Getting More Young Sikhs To Vote

By Jeswan Kaur

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 18 (Bernama)
— The importance of casting one’s vote has yet to sink in with the young voters. A plethora of reasons were cited, none of which justified the excuses for not registering as voters.
When GerakSikh, a non-governmental organization, took on the task of educating youngsters on the importance of voting, it realised the real reasons that kept these group from registering as voters.
GerakSikh or Malaysia National Sikhs Movement president Tan Sri Darshan Singh Gill who spearheaded the campaign launched last April found that young eligible voters did not take their voting rights seriously.
Malaysians age 21 and above are eligible to vote and GerakSikh learned that 4.9 million eligible Malaysians had not done so yet. To Darshan, this reflected an unhealthy state of affairs.
GerakSikh was the first NGO in the country to assist the Election Commission in educating the young voters. It delivered the message on the importance of voting nationwide.
Darshan told Bernama that as of March last year, 10,248,948 names were on the electoral roll although the Election Commission records showed the existence of 15 million people eligible to vote.
GerakSikh worked at encouraging those who had yet to register to do so. There is a window period of three months from the date of registration and to gazette the voter’s name.
GerakSikh’s enquiries and research revealed the majority of those who had yet to register as voters comprised the younger group, those inthe ages of between 21 and 35. And they constituted 70 percent of the 4.9 million who had yet to register.
The reasons cited for not registering were endless, from being too busy to finding the process of registering a cumbersome one. Then there were others who said they had no idea where to get their names registered. It seemed that the right message had not been relayed to the people when it came to raising awareness on the importance of exercising one’s right through the ballot box. Equally disturbing to note is the attitude of yet another group which were not interested to vote.
Darshan said while GerakSikh had achieved some success in raising awareness among the young Malaysian voters on the importance of voting, the challenge was far from over as there was still that group which held the “tidak apa” or nonchalant attitude when it came to casting votes.
“Our campaign ceased on Feb 13 when the Parliament was dissolved. Throughour campaigns, we have realised that work still needs to be done to educate and encourage this group of youngsters who cannot care less about voting.
“They have failed to appreciate the fact that it is their duty to help in choosing the next Government,” Darshan told Bernama.
He said realising the challenge faced, GerakSikh decided to make the process as easy as possible for the young voters to get themselves registered.
“Since we hear a lot about the hassles of registering as voters, we decided to make this process as convenient as possible yet some still could notcare less.
“However, I really appreciate the support from the Election Commisssion to GerakSikh. After our campaign, we truly understand how daunting a task itis for the Commission to get voters to register and to cast their votes in the general election,” he said.
Darshan said GerakSikh would undertake a post-mortem to review the effectiveness of its campaign and determine if the exercise should be continued.
“I call upon all Malaysians who have registered to please exercise your right to vote. It is also your duty to choose the right government, a government with a good track record that can ensure peace, progress, harmony and stability,” he said.