Opinion piece by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 5th of February, 2016
7828 individuals who won’t be spending Chinese New Year this year as Malaysians
The exodus among those going back to their hometowns to celebrate Chinese New Year has already begun. I’ll be staying put here in Selangor and enjoying the traffic, or the lack thereof. This year, however, I’ll be celebrating CNY with a little bit of a heavy heart due to a self-inflicted wound. One of the things I do every 3 months is to examine the quarterly electoral roll updates. To check on the number of newly registered voters, those who have changed their voting address and those who have been struck off the electoral roll. Recently, I was alerted by a colleague that a number of Malaysians have been taken off the electoral roll because they have been stripped of their citizenship (In BM: Dilucutkan kewarganegaraan). My curiosity was piqued. Were these individuals on some sort of terrorist watchlist which necessitated the removal of their citizenship? Were they guilty of some heinous crime such as treason? I had to investigate further.
My findings were surprisingly and saddening. Firstly, I found that 7828 individuals who had lost their eligibility to vote because they were no longer citizens. These individuals were removed from the electoral roll in 2014 and 2015. As a comparison, the Returning Expert’s Program (REP) under Talentcorp managed to attract 3600 Malaysians to return home over the past four years. This figure understates the number of Malaysians who have given up their citizenship over the past two years. It does not include those who have given up their citizenship but were never registered on the electoral roll. It almost certainly excludes those who have given up their Malaysian citizenship and have taken up citizenship in countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the other usual migration destinations for Malaysians. This list of names are almost certainly Malaysians who have given up their citizenship for Singapore citizenship because of the strictly enforced requirement that Malaysians who take up the Singapore citizenship needs to officially give up their Malaysian citizenship within a stipulated time.
Given the country of destination, it is not surprisingly that a majority of the 7828 individuals are Chinese (96.7%). The rest were Indians (2.7%), Malays (0.4%) and others (0.2%). The largest number of ex-Malaysians come from Johor (36.6%), followed by Perak (19.5%), Selangor (9.4%), WP Kuala Lumpur (6.7%), Melaka (5.6%), Penang (5.4%) and N. Sembilan (5.3%). (See Table 1 below)
What is saddening is that these are ex-Malaysians who cared enough about the country that they registered as voters but for various reasons, decided to give up their Malaysian citizenship for greener pastures across the causeway. A majority of them also fall into the 30 to 50 age group (80.5%) which means that they are in the most productive years of their working life (See Table 2 below).
56% of these ex-Malaysians are women while 44% are men. Without additional information, it is hard to gauge the reasons behind this gender difference e.g. the nature of their qualifications and jobs, whether they gave up their citizenship because of marriage reasons and so on.
Aside from these statistics, what saddened me the most was when I spotted a name on the list which looked familiar. He is almost certainly an ASEAN scholar from my year. A Klang boy, he is now a medical specialist in infectious diseases and currently works in a government hospital in Singapore. His case is but the tip of the iceberg of talented ex-Malaysians who have left the country and are thriving elsewhere. What makes this reality more ‘real’ (and hence, sadder) for me personally is seeing a name which I recognized.
If any ex-Malaysian is reading this piece, I hope that you haven’t totally given up on our country. Perhaps in the future, when there has been a change in government in Malaysia, you’ll be motivated to come back and contribute in some way. And if you are coming back to Malaysia for Chinese New Year, travel safe and eat well!
Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang
 For a more general report on Malaysians who have taken up Singapore citizenship, read here: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/bidding-farewell-to-malaysia