because, with hindsight, it is a tougher choice. Doing nothing about it is always a tougher choice. But to make it, one must go overseas and the earlier the better.

There is absolutely no way a self-respecting Chinese Malaysian can make it otherwise. Many of my old classmates have told me: 'I should have followed you overseas'.

Another classmate of mine back in Malaysia for a reunion told us, '... the best move I made in my life was to leave for Canada.' He did it in the 60s when the symptoms of discrimination were still mild.

In my case, having educated three kids at universities in the UK and with more on the way, seeing them get a job and career in the West is both sweet and bitter. They are all independent but know nothing about the discrimination that set them off on their paths in the first place

Some will inevitably marry Westerners and become even more Westernised. As parents, we do not mind the vast amounts of money and time expended, as we hope against hope that one day one of our sons and daughters will remember the struggles and return.

But to do what? The Malaysian diaspora is already a reality for those who travel. As for me, I never really emigrated, I just took off. I come back every Cheng Beng (a Chinese ritual to honour the departed) and do the necessary.

You realise the only permanent residence is about six feet under Malaysian soil (preferably).