The President of the Dewan Negara Tan Sri Rais Yatim has been spending his downtime scraping the bottom of the barrel to come up with frankly laughable excuses over why Malaysia’s voting age should not be lowered to 18.
The so-called “Undi 18” bill to amend the Constitution had been passed by both Houses of Parliament in 2019 via a bipartisan vote and gazetted, although the lowering of the voting age and automatic voter registration will reportedly only be implemented from July 2021.
In his latest broadside, Rais has claimed that the reforms are impractical because it supposedly will take up too much time and resources.
However, the Election Commission (EC) has stated that it is confident it will be able to carry out the processes involved. As such, Rais should not cast doubt or aspersions on the competence of the EC.
He should also realise that the bill that enabled the changes was passed virtually unanimously, including by members of his own party, particularly the MP who is currently the Prime Minister.
It is increasingly clear that Rais, for whatever reason, is simply against 18-year-olds having the vote and appears to be trying to build up a case for the government to not go along with it.
If so, he should have the decency to come out and say so and face the youth of Malaysia who he is attempting to disenfranchise. If he will not do so, he should respect the Constitution as well as the parliamentary process and cease his Quixotic attempts to undermine the lowering of the voting age.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (who as noted, voted for the amendment) should clarify where he stands on Rais’ attacks on the Undi 18 reforms. I also challenge him to commit to not call for elections until the automatic voter registration process is completed and 18-year-old Malaysians are eligible to vote.
I also note reports that as many as 6 states have yet to amend their state Constitutions to lower the voting age for their legislatures to 18.
This should be done as soon as possible to support the strengthening of democracy in Malaysia—and hence, yet another reason for the Prime Minister to expedite the lifting of the Emergency to facilitate this.
Young Malaysians, especially the 18-year-old cohort, should follow as well as judge the actions of these politicians very carefully, to question whether our country’s democracy is in safe hands and vote accordingly—when they are able to.
NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN CHIEF ORGANISING SECRETARY
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT