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It saddens me to hear at a recent forum someone lamenting that he did not feel like a "true Malaysian" despite the fact that all his grandparents were Malaysian-born. He felt that way presumably because being a non-bumiputra, he was denied special privileges.

I am a Malaysian, despite attempts by my critics to label me otherwise. They do so because I reside abroad and thus no longer a "true Malaysian", bumiputra or no bumiputra.

In my moments of contemplation I do ponder on what exactly is meant to be a "true Malaysian", and in turn to muse equally on the Malaysian preoccupation with such labels.

One thing I am certain. I cannot be a true Malaysian if I am not true to myself. As a corollary, I refuse to let others define me on their terms.

I will illuminate the questioner's quandary by first putting special privileges on a broader perspective, and second, by relating my experience in America.

If you have graduated from Stanford, you have successfully breached whatever obstacles the lack of special privileges had imposed on you. Further, the market for your skills and talent is global, transcending special privileges or citizenship formalities.

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