LIKE many Malaysians, I am naturally proud of ex-Muar High School boy Tan Zhongshan’s extraordinary academic feat (“Malaysian is top law student at Cambridge University”, The Star, Oct 19).
By chalking up the record as the overall best law student in the entire Cambridge University, his performance has probably even surpassed that of the university’s luminary alumni like Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and his late wife.
Tan is but one of the thousands of young and bright Chinese Malaysians who have received scholarships from the Singapore government to study at different levels from secondary one to university in the city state.
It is no secret that Singapore officials would only recruit the “cream among the crop” for this purpose and those who excel will be sent to Oxbridge colleges and the Ivy League universities. Upon graduation, they would be bonded to work for a number of years in Singapore or elsewhere in Singapore-owned corporations. By then, most will not return to Malaysia.
Needless to say, many such children from poor families who were unable to get state aid in Malaysia have benefited immensely from this financial assistance. In return, they generally feel grateful to the Singapore government.
In Tan’s case, he said he would join the Singapore legal service. This is another achievement because only the very best of law graduates would be selected to join the Singapore judicial and legal services. It is also financially rewarding considering that a Singapore High Court judge is said to draw an annual salary inclusive of perks amounting to about S$1mil (RM2.4mil).
However, one has to take up Singapore citizenship if he aspires to become a judge or hold a senior position in their legal service.
This reminds me of my own experience. Unable to get financial aid from the state, my family had to privately finance my law studies in England. At that time, the then British government had begun imposing full-cost fees on foreign students as well as prohibiting them from seeking employment while studying there.
I wrote to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher telling her that the common wealth of the Commonwealth ought to be commonly shared! I did receive a reply from the British Department of Education and Science on her behalf justifying the new policy on the grounds of national interest.