Tale of one who was driven away

  • Letters
  • Sunday, 16 Mar 2003

I REFER to Andrew Tan’s letter, “Lack of opportunities at home leads to brain drain’’ (The Star, March 11).  

I would like to relate a story regarding a good friend of mine.  

In 1986, a brilliant boy studying at a premier school in Kuala Lumpur scored nine distinctions in his SPM examination.  

He appeared in a national newspaper and was thrilled beyond words. Happily, he went to the Public Service Department to apply for a government scholarship, hoping he could further his studies overseas.  

The people at PSD were unhelpful and uninterested. Eventually this boy ended up in Form Six because no one had offered help. He had no choice.  

He studied hard again, and scored five distinctions for the STPM, a remarkable feat in 1988.  

Again there was no help from anyone. He wanted to be an actuary but the local universities were not able to offer such a course. Therefore he was only able to attend a course he had little interest in.  

He was miserable, until a university in New York offered him a full scholarship as he had performed extremely well in his SAT.  

That was the beginning of another one of our bright sparks leaving the country.  

This story is probably familiar to anyone who has a high achiever for a friend.  

“Remember XYZ? The smartest boy in our class? He is now working in Singapore/London/New York ...”  

Our Government has been neglecting our talent and, at the same time, lamenting the fact that we do not have the expertise to do certain things.  

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in his speech recently at the Oxbridge Society, made a timely remark that we have first world facilities but third world service. We have the hardware but not the software.  

In truth, we have the software in our midst but choose to ignore them.  

When the wrong people are put in charge of important tasks, luggage gets stuck at the airport, public transport becomes pathetic, important deadlines are not met, and crimes go unpunished.  

It is time for our politicians to ponder on the future of this country.  

We need talent to generate economic growth. Do not place politics ahead of education.  

Young minds at the age of 20 become very bitter when they are treated unfairly. Conversely, they are extremely grateful if they are given the opportunity to realise their potential.  

Talented individuals who leave the country will eventually brainstorm for our competitors, undermining our efforts to thrive in this globalised world.  

To continue the story of my good friend, he returned briefly to Malaysia 10 years after his SPM, as a consultant with an American firm. The Government had hired the esteemed firm as consultants for Putrajaya.  

He was put up in a nice five-star hotel for months, treated like an expatriate, and at whose expense?  

My good friend now continues to work in a foreign country. It is unlikely that he will be working to put Malaysia on the world map, since he is not here. 

And it is unlikely that he will return home.  

Dr YAP BOON KAH Kajang, Selangor  

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