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by Lim Guan Eng
(Petaling Jaya, Monday): DAP hails the singular achievement of Wall Street Journal(WSJ) journalist Fong Foong Mei who has reached the holy grail of journalism by winning the Pulitzer Prize. Fong is believed to be the first Malaysian and one of the few Asians to achieve this distinction.
After just 10 years as a journalist, she won the 2007 Pulitzer international award as part of the 7-member WSJ team for a series of reports on capitalism in China last year. Fong studied at the National University of Singapore under a scholarship from Singapore Press Holdings. She worked with The New Paper for three years. She went on to complete a Masters in International Relations at Columbia University under a Lee Foundation scholarship. When she graduated in 2001, she joined WSJ.
Whilst Malaysians, especially journalists, take pride in the success of a fellow Malaysian, we observe that our government had so played little part in the development of her precocious talent. The government needs to identify talented Malaysians deserving of scholarship such as Fong Foong Mei who completed her education with assistance from foreign scholarships.
Public money has been spent of giving scholarships to individuals either with dubious academic credentials or to those who do not come from a poor or disadvantaged background. This has resulted in many deserving individuals being denied the opportunity to obtain governments scholarships to either realize their potential or be compelled to rely on foreign scholarships to further their studies.
Despite the government claiming that government scholarship is given based srrictly on merit, this is not true as shown by the figures below. The total number of both overseas and local scholarships show that nearly 80% are granted to one community resulting in our best students losing out on their right to realize their full potential.
Loss of a million talented Malaysians have emigrated over the last 50 years
The seriousness of the brain drain can be seen by the tens of thousands of primary and secondary Malaysian students studying in Singapore as well as the large number of Malaysian professionals working in Singapore government hospitals and companies. In fact Singapore government hospitals’ services would collapse without Malaysian doctors. The loss of Malaysian talent is highlighted by the election of 3 former Malaysian citizens as People Action Party’s Singapore Members of Parliament. DAP feels both pride and sorrow as they should be Malaysian MPs and not Singaporean MPs.
Our own efforts to attract top talents have met with dismal failure. The government’s ambitious “brain gain” policy announced by then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamed inn 1995 to attract 5,000 talents annually failed spectacularly. Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, Datuk Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis in Parliament said in Parliament on 20 September 2004 that between 1995 and 2000, the “brain gain” scheme attracted 94 scientists, including 24 Malaysians in the fields of pharmacology, medicine, semi-conductor technology and engineering, there is only one left. Even the 23 Malaysians who returned have given up on the discriminatory policies that sacrifices meritocracy and reward mediocrity.
No wonder more than a million talented Malaysians have emigrated overseas over the past 50 years in protest against such lack of equal opportunities and open discrimination. Are we going to lose another million talented Malaysians if the government refuses to end such short-sighted policies that effectively sacrifices merit for mediocrity?
* Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP