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EC could help more East Malaysians and others to vote

  • No one shall be penalized by having to incur unnecessary air travel costs just to exercise his or her duty to vote.

By Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam

Most Malaysians would welcome well known activist Maria Chin's public call to the election commission to allow East Malaysians living in Peninsular Malaysia and others to register as absentee voters.

After all, it is their constitutional right to vote. Why should we deny this precious just because of some outdated regulations, insisting that Sabahans and Sarawakians living in Peninsular Malaysia return to their hometowns to vote?

Why can't we give them the same privilege as emergency workers, police, army and media personnel, to vote before the polling day as absentee voters?

Why do we subject the 150,000 Sabahans and Sarawakians to the requirement of going back to their homes 1,000 miles away to vote?

In order to vote, they will have to incur heavy costs of air travels. We are thus penalizing these Malaysian voters, our brothers and sisters from East Malaysia!

The same applies to thousands of West Malaysians who are working as civil servants, teachers, doctors and businessmen faithfully serving in Sabah and Sarawak.

Maria Chin and a whole host of NGO leaders and particularly those voters who are directly involved, have appealed to the government and especially the election commission to rectify this electoral irregularity in the interest of what Maria Chin says, would promote "transparency and accountability".

Integrity of EC

However, I would humbly propose that we add the goal of "integrity" to "transparency and accountability".

How can the public and voters have full faith, confidence and trust in the electoral system if the election commission continues to ignore the people's appeals for more care, consideration, sympathy, justice and righteousness for ordinary loyal Malaysians who want to vote? The EC must show more empathy to win more respect!

So, our appeal to the government and the election commission is to take heed and enable us to undertake our patriotic duty of actively participating in our sacred responsibility to vote.

We should not be penalized by having to incur unnecessary air travel costs just to exercise our duty to vote.

Surely, the primary aim of the election commission is to encourage and enable all Malaysians to fulfil their duty to vote rather than discourage and even deny them their fundamental democratic and right to do so.

I believe the government and the opposition will be greatly rewarded if Sabahans and Sarawakians in Peninsular Malaysia as well as Peninsula voters working in Sabah and Sarawak are all allowed to attain their fair and legitimate status as absentee voters.

Please don't alienate them but go all out to win their hearts and minds and support. Don't earn their regret and remorse instead!

Hence, my appeal to the government is: please decide soon to help more East Malaysians and others from Peninsular Malaysia in a similar position to register as absentee voters in time for the fast coming general elections.

(Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam is the Chairman of ASLI Center for Public Policy Studies.)



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