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Soon says Undi18 is not a matter of youths changing the course of the ruling political parties, but about them having their voices heard in the elections via ballot boxes. — Borneo Post pic
Soon says Undi18 is not a matter of youths changing the course of the ruling political parties, but about them having their voices heard in the elections via ballot boxes. — Borneo Post pic

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KUCHING, Oct 27 — The rush in calling the next state election with the intention to avoid the implementation of Undi18 could be considered as voter suppression.

For the record, Undi18 refers the constitutional amendment Bill meant to allow those aged 18 to 20 to vote in elections.

In pointing this out, Undi18 Sarawak co-coordinator Soon Wei Xen regards the Bill as a non-bipartisan reform that transcends all parties and demographic groups, and it should be a topic of importance for all political aisles.

“In the matter of per se, the state election is announced henceforth Undi18 cannot be in, it could lead to voter suppression should the intention and reason for such dissolving (the State Legislative Assembly, or DUN) be true,” he told The Borneo Post here.

Soon said thanks to the legal success in the Kuching High Court, youths could finally exercise their fundamental rights as citizens of Malaysia through the ballot boxes.

“There are sentiments where there is a fear of a Tsunami Belia (Youth Tsunami), similar to past political tsunamis,” he said.

In the Sarawakian context, Soon said 125,000 to 135,000 Sarawakian youths would be affected should the state election be initiated before the implementation of Undi18.

 “This is not a matter of youths changing the course of the ruling political parties, but a matter of youths having their voices heard in the elections via the ballot boxes.”

However, Soon said the correlation between the implementation of Unidi18 and the calling of the state election would still be subjected to debate.

“From my point of view, all parties should make haste to ensure that every citizen, including youths, of this country is given fair and equal treatment as designated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Should the relevant parties care for today’s youth, we would not have such topic of discussion.”

Touching on the legal success of the Undi18 lawsuit at Kuching High Court in September, Soon said it was pronounced that the federal government ought to initiate Undi18 and automatic voter registration by the year-end.

He said from thereon, efforts had been made towards that direction, such as the Election Commission (EC) setting up a webpage to enable people check the voter registration status.

“Per state election-wise, there are growing sentiments that the Sarawak state election is looming, with rumours saying that it would be announced November’s end.

“Many have said that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has the final say over the dissolution of the DUN Sarawak, as the Emergency Order remains in force until February next year.”

Politics and constitution aside, Soon said the question that he constantly pondered upon was whether holding the state election at this point of time was necessary in view of the current Covid-19 situation.

“Many are rebuking, that we do not need another crisis like the (one that struck) Sabah state election, where Covid-19 cases boomed. On this, I concur,” said Soon.

Meanwhile, Chua Jia Le, who would turn 21 in a month, said he looked forward to exercising his voting right for the first time.

“However, I do have one concern — it is that I hope that strict standard operating procedures (SOP) would be enforced at the voting stations to avoid overcrowding during this time of the pandemic,” he said when asked to comment about Undi18.

Chua added that many of his peers might not share the same views over voting in the next election, but he felt the opinions of the younger generation should be considered in the handling of the country.

The Kuching High Court had, in September, ordered the federal government through the EC to expedite the implementation of the lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, the latest by Dec 31 this year.

Kuching High Court Judicial Commissioner Alexander Siew had allowed the judicial review application filed by five Sarawakian students, aged between 19 and 20, against the federal government’s previous decision to delay the implementation of Undi18 Bill, which was passed with bipartisan support in Parliament back in 2019.

The reforms under the Bill also included automatic voter registration and setting the minimum age of 18 for those eyeing to contest in elections. — Borneo Post

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