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12 September 2012

A dream of Malaysian unity — CKL

June 01, 2011
MAY 31 — I have read with sadness the many letters you have published regarding Malaysia’s brain drain. I am one of those, who left Malaysia for many reasons, chiefly, because I did not see any future for my children in a country which had become increasingly racist, moving from moderate to fundamentalist Islamic and also increasingly intolerant.

To those who say that I am unpatriotic and that I should stay on to help change the country, I tell you that it cannot be changed! Whilst working as a professional in Malaysia, I also served for 14 years in the Territorial Army of Malaysia (Rejimen Askar Wataniah), rising to my last rank of Major.

Rejimen Askar Wataniah is the army reserves of Malaysia and we undergo weekend military training every fortnight. During those years, not only was I prepared to risk life and limb for King and country, but I also initiated and helped set up Askar Wataniah societies in mainly Chinese tertiary institutes which recruited Chinese students into the Askar Wataniah. Every year, those societies recruited some 100+ Chinese students into the Rejimen Askar Wataniah, compared with a miserly 10+ in the regular army.

I expected nothing from my efforts because I enjoyed my time in the Askar Wataniah and I was patriotic, then! But I certainly did not expect brickbats and every effort being made by my fellow Malay officers to run me down because they were jealous (my efforts in recruiting such large numbers of Chinese into the Askar Wataniah had caught the attention of the military top brass and also assorted politicians, in particular MCA politicians) or as one of them told me, “perasaan dengki” which Malays always seem to have for those who are more successful than they are.

Perhaps they thought I was taking their rice bowl away from them. Whatever their reasons, it was made very clear to me that I was not one of them, even though I had sweated and toiled with them during military exercises in the jungle and training courses.

That was when I realised that no matter what I do or try to do, I would always be to them, and legally too, firstly a non-Malay, secondly a non-Bumiputera, thirdly a non-Muslim. I was not a Malaysian to them first and foremost!

However, I was lucky. I was a successful professional with skills and experience which could be transferred overseas. I have been working for the past few years in the Middle East, which although fully Islamic, treats me first and foremost, as a Malaysian!

There are only two types of people here, locals and expats. Yes, locals have better conditions and benefits but it is their country, isn’t it? And they certainly don’t discriminate amongst one race or another amongst their citizens.

For those who have been here, you would know that there are many Indians who have settled in this area for many years, ending up as citizens in their adopted countries. There are no discriminatory laws which favour one particular race amongst their citizens above others, unlike in Malaysia!

I was certainly luckier than those non-Malay officers serving in the regular army as, without an exception, every single one of them had tales to tell me about junior Malay officers being promoted over them, even though these non-Malay officers had both the qualifications and experiences which entitled them to promotion!

One particularly poignant tale I heard came from a retired Chinese senior officer who had been passed over many times for promotion even though during the final years of the communist insurgency, he had actually commanded an operation which caught a communist insurgent.

But the non-Malay officers were in many ways luckier than the non-Muslim Bumiputera officers, i.e. Ibans. They are supposed to have the same rights and opportunities as Malay officers, yet they did not receive them. They suffer the same fate as many non-Malay officers in having junior Malay officers with less experience and qualifications being promoted over them!

Just talk to any Iban officer and you will hear their frustration and anger at such discrimination against them, even more anger than non-Malay officers. As they used to moan to me, “Sama bangsa tetapi tidak sama ugama”! To those who have served in the military, you will know exactly what I am talking about, that is, if you have not buried your head in the sand like an ostrich!

Everyone seems to have forgotten how the Malaysian Constitution was achieved. It was negotiated, chewed over and fought over in words at the height of the Emergency, at a time when the British and Malayans thought that the communist terrorists was not winning but certainly not losing either.

The British basically gave Malaya its independence because they had been bankrupted by the Second World War and it was the platform that the communists were ostensibly fighting for. At a stroke, by giving Malaya independence, which was also what Malayans were fighting for, they helped removed any public support for the communists.

Yet, it was not easy to achieve the compromises that the Constitution eventually became. Many Malays and the Islamic parties at that time wanted an Islamic state with limited rights for non-Malays and non-Muslims.
In fact, the biggest dispute was about granting citizenship rights to non-Malays. It was only after intense negotiations with the British acting as referees, that our present Constitution came about.

Please remember, the original Malaysian Constitution gave equal rights for all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or creed. Islam was recognised as the religion of the country but with no special rights over other religions and original, the Malays were given certain rights over other non-Malays in order that they could achieve economic parity.

Further, ethnic bargains between the Alliance parties were the mainstay of the Constitution. The MIC and MCA agreed to give special rights to the Malays and maintain Malay as the national language. Umno, on the other hand, agreed to allow Chinese and Indian participation in politics and be awarded citizenship. After much discussion, the Constitution was finally agreed upon and became known as the Merdeka Constitution.

