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I am one of those Malaysians who is watching the development of the country from outside; all things seem to go horribly wrong when it could have been so much better. Yes, we moan but I am still fiercely and proudly a Malaysian, top to toe. I have been away from 'home' for 17 years but going back every year without fail and now more frequently since I now live closer to home because of my husband's work.

For 17 years back until recently, I was an unofficial ambassador for Malaysia. I raved about Malaysia's virtues, its colours, diversity, food, nature, the beaches, the 'kampongs', etc. I could never stop praising my motherland. My husband (a Dutchman) suggested I take up another citizenship which had more 'status' and 'value' for convenience. I would not have it.

Even if we are sometimes made to feel like second-class citizens, I am still a first-class supporter of Malaysia. My last few years of living in Singapore has facilitated more frequent travel to Malaysia. And I am sad though to see the state of events.

It is sad to read about the racial divide. In primary school in Klang, my best friend was a Malay, Ima Nirwana Soelaiman. In secondary, it was a Chinese, Ng Ah Yue. We would eat out of each other's plate.

Yes, the NEP was in force but fortunately I got into university. 'Just a few more years to go' with the NEP policy, they said. We went on with our lives and did the best we could.

Hats off to the current Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for being brave enough to see, speak and implement the changes necessary for everyone to compete on a level playing field. It is not an easy task to convince the masses who have benefitted that some of the privileges will be withdrawn. We need to stand on our own two feet - no more spoon-feeding if we are to be a successful and more importantly, enlightened citizens of the nation.

With respect, Dr Mahathir Mohamad did do good for the country. It is time for him sit back and let the current government rule. We had the utmost respect for him but now it is Pak Lah's turn. He has his own way of doing things. Mahathir's daughter Marina is doing wonderful things for the country. I am ever so proud of her (along with millions others I'm sure) so the Mahathir legacy goes on.

Although I have been away from home and have not been given the same benefits as a bumiputera, it has not made me any less Malaysian. I wish I could contribute in some small way to the betterment of Malaysian society.

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