Zahid was reported by Malaysiakini in its article titled, “Best not to vote if you can’t get leave, Zahid tells M’sians in S’pore” (13.4.2018) as saying,

“In my view, the government neither encourages nor discourages (returning to vote) as that is an individual right. But if the employer from said country (Singapore) does not permit (their Malaysian workers to take leave), then I think the best thing to do is to not come back to vote.” 

BN Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin defended polling on a week day saying that voters had about a month to prepare for GE14 and that there were various laws compelling employers to give them time off from work to vote while caretaker Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed said there was no need to declare May 9, the polling day for GE14 a public holiday for the same reason.

The sentiments expressed by the said BN leaders above are obviously a far cry from those of the people whose utter disgust of the Election Commission’s move to fix GE14 on a week day saw Putrajaya intervening by declaring May 9 a public holiday.

There can be no doubt that voting is a vital cornerstone of any democracy and as such, the people must be given all the encouragement to exercise such right which is why

elections are traditionally held on weekends. Some countries such as Belgium, Argentina and Australia have mandatory voting laws by typically imposing fines upon those who fail to vote for no valid reason.

Zahid’s statement and those of other BN leaders referred to above gives the impression that the government is not interested in whether or not most Malaysians are able to cast their vote on May 9 with some beginning to wonder if the government prefers a low voter turnout that day for reasons best known to itself.

Instead of discouraging Malaysians in Singapore (or anywhere else for that matter) from voting, Zahid ought to be vigorously wooing them back to vote by perhaps appealing to the Singapore government to encourage employers there to allow their Malaysian employees leave and the necessary time off from work to come back to vote on election day.

It is most disappointing for the country’s number two to be seen as not encouraging Malaysians abroad to come back to vote. This surely creates the perception that the government is afraid of a high voter turnout on May 9 which, in itself, is reason to doubt its sincerity in promoting free and fair elections.

 

RAMKARPAL SINGH

INCUMBENT MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR BUKIT GELUGOR