Those rights were originally meant to last 15 years after independence and were actually recommended by the Reid Commision, which was set up by the British to look into the requirements for an independent Malaya.

They were meant to act as a walking stick and not a crutch! As to the effect of those, originally 15 years of Malay rights but which later became permanent, well, one has only to look at the Malays in Malaysia, 53+ years after Merdeka, and ask the simple question, are they ready to stand on their feet without any special rights or government assistance?

As to Malaysia’s brain drain, one has only to read the prophetic words of Tun Tan Cheng Lock, the first president of MCA, when in 1943, he wrote:

“The best way of treating the Chinese is to trust them and to give an opportunity to those of them, who have resided in Malaya, especially if they have done so with their families, for a sufficiently long period and have become domiciled in the country, to acquire the right of Malayan citizenship by naturalisation, so as to enable them to identify themselves completely with the interests of the land of their adoption. This is the wisest course to adopt by way of solving the so-called Chinese problem in Malaya in the humble opinion of the writer.

“It is the firm conviction of the writer that the ideal to be aimed at by every community in Malaya is that they should learn to regard themselves as Malayans first irrespective of their race. This should not only for inter-racial unity and harmony such as has so conspicuously characterized, for instance, Switzerland, but would also contribute to the unity, strength and stability of the Malayan State, which would thereby enabled to raise itself (the country) to the rank of a worthy and important partner in the great British Commonwealth of Nations”. (On the occasion of drafting a Memorandum On “Self-Government” in 1943)

And in 1945, he wrote:

“We are strongly of the opinion that the only safe, sound and wise policy for the future Government of Malaya should be to rally to its support those true Malayans, who passionately love the country as their homeland and those who intend to settle there, and who are united by the legitimate aspiration to achieve by proper and constitutional means the ideal and basic objective of Self-Government for a united Malaya within the British Commonwealth and Empire, in which the individuals of all communities are accorded equal rights and responsibilities, politically and economically, including a balanced representation of the various communities in the Government to ensure that no one community will be in a position to dominate or outvote all the others put together”. (On the occasion of submitting a memorial relating to Malaya to Secretary of State for the Colonies, London, in 1945).

Prophetic words indeed, and the chickens have certainly come home to roost!

04 July 2010

Free Online Courses

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (

If you are looking for a wide range of free courses offered online, MIT is your best option. More than 1,800 free courses are offered through the school's OpenCourseWare project. Courses are in text, audio and video formats and translated into a number of different languages. Students all over the world use OpenCourseWare and 96 percent of visitors to this site say they would recommend it to someone else.

2. Open University (

The Open University is the UK's largest academic institution. The school's OpenLearn website gives everyone free access to both undergraduate and graduate-level course materials from The Open University. Courses cover a wide range of topics, such as the arts, history, business, education, IT and computing, mathematics and statistics, science, health and technology.

3. Carnegie Mellon University (

Carnegie Mellon University offers a number of free online courses and materials through a program called Open Learning Initiative. OLI courses are intended to allow anyone at an introductory college level to learn about a particular subject without formal instruction. Course options include such offerings as statistics, biology, chemistry, economics, French and physics.

4. Tufts University (

Like MIT, Tufts has OpenCourseWare that is available free to everyone. Courses are sorted by school (i.e. School of Arts and Sciences, School of Medicine, etc.) and include assignments, lecture notes and other supplementary materials.

5. Stanford (

Stanford University, one of the world's leading academic institutions, has joined forces with iTunes U in providing access to Stanford courses, lectures and interviews. These courses can be downloaded and played on iPods, PCs, and Macs and can also be burned to CDs. If you don't have iTunes, you can download it here for free.

6. University of California, Berkeley (

UC Berkeley, one of the best public universities in the nation, has been offering live and on-demand webcasts of certain courses since 2001. Hundreds of UC Berkeley courses, both current and archived, are now available as podcasts and webcasts. Courses cover a range of subjects, including astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer programming, engineering, psychology, legal studies and philosophy.

7. Utah State University (

Utah State University also provides access to free online courses. Study options include everything from anthropology to physics and theatre arts. These comprehensive text-based courses can be downloaded as zip files or viewed directly on the site.

8. Kutztown University of Pennsylvania (

Kutztown University's Small Business Development Center offers the largest collection of free business courses available on the web. Course topics include accounting, finance, government, business law, marketing and sales. Comprehensive text, interactive case studies, slides, graphics and streaming audio help to demonstrate the concepts presented in each course.

