Does the Election Commission Really Want Us to Vote?

Election Fever is well and truly in the air in Malaysia.

Malaysiakini has kindly published my letter on a closely related topic – our voting rights. As a Malaysian currently residing overseas the letter reflects my personal frustrations with the voting system and doubts about the General Elections. For the record my letter states that I had made enquiries ‘yesterday’ – that was the day before Parliament was dissolved.  There is one point in particular that I neglected to include in the letter; a point that is seemingly minor though it obscures an issue of great significance.

In the body of my letter I make three points. There is a fourth that I should have added which is: “Why was there a need to determine whether I am a student or not?” Following on from that: “Why was I directed to go through the Malaysian Students Department (MSD) when other Malaysians presumably deal with postal voting through the High Commission?”

One may say this is a minor point for it could be said that as there are so many Malaysian students in the UK that it would be impractical for the High Commission to deal with the voting needs of Malaysian students. My response to this is, if the High Commission can deal with the voting needs of the other Malaysians resident in the UK, why not Malaysian students as well?

The reason that I say this leads on to an issue of great significance is that most Malaysian students that I know here in the UK are already fearful of taking a public stance on contentious Malaysian issues. Reasons cited for this fear range from the Internal Security Act to the continuance of a scholarship to imperilled job prospects upon a return to Malaysia. Naturally, this creates the suspicion that the biggest reason they are fearful is because if they do take a stance it will not be one which is in line with the incumbent Government.

You may say I am barking up the wrong tree here. Perhaps the reasons for asking students to go through MSD are purely administrative. Yet such suggestions do not dampen the effect of this procedure on many students, which is to make them even more nervous and more fearful. This culture of fear is symptomatic of a larger problem in Malaysia – one linked to (i) our nation’s collective dislike of confrontation, (ii) a Hang Tuah complex (i.e. an unquestioning deference to authority) and (iii) the divisive spectre of 13 May 1969, so effectively used by the BN during every subsequent election.

What say you, dear reader?

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4 Responses to “Does the Election Commission Really Want Us to Vote?”

  1. K S Ong Says:

    I was about to post your letter in my blog as my son had enquired with the Malaysian High Commission and he was pissed off, which I suppose, was because of the various reasons stated by you.

    My wife was sitting next to YB Fong Po Kuan at a recent dinner in Pusing and she posed the question of who is eligible for postal voting. If I am not mistaken, she replied something to the effect that ‘only government servants serving overseas’ which basically means all the overseas students are deprived of their basic voting rights!

    I cannot help feeling like you do that there is always something sinister about BN’s way of doing things, how they allow Umno and MCA clubs overseas, yet forbid local as well as foreign students from participating in political activities, unless pro-BN, like making up the number whenever a VVIP visits the locality.

    I put it down to ‘insecurity and/or arrogance’ which I hope the coming elections will correct by initially denying them two-third majority.

    Thanks for your comment.

    The truth is that we all Malaysians over 21 are eligible for postal voting but the truth is often obscured. But how worrying it is when even Opposition MP’s are uncertain of the this fact!

    If we look at the upcoming elections, I too hope that BN will be denied it’s 2/3 majority. However, the reality is that the next result will probably see a chipping away of their majority instead of a denial of the 2/3. That is a goal that is more realistic for perhaps the next GE or two.

    The current political system where the major political parties are skewed towards serving narrow community interests has outlived its usefuleness and is the cause of so many of the ills of the country. Taking a wider view than just getting BN out, we need to also focus on developing and enhancing democratic institutions and structures that will ensure any future government is subservient to the interests and needs of all Malaysians.

  2. ace Says:

    you can send letters to the editors of Straits Times through a site called If Straits Times wont print your letter, you can publish it on for fellow citizens to read and comment on

    Thanks ace. As you suggest, I can see the value of such a site in so far as it allows people (e.g. Malaysian citizens) to discuss issues in a constructive manner.

    I am still in the midst of trying to register and will write about my experience soon.

  3. HopefulPessimist Says:

    Hi there,

    I totally understand your frustration. I was an overseas student too and I had to go through a lot of procedure before I could vote. And that fear you mentioned has constantly shadowing us (students overseas) especially those who are sponsored by the government.
    In Malaysia, however, the ruling party has another way of ensuring that they have the 2/3 majority. If you checked out this website, you’d see some examples of phantom voters who have registered with SPR.
    Sad but true. Maybe after this election, Malaysia will still remain the same, and again we fail to change the way things work…

    Thank you for the link HP. In the post made on 25th Feb it is mentioned that BN consists of 14 political parties. Funny how there is an emphasis on how competition in the field of business as it is thought to be good for the consumer and yet there is nothing comparable in the field of politics. If BN were Microsoft, they would have been sued long ago for being anti-competitive and probably been broken up into two or three pieces. Having said that look where an attempt to adjudicate on a split within UMNO landed the Lord President of the Judiciary in 1988. 🙂

    HP, irrespective of whether BN retains its two-thirds majority in these elections what is important is that we Malaysians ensure the development of strong institutions and frameworks to ensure that successive governments, BN or otherwise, must be responsive and accountable to the people. This will take time but key to such efforts must be the strengthening of our judiciary and loosening the reins on our media. On the issue of the media, it is not just a question of the muzzling legislation, but also who owns the media outlets (look at theSun as a recent example…) as the latter is far more difficult to tackle.

  4. Hafiz Says:

    Sorry if this comes as an intrusion but there is an effort to get as many bloggers as possible to blog about bloggers whom are running for public offices on one particular day. One blogger candidate per day.

    Below is the list:

    1. Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (Friday, February 29)
    2. Tony Pua (Saturday, March 1)
    3. Elizabeth Wong (Sunday, March 2)
    4. Jeff Ooi (Monday, March 3)
    5. che’GuBard (Tuesday, March 4)

    Please join! For more information, visit

    Hafiz – no intrusion, more a delight. As long as these bloggers continue to listen to the people, irrespective of race or religion I will support them.

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