Overseas Malaysians file suit against Election Commission

2

A group of Malaysian citizens overseas has filed a lawsuit against the Election Commission asking the High Court to compel the Commission to register them as absent voters, reports MyOverseasVote.

Photo credit: hazuism.blogspot.com

The group of six Malaysians, who all work in the UK, applied to be registered as absent voters in order to be able to vote in the coming general election, but were instead registered by the Commission as ordinary voters, who must return to Malaysia to vote in person.

At present, the Commission only allows government servants, members of any armed forces and full-time students to register as absent voters, so as to be entitled to vote by post at the next election. The bulk of Malaysian citizens living overseas, who are working in the private sector, and those who are retired or unemployed, are required to return to Malaysia to vote in person.

In addition, although the existing regulations allow all Malaysian students over the age of 21 to register as absent voters, Malaysian students overseas who have attempted to register have had to overcome many obstacles put in their way, with some embassies and consulates refusing to register students who were not sponsored by the government and others refusing to register students who had previously registered as ordinary voters at home. Although the EC has clarified that all students are eligible to register as absent voters, as recently as this month the Malaysian consulate in New York was still telling students that only government scholars could register as absent voters.

READ MORE:  Azhar's departure a lost opportunity for electoral reform

Dr Teo Hoon Seong, one of the litigants, said:

I believe that the right to vote is the fundamental cornerstone of democracy. It is the absolute duty of government to ensure that each and every citizen is treated equally within the law in a manner which allows them to exercise this right.

The lawsuit, which was filed at the KL High Court on Tuesday and served on the Attorney-General and the Election Commission on Friday afternoon, is based on Articles 8, 10 and 119 of the Federal Constitution, and is supported by the MyOverseasVote campaign for voting rights for an estimated 700000 to 1 million Malaysian citizens who live and work overseas, and follows in the wake of the Global Bersih 2.0 movement, where Malaysians around the world turned out on 9 July 2011 to support clean and fair elections in Malaysia and to demand voting rights for Malaysians overseas.

A MyOverseasVote spokesman said:

The extraordinary thing about the current regulations is that a Malaysian serving in the Israeli army would be entitled to vote in the next Malaysian general election as an absent voter, but a Malaysian who works overseas for Petronas, which contributes 40 per cent of Malaysian government revenue, would not.

Dr Teo added:

To say that only certain groups of citizens are allowed the postal ballot is nonsense that amounts to outright discrimination against the others who aren’t. There are nearly a million Malaysians living overseas. Re-enfranchise them now and give them their rights.

Although Election Commission Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof announced on 25 August 2011 that all Malaysians overseas would be allowed to vote by post, the Commission has recently clarified to MyOverseasVote that the Chairman had never promised that the Commission would do so before the next general election.

READ MORE:  New Election Commission chair should inspire public confidence and continue with electoral reforms

Two months after the announcement was made, the Commission has still taken no action to enable Malaysians overseas even to begin the process of registering as absent voters, which usually takes three to six months. Overseas Malaysians are increasingly worried that the 13th General Election will come and go while they continue to be deprived of their constitutional right to vote.

As the MyOverseasVote spokesman explained:

Few Malaysians working in the private sector are able to take a few weeks off work and to organise flights to return to Malaysia at short notice. And even if they could, it is improbable that all 1 million of them could book flights to return to Malaysia at the same time. And why should they have to, when the Election Commission is already organising diplomatic pouches to send postal ballots to Malaysian embassies and consulates in London, Sydney, New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo, etc., to enable government servants and students to vote?

Dr Teo called for other overseas Malaysians to contribute to MyOverseasVote’s campaign at www.myoverseasvote.org, concluding:

It’s time for us to be allowed a stake in our country’s future. I want all Malaysians to remember this: the government works for us, not the other way round.

The lawsuit filed last week seeks to compel the Commission to register the six litigants as absent voters and to compel the Commission to amend its regulations within 14 days to allow Malaysians overseas to apply to be registered as absent voters. The KL High Court will decide on 14 November 2011 whether to grant permission for the judicial review to proceed.

Thanks for dropping by! The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

Our voluntary writers work hard to keep these articles free for all to read. But we do need funds to support our struggle for Justice, Freedom and Solidarity. To maintain our editorial independence, we do not carry any advertisements; nor do we accept funding from dubious sources. If everyone reading this was to make a donation, our fundraising target for the year would be achieved within a week. So please consider making a donation to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB Bank account number 8004240948.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
2 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Tang Loon Kong
Tang Loon Kong
19 Nov 2011 6.38am

I am one of those working overseas. Instead of seeing us as ‘traitors’ or disloyal citizens, the Malaysian government should regard us all as export materials grade. We are the flag carrier for Malaysia outside its borders. The issue of voting, we as citizens of Malaysia have the right to vote. It is the job of the government to mandate a mechanism ensuring voting is possible.Instead we get loads or rubbish from the government when voting is concerned. I remember, at one time, there was the Indonesian elections of some kind, the Indonesian embassies and consulates in China were in high gear to ensure their citizens over here in China vote. My Indonesian students and others was able to vote. Instead my experience with the Malaysian consulate in Shanghai was shocking. I remember Najib coming to Shanghai before he became the PM. All officials were at the airport to greet him because they could sense he was going to be the PM – and nobody important was in the consulate. Well, I asked myself – are these people public servants or political pundits? What are they… Read more »