9. University of Southern Queensland (

The University of Southern Queensland in Australia provides free online access to a number of different courses through yet another OpenCourseWare initiative. Courses from each of the five faculties are available, covering a broad range of topics, including communication, science, career planning, technology, teaching and multimedia creation.

10. University of California, Irvine (

UC Irvine, one of the nation's top public universities, recently joined the OCW Consortium and began providing free university level courses online. Right now, there are only a handful of options to choose from, but this list is growing. Current courses cover topics like financial planning, human resources, capital markets and e-marketing. Course materials include syllabi, lecture notes, assignments and exams.

30 June 2010

Official: some A-level subjects are harder than others

Article from UK's Independent newspaper of 1st July 2008:

"Ministers are trying to persuade more youngsters to take up "Stem" subjects - science, technology, engineering and maths.

A-levels in maths and science are far harder than in subjects like media studies, large-scale research commissioned by the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society has found. The findings put a question mark both over the value of A-level grades and the UCAS points system, which determines university places for thousands of students every year. UCAS gives the same point score for every subject.

An analysis of 250,000 A-level results from 2006 by researchers from Durham University reveals that a pupil would be likely to get a pass two grades higher in "soft" subjects – such as general studies, business studies or even English – than in maths and science.

The researchers conclude that "from a moral perspective, it is clear this is unfair". They warn that scores of students may miss out on university because they have chosen a harder subject.

The study follows years in which experts have disagreed over the relative difficulties of subjects. Ministers are trying to persuade more youngsters to take up "Stem" subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – at university level to provide the skills the UK needs.

While some universities take note of subjects studied by applicants and even have a list of "soft" subjects which preclude them from entry, many simply say they are looking for youngsters with a minimum Ucas points score.

The study says claims by the Government and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority that "there is no such thing as an easy or hard A-level are no longer reassuring if they ever were".

The researchers looked at the predicted grades of every pupil for the 2006 age cohort upon their arrival at school, ie a youngster could be predicted as capable of three grade Bs. They then compared that to the grades they achieved in individual subjects and found a pattern emerging of much higher grades in subjects like psychology and media studies than maths and science. The researchers believe their findings explain why fewer pupils take science and maths A-levels than a decade ago – and that schools encourage youngsters to opt for softer subjects so they do well in exam league tables.

Their findings reveal a similar situation at GCSE level.

The researchers say: "Stem subjects are not just more difficult on average than non-science subjects. They are without exception the hardest A-levels."

Professor Michael Reiss, director of education at the Royal Society, said: "The worry is that some students are put off taking maths and science A-levels because it is harder to get a good grade in them. Anything that distracts students from taking these subjects is really bad news."

David Sandford-Smith, head of pre-19 education at the Institute of Physics, called for Ofqual, the new exams regulatory body, to audit A-levels annually to assess differences between subjects.


The easiest - FILM STUDIES -1.79MEDIA -1.00PHOTOGRAPHY -0.82DRAMA -0.70ENG LANG -0.43ENGLISH -0.43ENG LIT -0.30GEOGRAPHY -0.13

29 June 2010

Are Malaysian Universities Creating International World Class Professionals?

Its not only the way a course is taught between local and overseas universities that is different, its the lack of facilities. Way back in the early eighties, I did a mechanical engineering degree in a polytechnic in London. We had unrestricted daily excess to mini computers (Prime computers) with dumb terminals and we were taught how to use CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing) programs for engineering design and manufacturing.

Fast forward to 10 years later in Petaling Jaya, during a careers fair at Malaya University, I went to talk to some students at the Engineering booth and to my shock and horror, found out that they had very little access to or had almost no CAD/CAM experience. In fact, they bitterly told me that they had to pool their money together to buy their own PCs to learn programming (Fortran and the like) because they hardly any access to computers at the university. They didn't know how to use a computer to draw engineering designs or for manufacturing! They were still drawing their designs manually.

10 years previously, we had learned how to draw designs manually but it was supplemented with computers. Our lecturers told us that they could have us use computers totally to draw our designs but they wanted us to have the ability to do both! And not just to rely on one method. Further, we also learn to make tools manually by using old machine tools because they wanted us to know what was physically possible to make and what was not. It was a good blend of the old with the new.

Some time later, during a live radio interview with the secretary of the Malaysian Institute of Engineers, I managed to call in and ask him why was it that engineering students at our so-called premier university did not have the computer access and training that I had 10 years previously in the early eighties in London. His stupid reply was that we are training local engineers for local standards and environment.

So, an admission that our local students were not trained to compete with overseas international engineering standards and quality. When I told some senior engineers about this, they were absolutely pissed because it meant that we were not advancing and improving. The mildest word they used for him was stupid. Mind you, these engineers were all trained overseas, the majority in UK and they confirmed that local engineers were not on par with those trained overseas.

