It’s not kosher, apparently, to criticise your country when you’re living overseas.
I’ve been reading George Lee’s letters in Malaysian Insider and was amazed by the vitrolic response. His letter is an account of why after 17 years working in Malaysia, he decided to make the big move Down Under.
His first letter, Why we had to leave, evoked harsh responses:
But many Malaysians choose to stay and sacrifice their comforts (by not running away)to ensure that the future generations have a better life in Malaysia. Those who stay, for me are true Malaysians despite all the odds, they stay and contribute to make changes no matter how small it can be.
said one commenter.
And that’s one of the nice ones.
For some people, leaving Malaysia is considered a traitorous act. Go enjoy life there and shut up! They say to folks who live overseas who dare to criticise how things are in Malaysia.
In a way, I understand. I was in their shoes before. When my siblings and relatives began leaving, and when they said how Malaysia is ‘hopeless’ and it’s time to go, I really resented them because by saying that, they’re almost saying that people who live in Malaysia are in a hopeless situation. Because we still want to keep on hoping that Malaysia will turn itself around. Or else, what kind of future do we have?
There they are enjoying in the freedoms in the West, and leaving us behind to to suffer the indignity of life under a corrupt government. How dare they crow about how good life is over there??
And let’s face it, Malaysia is corrupt. We recently made it to the blacklist of human trafficking countries for goodness sakes. We’re side by side with countries like Zimbabwe! And the government’s response? Denial.
But some of the commenters have a point. Some people who live overseas are armchair critics; all they do is sit in their comfortable armchairs in a land of freedom somewhere and criticise without doing anything to help their Malaysians back home.
(George Lee also has a point, and I think he has the right to criticise because that’s how he can get involved with the democratic process, but that’s a topic for my next post.)
There’s a lot of things overseas Malaysians can do to better things in Malaysia. I think one of the most powerful things expat Malaysians can do is to return for the 13th General Election and vote. (Because, heinously, the Malaysian government doesn’t allow overseas votes. Most probably because they suspect these expat Malaysians would vote a big fat NO to BN.)
Not everyone can be an activist or a Raja Petra. But we can certainly exercise our right to vote. And that’s what I’m going to do, wherever I may be then!
So if you’re unhappy about how things are in Malaysia, vote, damn it! Time your yearly, bi-annual, whatever sojourn to Malaysia to coincide with the 13th GE. Do it for those you left behind in Malaysia. Instead of reminding these folks in Malaysia how much their life sucks, do something to help them instead. We will all appreciate it!