Article 119 of our Federal COnstitution states clearly that every citizen who has attained the age of 21 has a right to vote.
This is the principle of a one-man-one vote system.
So on this principle alone, whether the person is residing overseas or locally makes no difference to his or her right to vote. As long as that person is over 21 years of age, of sound mind and has not committed certain crimes , he or she must be allowed to vote.
The Election Commission is just a vehicle of the people entrusted to effect that right and thus to oversee the process of election.
So for those Malaysians residing overseas, as long as they are still Malaysians, they should have the same right as those within the country.
There are of course many logistic consideration to allow Malaysians residing overseas to vote. But as other nations have done this, there is no reason why our Election Commission cannot follow suit. It should come out with a procedure to allow these citizens to vote.
A component party made a about turn on this, and now the top leaders said that the objections over overseas voting is the personal view of its representatives. It is indeed laughable, and Malaysians are not that stupid. It is like the No 2 leader blaming the board of directors of a hospital of misleading him when that hospital compound was hit with tear gas and water cannons in the July rally. He made a mistake of denying without getting the fact right, but apologies are beyond our politicians. ANyway that is how high politicians’ ego can be: they must not be seen making a mistake.
The initial objection of that party must have something to do with the political inclinations of the overseas vote. Most of those residing overseas that I have talked to would have voted for change.
Many of these are students studying overseas, and among them are many who could not get into the courses of their choice and so have no choice but to opt for expensive overseas study; in the process of studying, most would have finished off all their parents savings.
Many work overseas. AMong them are people who would not have been able to achieve their potentials locally. Many stay behind because they seek the recognition that has or would have eluded them in Malaysia. Others could not get into the fields of their choice. Still others opt for the higher remuneration and better working and living conditions overseas.
ALl these people would have no qualms voting for change. ANd these are a sizeable group. I estimate there are at least a milllion Malaysians over 21 residing overseas.
My own graduating medical class in 1977 had 88 Malaysians out of 120, in the then University of Singapore. Only a handful came back. MAny have remained in SIngapore, and many moved to UK, AUstralia, US and NZ. We are still in touch via emails. Most have become citizens of their residing places but there are still some who have remained loyal and are still Malaysians, even though they hold PR status of their residing countries. The same applies to my many high schools classmates who have stayed overseas many years but are still citizens.
Then there are those who started residing overseas in the 2000s. Among them are my children and most of these are still Malaysians, and most of these come back often to Malaysia during their holidays.
I have spoken to many of my children’s classmates, and as i have blogged before, none of them have come back, ( this may be peculiar to medicine, but I think few from other fields came back too). BUt most of them come back annually for holiday and most of them keep in touch with online media on what is happening in our country. Most are loyal citizens who have no choice but to work overseas. So who are we to deny them their rights when the right is enshrined in our constitution?
We cannot deny them this right to vote just because this group has a higher tendency to vote for change. It is up to the government to court them and try to change their thinking, just like what the government should do with local voters.