Why overseas Malaysians are coming back to vote

I come across this article in the prestigious Foreign Policy Magazine written by a Malaysian residing in Switzerland and who will be coming back to vote.

Hundreds of thousands of Malaysians this time will be coming back for the same reason. Most of them will vote for change. In a situation where there is a very close fight between the two sides, these votes will make a difference.

I will quote the article here, for the original article, please  click  here  or Foreign Policy magazine.

Why I’m Flying Back to Malaysia to Vote

BY HUI MEI LIEW KAISER | APRIL 18, 2013

I’m a Malaysian citizen who’s been living in Switzerland since I married my German husband two and a half years ago. Ever since I made the move to Europe, though, I’ve been keeping an eye on the political situation back in my native country. Earlier this year, when it became apparent that a general election was imminent, I flew back to Malaysia — 6,200 miles away — just so that I could vote.

Unfortunately, after my arrival, the government decided to hold off on calling the new election, so when I couldn’t wait any longer I flew back to Zurich — only to hear the news that Prime Minister Najib Razak had dissolved parliament. Soon after that the date of the new election was set: May 5.

So I turned around and flew back to Malaysia.

Yeah, it’s crazy. But I’m not the only one. Many of my compatriots in Malaysia’s far-flung expat community — it’s estimated that there are around one million of us around the world — are doing the same thing. That’s a reflection of how high the stakes are in the upcoming election — and how strongly many of us want to vote for change.

The 2013 general election (or “GE13,” as Malaysians like to call it) is shaping up to be one of the most decisive battles in the country’s modern history. The ruling National Front Coalition (Barisan Nasional or BN) has run Malaysia for the past 56 years. The opposition People’s Pact (Pakatan Rakyat or PR) believes that the chance may have finally come to challenge BN’s hold on power.

I don’t think it’s important to tell you which candidates I’m voting for. Suffice it to say that I don’t think it’s a goodthing when one group of people run a country for so long, and that I believe we desperately need change. In my own life as a Malaysian I’ve experienced far too much in the way of discrimination, injustice, bureaucracy, and inefficiency. And I don’t want others who live in Malaysia to go through the same things.

So why not just vote absentee? Can’t I just sign up to send in my vote by mail? Why do I need to go to the trouble of taking a sixteen-hour flight just so that I can be there in person at the polling place? After all, there’s plenty of evidence that the government won’t shy away from tampering with the vote even if you’re physically present in Malaysia.

It should be noted that this is the first time in Malaysia’s history that citizens living overseas have the chance to vote (with the exception of some Malaysians in a few other Southeast Asian countries). But very few — only about 0.6 percent — have actually signed up to vote absentee. Thousands have decided instead to return home solely for the election. (Malaysian Sam Khor and his wife paid flight penalty and postponed their trip to stay back not even to vote, but to register as counting agents to monitor and report malpractice.

Some of them may have opted to do this because the absentee voting law doesn’t actually make it very easy for overseas Malaysians to register. But I think the far more important reason is that most of us don’t trust the government to tally our votes, especially when we’re not there to stand up for our right to be counted.

Over the past few years Malaysias have witnessed the astonishing growth of the Bersih (“Clean”) reform movement, a grassroots initiative that has galvanized the longing for free and fair elections. (The most recent Bersih demo a year ago drew up to a quarter of a million people onto the streets of Kuala Lumpur.) That’s a response to widespread and credible reports of vote tampering that traditionally plague Malaysian elections.

Government meddling spans vote buying, ballot box stuffing, multiple voting (including busing of pro-government voters to other constituencies), and even the granting of quick citizenship (with voting rights) to illegal immigrants who are instructed how to vote. Many of us fear that there will be even more such shenanigans this time around, given the government’s obvious nervousness about its eroding support in recent by-elections. (The minister of education, for example, recently called together teachers and told them to vote for the BN-led government.) Our distrust extends to the national election commission, which has uncomfortably close ties to BN and offers little in the way of independent oversight.

Overseas Malaysians offer particular opportunities for fraud. There have been recent reports of Malaysian citizens living in China who have been registered as postal voters without their knowledge. In one case, a businessman residing in Shanghai for over nine years discovered that he’d registered as a voter in Kelantan, although he has never been to the state. In fact, he’s never even registered as a voter. Such tales of “phantom voters” reinforce the notion that the best way to prevent such fraud is by showing up at the polls. (The Election Commission has already admitted that some 42,000 names on the electoral roll are actually “phantoms,” and civil society organizations fear that the number is far higher.)

So far I’ve spoken with Malaysians in Afghanistan, Australia, and the United Kingdom who are planning to fly home to cast their ballots. Two university students in Taipei each spent a sum equivalent to a month of living expenses in order to purchase tickets home. One middle-aged Malaysian lady posted a photo of herself online at Los Angeles International Airport as she prepared to head pack to her hometown of Perak. “I am flying home from Los Angeles to cast my precious vote!” she wrote, “I refuse to be dumb anymore for my grandchildren and next generations. I love my country. I love the land where I have grown up ~ Malaysia! Change!”

Some Malaysians have responded by getting together to help others make the trip. The local branch of Bersih in Shanghai has initiated a “Go Back to Vote Campaign” that is offering 500 renminbi (about $82) for airfare to Malaysians in the city who might not be able to afford the trip home. Bersih Shanghai’s Weng Liew estimates that a total of 3,000 people have confirmed flying home from China. Bersih’s Hong Kong chapter has launched a similar campaign, offering 500 Hong Kong dollars (about $60) towards a plane ticket “A high turnout will minimize fraud and offers a better chance of stability in the event there is regime change or hung parliament,” says Lee Willson of Bersih Hong Kong

Of all the Malaysians living abroad, by far the biggest group — some 300,000 to 5000,000 — is in Singapore. Two travel companies, easibook.com and catchhatbus.com, have jointly launched apromotion bus fare for all Malaysians working in Singapore to go home to vote. One company says it will be doubling the number of coaches making the trip (from 50 to 100). Some Malaysians working in Singapore are also arranging carpools or offering lifts to compatriots through social media. That prompted the Electoral Commission to warn foreigners not to drive Malaysians cross the border in cars with foreign plates.

Norman Goh told me that he’d decided to fly back from Singapore to vote in his home state ofSarawak. He told me that the journey home to vote for some of his friends from there will only be beginning when they get off the flight from Singapore. They still face another two hours by bus and then another three by boat in order to arrive at their destinations deep in the jungles of Borneo.

This all might sound rather extreme. But it’s actually pretty reasonable. Many of my compatriots are tired of the corruption and racism that rule over public life in our country. We want to establish a truly bipartisan system that encourages real checks and balances. And we want a country that’s clean, green, safe, and progressive. To get there, we have to vote.

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. msian
    Apr 19, 2013 @ 15:01:39

    I fervently pray to God that the people will vote wisely. But short of a miracle, I am not too optimistic that BN will lose as we now have the Hindraf scum to contend with. The Indians are easily [though I want to be proven wrong] swayed and their votes will most likely go to BN>

    Like

  2. chanjoe1
    Apr 19, 2013 @ 18:18:43

    I am so proud I had got my youngest daughter who is working in Spore to come back to vote and she will take the night flight out on 4 May and then return to Spore on 5 May evening after doing her citizen’s right. She is a frst time voter and I wouldnt want her to iss this very historic day when we see a whole new different clean Govt take over…..my own family of 5 votes will now vote for PAS (DAP) in state and Keadilan in Parliament for Rafizi, Cow Gate hero. With or without Ong tee Kiat, our votes go to PR. I may be few hundre ringgit poorer for the airtickets but what is that compared to what we will sow with a PR Govt. Ini Kali Lah

    Like

  3. Phua Kai Lit
    Apr 20, 2013 @ 00:14:03

    Bravo!
    Together we will teach the party of crooks and thieves (and racism) a very big lesson!

    Like

  4. grkumar
    Apr 20, 2013 @ 12:02:46

    The group of people running the country which gave you choice China did not give your folks are the Chinese Malays and Indians collectively known as the Barisan.
    They will continue to rule the country.

    The bogus claim that Malaysia has not had a change of government since independence is a clear indication of the lack of sophistication that many like this Ah Chee suffer from. They instead resort to sophistry to try to back the oppositions claims in this regard.

    Malaysia has had 12 different governments. Thats fact. What the opposition and the mainly Chinese opposition to which this woman belongs (German husband or otherwise) like to deceitfully tell the world is that because the 12 different governments come from the same party (although the Barisan is not the Alliance its predecessor). Thats the difference. But why should anyone teach these wannabes about government and the intellect and analytical capabilities one needs to run a country?

