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Media Conference Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Ipoh on Saturday, 16th January 2010 at 11.30 am: 


Call on Najib to initiate a series of annual International Malaysian Diaspora Conference to coincide with the launch of Tenth Malaysia Plan in June to tap, engage and attract back talented, experienced, wealthy and well-connected members of the Malaysian Diaspora to help transform Malaysian economy into new model

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak is making his first five-day official visit to India next week from 19th to 23rd January.

There are many things Najib can learn from the Indian experience in government reform and transformation, one of which is the just-concluded ninth Pravasi Bharatiya Diswas (BPD-2010) in New Delhi – the annual jamboree of the Indian diaspora organized by the Indian Government to rope in the expertise, money and experience of the 25 million Indians abroad (or non-resident Indians).

Najib had said in Singapore in November that his government would make Malaysia a better place to live and work in to lure back its citizens residing abroad as well as attract global talents to the country.

He told a dinner he hosted for the Malaysian community in Singapore: "We will create more opportunities, more excitement and more buzz in Malaysia to attract the Malaysian diaspora and expatriates to the country."

Sadly and unfortunately, Najib has not been able to walk the talk and the buzz he had initially created from the expenditure of tens of millions of ringgit in the promotion of the “1Malaysia” campaign by professional publicity agents has fizzled out – the bubbles of “1Malaysia” bursting against hard realities like the adverse international publicity which Malaysia has been suffering since the beginning of the new year as a result of the “Allah” controversy.

Only last night, the Grace Global Prayer Church in Rasah, Seremban became the tenth church to be attacked and the 12th target of vandalism since the Kuala Lumpur High Court judgment on the “Allah” controversy on Dec. 31.

The tweet of Foo Chee Hoe on my twitter last night “How many more churches to vandalize? Don't they know they are putting their religion to shame instead of defending His name?” is the cry of all sane and rational Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, for an end to the madness since the beginning of the year.

Recently Parliament was informed that in the 18 months from March 2008 to August last year, a total of 304,358 Malaysians left the country for better education, career and business prospects, which works out to some 630 Malaysians leaving the country per day.

If this rate of migration had been kept up, some 400,00 Malaysians would have migrated from March 2008 to the end of last year.

Najib had said in his Singapore speech last November that “in the current challenging world, Malaysia needed the best talents and brains to develop and prosper the country” but it would not be easy to get them because competition was stiff as other countries were also looking for global talents.

However, despite all the publicity about KPIs, NKRAs and Government Transformation Programme, the Najib government has not convinced Malaysians or the Malaysian Diaspora that he meant what he said when he admitted that “without good brains Malaysia could not be considered a knowledge-based or innovation economy”.

All Malaysians must be concerned that instead of engineering a reverse brain drain of Malaysians out in the world, there is an acceleration of migration of Malaysians across-the-board – not just Chinese and Indians but Malays as well, especially with the latest developments arising from the “Allah” controversy.

Why have the “reverse brain-drain” policies of the Eighth and Ninth Malaysia Plans from 2001-2010 failed? Is Najib prepared to issue a White Paper on the reasons for these failures in the past decade?

The government had announced an ambitious "reverse brain drain project" under the Eighth Malaysia Plan, especially in the key fields of information and communications technology, science and technology, manufacturing industries, finance and medicine, to propel Malaysia to transform itself into a K-economy and Information Society through a two-prong strategy, viz:

  • An annual "brain gain" of 5,000 "extraordinary world citizens of extraordinary talent" to "lure the best brains regardless of race and nationality, from Bangalore to California".

  • Encourage 500 skilled Malaysians overseas every year to return home with their expertise, starting with the 2001 Budget in October 2000 giving incentives of quick approval of permanent resident status for foreign spouses within six months, two-year income tax exemption for income remitted to Malaysia and tax exemption for all personal effects brought into Malaysia, including two motor cars.

The government has however very little to show for the "Reverse Brain Drain" programme whether in the Eighth or Ninth Malaysia Plan.

Najib should initiate a series of annual International Malaysian Diaspora Conference to coincide with the launch of Tenth Malaysia Plan in June to tap, engage and attract back talented, experienced, wealthy and well-connected members of the Malaysian Diaspora as a key strategy to transform the country into a new economic model to become a high income country.

Is Najib prepared to be as bold and innovative as the Indian Government in tapping into the wealth and resources of the Indian Diaspora?

At the 3rd Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) in Mumbai in January 2005, the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh announced overseas citizenship for Indians living abroad.

Under the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) scheme, launched at the 4th PBD in Hyderabad, Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) of certain categories are eligible for grant of OCI as long as their home countries allow dual citizenship in some form, but this does not include voting rights or rights to contest in parliamentary elections.

At the PBD just held in New Delhi earlier this week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has gone one step further, offering non-resident Indians (NRIs) the right to participate in the electoral process.

Manmohan said: "I recognise the legitimate desire of Indians living abroad to exercise their franchise and to have a say in who governs India. We are working on this issue and I sincerely hope that they will get a chance to vote by the time of the next regular general elections.

“In fact, I would go a step further and ask why more overseas Indians should not return home to join politics and public life as they are increasingly doing in business and academia."

Is Najib prepared to emulate the Indian Prime Minister to think along similar lines to tap into the resources of the Malaysian Diaspora and to engage and attract back talented, experienced, wealthy and well-connected members of the Malaysian Diaspora to effect the transformation of the Malaysian economy into a new model?

*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor



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