KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 22 ― Social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir today urged migrating youth campaigners not to abandon Malaysia in their hearts, saying they can pursue their causes virtually even when they are no longer in the country.
The daughter of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said she would previously have urged aspiring young activists to remain for their causes, but now understood that their physical presence was no longer necessary thanks to the advent of the Internet.
"Back then... I would have said stay and fight. But with the technology change, we are more connected.
"So now I would tell the youth, ‘you can go anywhere you want but stay engaged, stay invested in Malaysia,’" Marina told a private dialogue session with young activists here.
The event was organised by polls rights group UndiMalaysia.
Marina was replying to a query by a young activist who said most youths are now thinking of leaving the country out of frustration with the socio-political situation here.
Last month, political observers including former Cabinet minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said Malays will soon join the Chinese in emigrating from Malaysia in a bid to escape the growing religious fundamentalism and authoritarianism that leaves little room for free thought and dissent.
While Malaysia bills itself as a moderate Muslim nation, recent developments have demonstrated an increasingly conservative and hardline approach to Islam here that is intolerant of cultures and practices not sanctioned by religious groups and authorities.
Over the years, Islamic authorities have gradually become more rigid in their interpretation and application of the Shariah code in Islam.
Marina had then also said she knew of several Malays who say they do not want to return to their homeland.
“It’s not for economic reasons, but simply because they feel that the environment here has become so negative and oppressive that it’s impossible to be able to live as peaceful, productive citizens anymore,” Marina told Malay Mail Online then.
More than two million Malaysians have emigrated since Merdeka.
Last year, a total 308,834 high-skilled Malaysians moved overseas, with 47.2 per cent going to Singapore, 18.2 per cent to Australia, 12.2 per cent to US and the rest to other countries like UK and Canada.
According to the same report, the number of skilled Malaysians living abroad rose 300 per cent in the last two decades, with two out of every 10 Malaysians with tertiary education opting to leave for either Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries or Singapore.