    Not all of the prime ministers were the same. Malaysia’s first prime minister was half Thai. The third was part Turkish, Arab and Indian (Hussein Onn), The fourth was a Kerelite Indian Malay. The Fourth and its most distinguised idiot who gave rise to these divisions allowing the Chinese to vandalise the system was moree than half non Malay. he was half Chinese.He goes by the name of Abdullah Badawi on in Arabic A idiotic slave of God. (Badawi is a variation to Bidwi, Badwa, Budhu (the last two in Hindhi and Urdu…Abdu..Slave of Allah ….God)

    Badawi is part Japanese, Half Chinese and about a quarter Malay. To a certain extent thats also credence to the Barisan government for its tolerance of the diversity that is Malaysia.

    Vote in a Chinese led opposition based on the Singapore model and you will always have a Chinese leader, typically from the same family like they do there with the Lee dynasty. In Malaysia’s case they have shamefully already lined up the Lim dynasty with Guan Eng and father and the Ibrahim dynasty with Anwar, his wife Wan Azizza and his daughter Nurull.

    As for the myth that Malaysians in their droves are returning its a sham. Most Malaysians who have migrated abroad in the belief they are or will be better off to a man and a woman are mediocrity personified in their new adopted homes. They are few. They are insignificant unless like the Triads who murdered Dr. Victor Chang in the hope of making a quick million, Dr. Shik An Lau who when caught in Perth in 1980 falsifying medicare records for a quick buck committed suicide at the Perth Parmelia Hilton or the many many others who do nothing but “chari makan” under the white man because for the moment they are a novelty.

    Anti Chinese and anti Sikh fever is already building in most western nations. And Sikh fever because most Americans can’t tell the difference between a Sikh and an Arab Muslim. There are bashings already in the US after the Boston Bombing. These are bashings of Sikhs in remote places in Michigan and in Mississippi. 4 reported cases two using base ball bats.

    The hatred of Chinese is beginning to boil on the surface because of China’s voracious appetite for land grabs and for the uncouth behaviour and arrogance of their nouveau riche and their poor manners. Also because both the US and Australia tend to portray them in a poor light and blame them for their economic down turns.

    The number of foreign resident Malaysia’s eligible to vote is minuscule. It numbers less than 10,000. Many rely on an outdated perception of a right to vote simply because they carry Malaysian passports for convenience.

    There is the question of whether dual nationality which is an offence in many countries allow the many Malaysians who continue to hold on to their passports whilst unknowingly or knowingly have acquired foreign citienship. In these cases it is no longer a right but an offence to try to exercise the “right” to vote extinguished on acquiring foreign citizenship or pledge of loyalty to a foreign government.

    The last point is for Malaysians who vote for foreign government agencies or their subsidiaries or their public service where it is implied or express they have sworn loyalty to those nations. They too do no longer have that right to vote.

    IT workers and medicos, some legal professionals (who work for NGO’s connected to foreign governments) all fall into this category.

    So the myth that thousands are flying back because they want a new government is absolute rubbish. The Malays constitute a large majority. Of these those eligible to vote constitute an even larger majority. If the government falls it will call for a recount. Already Ambiga and Bersih have admitted to training to tamper with the process which they say has now been withdrawn. But the fact they admitted it did exist is significant.

    Like

  5. grkumar
    Apr 20, 2013 @ 12:10:17

    EDITED PREVIOUS COMMENT
    The group of people running the country which gave you choice China did not give your folks are the Chinese Malays and Indians collectively known as the Barisan.

    They will continue to rule the country.

    The bogus claim that Malaysia has not had a change of government since independence is a clear indication of the lack of sophistication that many like this Ah Chee suffer from. They instead resort to sophistry to try to back the oppositions claims in this regard.

    Malaysia has had 12 different governments. Thats fact. What the opposition and the mainly Chinese opposition to which this woman belongs (German husband or otherwise) like to deceitfully tell the world is that because the 12 different governments come from the same party (although the Barisan is not the Alliance its predecessor) they are the same government. Thats the difference and their claims are wrong.

    But why should anyone teach these wannabes about government and the intellect and analytical capabilities one needs to run a country?

    Not all of the prime ministers were the same. Malaysia’s first prime minister was half Thai. The third was part Turkish, Arab and Indian (Hussein Onn), The fourth was a Kerelite Indian Malay. The Fourth and its most distinguished idiot who gave rise to these divisions allowing the Chinese to vandalise the system was moree than half non Malay. he was half Chinese.He goes by the name of Abdullah Badawi or in Arabic “An idiotic slave of God”. (Badawi is a variation to Bidwi, Badwa, Budhu (the last two in Hindhi and Urdu…Abdu..Slave of Allah ….God)

    Badawi is part Japanese, Half Chinese and about a quarter Malay. To a certain extent thats also credence to the Barisan government for its tolerance of the diversity that is Malaysia.