This was in the early 1990s. Has the situation improved almost 20 years later in 2010? Does anybody know? Does anybody care?

28 June 2010

Malaysia, The Preferred Tourist Destination For Ex-Malaysians

I'm curious to find out how many people replying or reading this blog are Malays or non-Malays. Presumably, I would think that most if not all the replies are non-Malays but it would be useful to know if Malays are also reading this blog and their views on it. An interesting fact is that for some years now, the majority of migrants to Australia before they tightened their rules were Malays, not non-Malays! This from the Australian embassy in KL and which would seem to go against the accepted belief that only non-Malays are leaving Malaysia.

However, if the Brain Drain keeps going on, perhaps in a generation or less, Malaysia would really become a Tanah Melayu only, with the brightest and best non-Malays and Malays leaving for a better fairer less racist life overseas. Well, I suppose Malaysia could always concentrate on becoming a preferred tourist destination for ex-Malaysians seeking to enjoy Malaysian food and shopping!

Malays in Malaysian Public Universities

Excerpt from The Time Higher Education Supplement ( dated 30 July 2009. Interesting reading for students in Malaysia.

"In 2000, the country had 16 universities and 15 polytechnics. By 2008, it had 35 universities, 37 polytechnics and 24 university colleges. Over the same period, student numbers rose from 664,000 to 873,000.

However, the report adds that Malaysia's public universities face problems. Positive-discrimination policies instituted in the early 1970s to support the native ethnic-Malay majority have led to race-based admissions quotas in public universities. This has meant that "universities have had to accept some Malay students even if technically they are not of the required standard", the report says.

In addition, "a sense of entitlement has bred complacency among Malay students", affecting their employability - there were 60,000 unemployed public university graduates in 2007.

The report adds that "Malaysia's public university system has been crippled by space constraints, a lack of financing and poor quality".

These problems have encouraged students to seek university courses outside the public sector - either abroad or among the growing ranks of private institutions at home.

The report says: "The UK is ... considered the most prestigious destination for Malaysian students. Much of this is owing to a cherished colonial legacy.

"The UK university 'brands' are more highly regarded than Australia's or even most of those of the US."

A Malaysian in the National University of Singapore

From the Education in Malaysia blog, an excerpt which was itself taken from an American education journal:

"After graduating from medical school in Canada in the 1970s, Eng Hin Lee was eager to return home. The young Malaysian doctor wanted to be closer to his family, and he was tired of the harsh Canadian winters that never seemed to end. He also missed the simple pleasures of home, such as eating Chinese dim sum, which means "to touch the heart."

Dr. Lee knew that Malaysia, a young country hobbled by poverty, could not match the opportunities and salaries paid abroad. But he felt strongly that there was a place for him there. So the young doctor packed his bags and moved home.

I wanted to go back to help," says Dr. Lee. Yet when he returned it became obvious it would be difficult to pursue his research goals. Biomedical science in Malaysia was in its nascent stage. Labs were pitifully equipped. There was no significant scientific environment in which to grow or contribute.

After two frustrating years, he packed his bags again. But it wasn't because of the money. It wasn't because of the labs. Dr. Lee, who is ethnically Chinese, did not feel welcome in his own country. Racial policies that had been put in place while he was away made it clear to him that he would never advance.

It was obvious you wouldn't get very far if you weren't the right race," says Dr. Lee. Today he works at the National University of Singapore, where he is in charge of a huge lab that is conducting cutting-edge research in stem-cell biology. Dr. Lee, an orthopedic surgeon, leads a team of top scientists culled from all over the world.

Having come here I think I made the right choice," says Dr. Lee, referring to Singapore's premier teaching hospital. In Malaysia, "I probably would not have become a head of department and dean of the Faculty of Medicine."

Brain Drain or Brain Gain for Malaysia

What do YOU think of Prime Minister's Najib current proposal and efforts for a Brain Gain for Malaysia?

Do you think Malaysia will manage to attract back those who migrated or are working overseas, and who have the skills, qualifications or talents that Malaysia desperately needs to become a developed country? Would it succeed where other past efforts fail? I don't think so! Only those who are not doing well overseas would want to return to Malaysia. Those who are successful would not want to return to Malaysia for lower pay, lower position, lower status, and most of all, to be discriminated at if they are non-Malay, non-Bumiputera or non-Muslim.

A few years ago, during Pak Lah's efforts to attract brain gain, the Human Resource Minister was asked how many Malaysians had returned under the then Brain Gain programme and how many had stayed on. The reply was that 300 returned to Malaysia under the programme but 299 subsequently returned overseas! Proves my point.