Posts Tagged ‘Overseas’

Does the Election Commission Really Want Us to Vote?

February 16, 2008

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?