As a Malaysian who is currently based overseas, I had recently made several informal enquiries about casting a postal vote through the High Commission here in London. I was quite surprised when I was told that provisions were not being made for postal votes.
On calling the High Commission yesterday, I spoke to someone at the Consular division who informed me once again that there were no provisions for postal votes. A curious thing then occurred during the conversation. The same person suggested I should speak to someone else at the Information division.
I agreed and was duly transferred to the Information division and the person I spoke to confirmed that there were indeed provisions for postal votes and proceeded to ask me whether I was a student. When I confirmed that I was, I was told to contact the Malaysian Students Department (MSD). Upon contacting the MSD, I was asked if I had been registered and I said that I had not.
I was then told that a registration form would be posted to me. When I asked about what the process was, for example, whether the registration form would be processed at the High Commission, MSD or back in KL, the surprising answer given to me was that the person I was speaking to did not know as this person had not read the form!
I must stress here that all the individuals I spoke to yesterday were polite but I am left astounded by the level of misinformation so flippantly allowed to float about over such an important concern – our voting rights!
First, why are High Commission staff not properly informed of whether or not postal voting is allowed?
Second, while I can't find fault with individuals if they are not properly instructed, why are High Commission staff who are unsure of whether or not postal voting provisions have been made so ready to say ‘no’? A better answer would be ‘I am unsure but let me pass you to someone who can better assist you’. An answer of ‘No’ is sure to deter many from making further enquiries, infuriated though they may be.
Third, if this is the level of misinformation present at a High Commission as large and as important as London, in a country where there is a large concentration of Malaysians, what can we expect of smaller, less well resourced Malaysian missions?
As I await the delivery of the registration form, I am doubtful that I will be in a position to cast my vote in time.
I am guessing that the Election Commission (EC) is the body that is ultimately responsible for ensuring that all Malaysians, including Malaysians based overseas, are able to cast their votes efficiently and with a minimum of fuss.
If this is true, then I am wondering just how seriously do the members of the Election Commission take their jobs?
If my experience here in London has been replicated across the globe, then the only reasonable conclusion is that the EC has been negligent in carrying out its duty towards Malaysians who are overseas.
I am also left questioning whether the reason that the EC has been negligent in this regard is because Malaysians who are overseas are in a better position to derive their news from non-Malaysian mainstream media resources and are thus less likely to be bombarded by one-sided news favouring the incumbent government. As a result, overseas Malaysians are often also more exposed to the problems back home and are thus more likely to vote for the opposition than the average Malaysian.
Could any of this have any bearing on just why overseas Malaysians are allowed to be fed such misinformation regarding our voting rights? In light of all this, I am ultimately left wondering: just how much does the EC want us overseas Malaysians to vote?
Not very much is my guess.