JBU interviews Justin Tan, a Malaysian based in Singapore.
JBU: What is your background (age, hometown, profession)?
Justin: I am 35 year old, originates from Kampar, Perak, currently working as
a medical doctor in Singapore.
JBU: When did you emigrate from Malaysia?
Justin: I emigrated from Malaysia in October 2008.
JBU: Why did you emigrate from Malaysia?
Justin: I have a story to tell about myself. This is what happened to me that
i do not want to recur to any other Malaysians, ever again.
I was born in Kampar, Perak. This is a small town that i had my early education. I had a lot of fun childhood memories in this town. I was among
the top in my class since primary school and early secondary school. Due to my academic results, I was accepted in Mara Junior Science College (MRSM) in 1993. I remember there was about 13 MRSM nationwide in 1993. I was accepted to the college in Terengganu, one of the best MRSM in the country.
To those who may not know what MRSM is. MRSM is a full boarding school, managed by MARA agency, especially built to nurture elite Bumiputra students. Good Malay Students are selected into this school. MRSM has full facilities,
with the best teachers, in the college to teach the group of elite students. You cannot imagine how many hundred times of allocation to one MRSM a year, paid by government, compared to the normal national school.
In 1993, I was among the few non-Bumiputras being selected into this school. During my intake, there were about 300 over Malay students, 3 Chinese and
3 Indians. I was one of the three Chinese being selected into this elite school.
I was told then that we were recruited into the school in order to create competition among students so that the Malays can do even better. I decided to go for it. Reason for my decision was with the hope that i could secure a MARA scholarship after i finish my SPM. I have 3 elder brothers and one younger sister. To me, it's a heavy financial burden to my parents to send all
of us to universities. It was almost impossible for my parents to send any one of us overseas. To go overseas for my higher education, this was the only way. Malaysians know how much MARA spends a year in sending students to further their studies after graduating from Secondary Five. When i first joined MRSM in Terengganu, i was told by the school principal that i will be 'treated equally'.
I just had to work hard.
During my 2 years in this school, i worked very hard. In the school, i got to know many Malays. I could see how we live in harmony. We helped each other in our studies. We spent our weekend in town together, shopping for groceries. I felt how Malaysians should live together. In the boarding school, i do not see any barriers between us. Very often, it is the politician who divides the society by using racial sentiments. In fact, i made many new Malay friends in the boarding school. No RACIAL sentiments felt at all. We are all EQUAL in the school.
In all my 4 semesters in the school, i was the top student in all the 4 semesters. I scored the highest in the SPM Mara Preparatory Exam. This exam was more important than SPM as it was based on this result, MARA would decide which students they would sponsor to go overseas. As other students in my batch, i had asked for an application form to fill for the upcoming interview. I was denied to have the form. Reason given by the MARA Headquarter Office - I am not a Bumiputra. Despite being born here and live as a Malaysian since
i was born, i was told by my own country that i was not entitled to the scholarship's application as i am a non-Bumiputra. Everyone in my school wondered why they had accepted me at the first place. My college principal, with my class teacher, were kind enough to write me a letter to the MARA headquarter to appeal so that my case can be an exception. I felt disappointed being treated this way in my own country. Despite being the top in the school, I was denied of education. This is with one reason - that I am a non-Bumiputra. Everyone in my family was disappointed as it had meant that I had "wasted" two years. I felt like i was 'used and then dumped'
Frankly, even though i did not get the scholarship in the end, i had real good memories in this school as the school made me felt that i was a Malaysian.
The people in the school, who include my teachers and friends who are mostly Malays, treat me the same. After Form 5, most of my Malay friends were sent overseas, fully sponsored by MARA, for courses that i had dreamt of going for - Medicine. I had no choice but went back to Ipoh to pursue my Secondary Six.
I worked very hard for another 2 years in Ipoh. I scored 5As in STPM Exam. With this result, i secured a place in medicine in the top local University in Malaysia. I finally made it. Looking back, i have to work double hard, if not triple hard, to achieve my dream compare to my other fellow Malaysians. However, i see it as a challenge. It indeed made me stronger. After 5 years,
i graduated with a medical degree in 2003. I served my country for 4 years before i decided to move to Singapore.
JBU: Any plans to head back to Malaysia ?
Justin: It depends on the change in the country. I hope that i will be able to return to Malaysia to serve my Malaysian people one day.
JBU: Do you have any message of hope for Malaysia?
Justin: It has been 5 years since i reside in Singapore. I work as a medical specialist now. Despite being in Singapore for 5 years, my heart has never changed. I still love the country - Malaysia that makes me feel that change
is needed. Even all the stories about what happened to me 10 years ago,
i am still a Malaysian at heart. I joined BERSIH and 428, as a medical volunteer.
No matter how the policy in the country divides us, we believe that things will change one day. We still have hope in the country.
. When Singaporean asks me if i am a local, i am quite proud to tell them that -
" I AM A MALAYSIAN"