Enforce Undi18 Bill now!


Enforce Undi18 Bill now!
By Zan Azlee

What is up with Undi18? People have been in a bunch since a few national leaders associated with the ruling government have been making negative comments about it. The first was Dewan Negara president Rais Yatim. He mentioned that Undi18 is a bad decision because those below the age of 21 are still too immature to vote.

Then it was Youth and Sports Deputy Minister Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal who said the same thing, even though he was one of the supporters of the bill in 2019 when he was still a part of the Pakatan Harapan government. He is now part of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government. So, go figure.

But in all fairness, he did clarify his statement and stressed that he is still in support of Undi18. His only concern was that those under 21 had to be made more aware of politics so that they can be better informed when it comes to voting. He wants a more institutionalised form of political education to be implemented.

Basically, Undi18 was a bill that was presented in parliament two years ago by the Harapan government. It called for lowering the voting age to 21 and also automatic voter registration. It is one of the first bills that received wide support from all parties. It was passed with 211 MPs voting for it.

Although it is passed, it is still not in force because a date needs to be determined by the federal government and this has to be notified by the gazette. So, from the time it was passed in parliament till today, the government has already changed hands from Harapan to PN.

Will the PN government continue with the process? If we think about it, they should because they were all a part of the process that supported and passed the bill in parliament. However, we cannot discount the concern that people have that it might not happen because of the perception that the current government has given whatever they have done so far.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin

 

To be fair, the government has yet to make any official statement about bringing the law into force. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has yet to make any statement on it.

Recently, Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said that he is still in full support of Undi18 because it will empower the youth and that they should be given the trust to make decisions.

I think this law must immediately be brought into effect, especially before the next elections. We have had enough of the old hats in power and we need to introduce fresh blood into the system.

With new young voters, this will most probably happen. According to estimates by the Election Commission, there will be an increase of around seven million voters if Undi18 is implemented.

I am also of the opinion that the youth have more at stake in the country to vote as compared to anyone else. Think about it. They are 18 years old and they have their entire lives ahead of them. Wouldn’t they want to ensure that their country that they will be living in governed and administered the best way possible?

How long do you think a 70-plus-year-old person has to live? Okay! Okay! I don’t mean to be ageist! I just couldn’t help myself! Jokes aside, I just want to make my point that the youth has a lot of stake in how the country turns out. Shouldn’t they have a hand in making sure that it is shaped how they want it to be?

It is also ageist against the youth when the older generation continuously think that they know better just because they are older. How do you think the phrase “Okay Boomer!” came about? We’re talking about legal adults here. It is 18 years old, and not eight years old, okay! Minds have already matured.

If it is the lack of political awareness and education that the Boomers are concerned about, then the Boomers have no one else but themselves to blame. Why are there no social studies lessons introduced in schools and universities? Why are students (and faculty, for that matter) not allowed to participate in politics?

I agree that political and social awareness through education needs to be ramped up in this country. I agree that the youth could use more exposure and literacy when it comes to these issues. Nothing would make a better tipping point for this to happen than for the government to immediately enforce the UNDI18 law.

All the political parties and leaders would fear the new young voters and hence they would have to amend their manifestos and the way they plan to govern the country to satiate their needs. Why should there be a fear of changing? Could it be because the change would mean no longer having policies that are self-serving and instead be people-serving?

Personally, I can only see good coming out of lowering the voting age to 18. To empower the youth is to give them responsibility. To empower the youth is to open their eyes. To empower the youth is to give them the realisation that they can make a change.

I have faith in the Malaysian youth, and everyone should too.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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