Is 'Undi 18' a wise step?

Musleh Dzulkefly


LETTER | Within the course of a month, a proposal to lower the minimum voting age from 21 to 18 has been put forward by our Minister of Youth and Sports Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman. Syed Saddiq has been a consistent advocate of youth empowerment and this move is part of the initiative to include young voters into the big picture.

Understandingly, with positive feedback, there is a whisper of scepticism about having such young and raw men and women casting their votes when the time arrives. It begs the question of how far is our government come prepared for a worst-case scenario going down this political alley.

Granting such a prodigious right can either be triumphant in the name of democracy or venomous to the overall instrument of governance. Every policy formed must have a transparent blueprint and framework, especially if it involves public interest. This to instil confidence and trust in the governing body.

In dealing with young voters, many place education and having general and essential knowledge as extremely crucial pre-requisites before one can vote. The system we have today is arguably not up to standard when it comes to allowing fresh high school graduates to be a part of the democratic process. The nation now perceives that the future of this ever-developing nation is in the hands of a less-informed electorate.

In August 2017, the Merdeka Centre and Watan (an NGO) acquired facts and figures based on a survey conducted, concluding that 1 in 4 West Malaysians believe that their vote made no difference and a staggering 70 percent had no interests in politics. Mind you, this is a survey focused within the 21 to 30 age group.

This group comprised adults yet they themselves happened to be merely dangling in the political realm. This speaks volumes.

The system we have here today must undergo thorough scrutiny and perusal to the minutest of details. The syllabus includes political education, the basic science of governance. Teaching and learning modules in schools should operate parallel with the minister’s vision of empowering youth.

Take England, for example. In its statutory citizenship education module in its national curriculum, the subject comprises key concepts such as democracy, justice, rights and responsibilities, identities and diversity all taught to students aged of 1 to 16 years.

As one of the primary goals of the citizenship curriculum in England is to encourage greater participation in civic and political involvement, the Cels (Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study) showed that between Year 7, 9, 11, and 13 in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 respectively, the political participation of the students showed a steady and consistent increase.

Political activities outside school, signing petitions and electing pupil/school council members were the recurring form of political participation among the students. Once such approach is inculcated in children in our schools, then political engagement and involvement amongst youths will be the dawn of a new era in Malaysia.

The people are desirous to witness an enriching, democratic environment by embracing the younger generations into the picture so kudos to the government for moving to amend the constitution to lower the voting age.

Now, those aged 18 to 20 must debunk the dubiousness over their competency to vote. The rakyat wants to be proven wrong. I want to be proven wrong.

The writer is with Mahasiswa Amanah Nasional.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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