LETTER | Global Bersih is appalled that the Malaysian government has actively discouraged Malaysians from exercising their basic civil right of voting.
Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed was reported on Jan 27 as ‘predicting’ that Malaysians returning from Singapore to vote in the 14th general election (GE14) will have less of an impact than they did in previous elections.
He also claimed those who returned to vote in the past had been ‘cheated’ by ‘opposition propaganda’.
Malaysians living in southern Thailand, Singapore, Brunei and Kalimantan (Indonesia) are forced to return to their home constituencies to vote in GE14.
Election Commission regulations put in place only a few months ago and without stakeholder consultation, deny them the possibility of voting abroad.
These Malaysians form the majority of the estimated two and a half million strong Malaysian diaspora. Those who do not have the means to travel home to vote have effectively been disenfranchised.
The deputy home minister’s statement is deeply disappointing - it reveals a partisan desire to stay in power at all costs, instead of engaging Malaysians in Singapore and around the world and encouraging democratic participation, as behoves a responsible government.
Global Bersih carried out inquiries among Malaysians in Singapore, and it is clear that Nur Jazlan is wrong in both his assumptions and his perception of his compatriots abroad.
More than half a million Malaysians live in Singapore. They come from all walks of life, from factory workers to professionals, and a significant number of them voted in the last general election (GE13).
Malaysians in Singapore also came out strongly in support of Global Bersih’s GE13 JomBalikUndi (‘go home to vote’) campaign. Indeed, a Singapore-based initiative helped a large number of Singapore-based Malaysians to return to cast their ballots.
This non-partisan effort by Singapore-based Malaysians unaffiliated with any political party provided an online platform for matching travel plans and sharing transport.
The campaign did not push the agenda of any political party and was welcoming of all Malaysians who wanted to exercise their constitutional right to cast their ballot.
Malaysians abroad, like their compatriots at home, are extremely concerned about the current state of affairs in Malaysia.
Rampant corruption heightened racial and religious segregation and tensions (and the state’s role in this), the violation of civil liberties and the almost complete erosion of a free and fair electoral process, are all matters of grave concern.
The Malaysian government's repeated undermining of these civil liberties guaranteed under the Federal Constitution also damages the integrity of the country's institutions and faith in good governance.
Malaysians from all corners of the world, including Singapore, have long campaigned alongside their compatriots for free and fair elections. They want elections free of gerrymandering and malapportionment, and of the suppression of dissent and corruption that continually blight our elections.
Contrary to the deputy minister’s statement, with the continued decline of political freedom and the increasing incidence of corruption and religion- and race-baiting by politicians and others, as well as the inaction or active encouragement of the state in the face of this, Global Bersih expects that even more overseas Malaysians will make every effort to exercise their right to vote.
Singapore-based and other Malaysians who have been denied the right to vote overseas will do their utmost to travel home and cast their ballots. At Global Bersih, we support every Malaysian’s desire to exercise their constitutional right to vote, and this is the case for Malaysians in Singapore.
We call on the relevant authorities in both Singapore and Malaysia to recognise Singapore-based Malaysians’ right to cast their ballot and to grant them unhindered ingress and egress at immigration checkpoints.
Lastly, Global Bersih would like to take this opportunity to call on all Malaysians based in Singapore, Southern Thailand, Brunei and Kalimantan to return home to cast their ballot in the coming GE14. The future of your country depends on you, and your vote can make a difference.
GLOBAL BERSIH is a non-profit organisation established under the Swiss Civil Code. It aims to support Malaysian civil society’s efforts to strengthen Malaysia’s maturing democracy using peaceful and legal means of action.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.