By Lim Mun Fah
I recently received an email from a son of an old friend. The young man had finished his secondary education in a local national secondary school and obtained his pre-university certificate with excellent results. However, he failed to obtain a place in a local public university.
In his most helpless and depressing moment, the Singapore government offered him a scholarship to study at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Four years later, he graduated with an honour degree, scoring excellent results.
He decided to stay and work in Singapore after his graduation. He bought a house, got married and started a family there. It is now almost 30 years since he settled in the island republic.
He said in his email that he has got used to everything in Singapore, and now, he has come to a crossroad when he has to make the painful decision on whether to give up his Malaysian citizenship.
I know that he loves Malaysia, as well as his family and friends here. He returns almost every weekend to spend some time with is his family members and friends..
He cherishes every minute he spends in his hometown, especially after the death of his father. He is eager to rush home during festive seasons.
And now, he must make the choice of whether to hold on to his Malaysian citizenship, or opt for citizenship in his adopted country. His children have reached the age of the Singapore national service and he must decide whether to let his children join the Singapore national service. If his children serve in the republic's national service, it means that they are giving up their Malaysian citizenship.
He and his wife will also have to choose to become Singapore citizens.
Hence, he in a dilemma now.
In the face of such a situation, he has no choice but let his children join the Singapore national service or they will lose their opportunities to become Singapore citizens.
He said his children were brought up and educated in Singapore, and asking them to return and start from zero in Malaysia, would be unfair to them.
He said Malaysia had deprived of the chance to do tertiary studies locally, and he doesn't want his children and future grandchildren to suffer the same discrimination.
His own father had been fighting his whole life for the right to Malaysian citizenship to no avail, and had eventually died as a "non-citizen", a stateless person.
Hence, he is in a dilemma, and wondering whether it is wise of him to give up his Malaysian citizenship now. He described his feelings at the moment as ambivalent and helpless.
I understand his feelings and know that he, like the other 700,000 plus Malaysians who have chosen to further their studies overseas, cannot understand why as a Malaysian citizen, we cannot enjoy the same discount when we buy a house and why we are not treated the same when we or our children applied for places to study in the national universities?
In the current globalization era when the world is competing for talents, should my friend's son feel guilty about not serving in the country? Did he abandon the country? Or was it the country which has abandoned him?