Most Malaysians would welcome well-known activist Maria Chin Abdullah's public call to the Election Commission (EC) to allow East Malaysians living in Peninsula Malaysia and others to register as absentee voters.
After all, it is their constitutional right to vote. Why should we deny this precious right, just because of some outdated regulations, and insist that Sabahans and Sarawakians in the peninsula have to return to their homes to vote?
Why can't we give them the same privilege as emergency, police, army and media personnel to send in absentee votes before polling day?
Why do we subject the 150,000 Sabahans and Sarawakians to the requirement of going back to their homes to vote hundreds of miles away? In order to vote, they would have to incur the heavy cost of air tickets. In doing so, we’re penalising our brothers and sisters from East Malaysia.
The same arguments can apply to the thousands of peninsula-based Malaysians
who are working as civil servants, teachers, doctors and business people, serving faithfully in Sabah and Sarawak.
A whole host of NGO leaders and voters affected by the rule have appealed to the EC to rectify this electoral irregularity, in the interest of, in Maria’s words, "transparency and accountability."
Integrity of EC
However, I would humbly propose that we add the goal of "integrity" to “transparency and accountability.”
How can we the voting public have full faith, confidence and trust in the electoral system if the ElC continues to ignore the people's appeals for more care, consideration, sympathy and justice in the rights of ordinary and loyal Malaysians who want to vote? The EC must show more empathy to win more respect.
So our appeal to the EC is to take heed and allow us to undertake our patriotic duty to actively participate in our sacred responsibility to vote. We should not be penalised by having to incur unnecessary air transport costs to exercise our civic duty.
Surely, the primary aim of the EC is to encourage and enable all Malaysians to fulfil their duty to vote, rather than discourage and even deny them their fundamental democratic and human rights.
To the government, please don't alienate East Malaysians, but go all out to win their hearts and minds. Don't instead give them cause for remorse. Those from and in East Malaysia should register as absentee voters in time for the coming election, for a better Malaysia!