Malaysia Day Message from BERSIH: Malaysians Deserve Better! Make Voting Easier for Out-of-Region and Overseas Voters

The celebration of Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day this year is especially meaningful. As a nation, we have come of age. The weak institutions that allowed a Prime Minister to rob the nation of billions of Ringgits are being restored now and have sent Najib to jail.

This would not be possible without the patriotic act of the 12,246,483 voters who collectively voted in the 14th General Election.

To keep politicians and state officials in check, citizens’ voting right must be enhanced. All Malaysians must be able to vote with maximum convenience and at minimal cost. This, however, is not true for some 500,000 Sabahan and Sarawakian voters who reside in the Peninsula and 60,000 Peninsula voters who reside in the Borneo regions.

If they want to vote in every federal or state election, they must take leaves from work and fork out some RM 1,000 or more to travel back to their constituency.  Naturally, this means those who cannot afford air tickets or take leaves would be disenfranchised.

Considering that most Sabahans and Sarawakians leave their region because of inadequate education and employment opportunities at home, not allowing these out-of-region voters their absentee voting right is systematically marginalising Sabahans and Sarawakians in Malaysian politics.

Unsurprisingly, even when national turnout was high, such as 76% (2008), 85% (2013) and 82% (2018), Sarawak registered only 65%, 76% and 73% for its parliamentary elections, lower by 9-11% points while Sabah recorded only 69%, 80% and 77% in the same polls, lower by 5-7%.

It is unimaginable and unforgivable that we as a nation tolerate this political and electoral injustice for 59 years!

The EC can set up ‘Mega Advance Voting Centres’ in every state capital for out-of-region voters to vote three days before Polling Day, to have their votes sent back to the Returning Officers in their home constituencies to be counted on Polling Day. The Health Ministry had shown Malaysians that mass operation in Vaccination Centres (PPV) could be administered orderly and safely.

We also call for the simplification of overseas voting process for the 1.8 millions Malaysians living overseas, to replace manual operation of posting ballots by allowing voters to download and print PDF version of their postal ballots, so that ballots can be posted soon after Nomination Day and reach their Returning Officers in time.

Both enfranchising out-of-region voters with advance voting facilities and simplification of overseas postal voting must happen before GE15 to prevent a low turnout of 55% as it was in the Johor state election this March. A low turnout weakens the next Government’s legitimacy, especially if it must carry out unpopular but necessary measures in crises.

BERSIH reiterates our call on Merdeka Day that Malaysia deserves the following ten reforms before GE15:

  1. An independent Public Prosecution Office that is separated from the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) which should function mainly as the Government’s legal advisor.
  2. Expansion of advance voting facilities for out-of-region (Sabah, Sarawak and the Peninsula) voters and simplified postal voting process for overseas voters, to increase turnout.
  3. A ten-year tenure limit to Prime Minister, to reduce corruption and political instability due to concentration of power.
  4. A Parliamentary Services Act, to enable Parliament’s administrative and financial autonomy to do better in law-making and oversight of government.
  5. A Political Finance Act, with public funding for political parties, to curb corruption and money politics.
  6. An Equitable Constituency Development Fund (CDF) Act, to ensure all parliamentarians receive equitable allocation for their constituencies.
  7. An independent Election Commission (EC), answerable to Parliament and not controlled by Prime Minister.
  8. A reformed Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), answerable to Parliament and not controlled by Prime Minister.
  9. Establishment of “Private Members’ Business” timeslot in parliamentary sittings and making “Private Members’ Bills” viable to empower both Opposition Members and Government Backbenchers.
  10. A new constitutional convention of “Fixed Term Parliament”, that a Prime Minister can only seek early dissolution in only two circumstances, first, having lost the confidence of Parliament, or, second, two-third of parliamentarians support an early election.

Malaysia deserves better. We urge all Malaysians who treasure democracy and real stability join us in demanding all political parties and parliamentarians to support these ten reforms. Express your demand for a better Malaysia by voting and encouraging all Malaysians 18 and above to come out and vote. And remember, you are already automatically registered to vote. Just find out where your polling station, bring your IC and vote.

Statement issued by:
The Steering Committee of BERSIH

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