    Vote in a Chinese led opposition based on the Singapore model and you will always have a Chinese leader, typically from the same family like they do there with the Lee dynasty.

    In Malaysia’s case they the opposition have shamefully already lined up the Lim dynasty with Guan Eng and father and the Ibrahim dynasty with Anwar, his wife Wan Azizza and his daughter Nurull.

    As for the myth that Malaysians in their droves are returning its a sham. Most Malaysians who have migrated abroad in the belief they are or will be better off to a man and a woman are mediocrity personified in their new adopted homes. They are few. They are insignificant unless like the Triads who murdered Dr. Victor Chang in the hope of making a quick million, Dr. Shik An Lau who when caught in Perth in 1980 falsifying medicare records for a quick buck committed suicide at the Perth Parmelia Hilton or the many many others who do nothing but “chari makan” under the white man because for the moment they are a novelty.

    Anti Chinese and anti Sikh fever is already building in most western nations. Anti Sikh fever because most Americans can’t tell the difference between a Sikh and an Arab Muslim. There are bashings already in the US after the Boston Bombing. These are bashings of Sikhs in remote places in Michigan and in Mississippi. 4 reported cases two using base ball bats.

    The hatred of Chinese is beginning to boil on the surface because of China’s voracious appetite for land grabs and for the uncouth behaviour and arrogance of their nouveau riche and their poor manners. Also because both the US and Australia tend to portray them in a poor light and blame them for their economic down turns. More importantly no Chinese dominated nation in history can show democratic government or that their leaders understood anything other than totalitarian undemocratic inhumane and intolerant governments with great economic successes to show for it. No balance between money and the rights of humans or animals.

    The number of foreign resident Malaysia’s eligible to vote is minuscule. It numbers less than 10,000. Many rely on an outdated perception of a right to vote simply because they carry Malaysian passports for convenience.

    There is the question of whether dual nationality which is an offence in many countries allow the many Malaysians who continue to hold on to their passports whilst unknowingly or knowingly having acquired foreign citizenship the right to vote.

    In these cases it is no longer a right but an offence to try to exercise the “right” to vote, extinguished on acquiring foreign citizenship or pledge of loyalty to a foreign government.

    The last point is for Malaysians who work for foreign government agencies or their subsidiaries or their public services in some capacity where it is implied or express they have sworn loyalty to the government’s of those nations. They too do no longer have that right to vote.

    IT workers and medicos, some legal professionals (who work for NGO’s connected to foreign governments) all fall into this category.

    So the myth that thousands are flying back because they want a new government is absolute rubbish. The Malays constitute a large majority. Of these those eligible to vote constitute an even larger majority. If the government falls it will call for a recount. Already Ambiga and Bersih have admitted to training to tamper with the process which they say has now been withdrawn. But the fact they admitted it did exist is significant.

    Like

  6. CYC
    Apr 20, 2013 @ 12:49:51

    Political awakening begins……

    Like

  7. Phua Kai Lit
    Apr 20, 2013 @ 14:58:53

    Malaysians in Singapore:

    Come back early so they cannot try to sabotage you by holding up incoming traffic into Johor on Election Day.

    The tens of thousands of you will make a very big difference. Go for it!

    Like

  8. Simple Sense
    Apr 20, 2013 @ 15:16:15

    Why people assume voters coming back from oversea are voting for Change?
    This is one facet of loser mentality. Like one has the nightmare of being surrounded by enemies on all sides!
    It is impressive to see the PAS flags flying together with DAP and Blue Eye flag, this is Malaysia diversity in one place united. Only ten years ago,it could have been very hard to imagine DAP n PAS marching together. The passage of time shapes all things and passage of time is unstoppable!
    I show the two pictures to my American friends who know nothing about Malaysian politic, one the three flags Pakatan, one the blue colored BN. The common comment is, the one blue BN color is indication of monopoly politics, the three colors one is diversity in unity. I find this significant intuitive observation.

    Like

  9. Li Li Fa
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 00:00:10

    This exodus of Malaysians coming home to vote is indeed a firm commitment that they love this country and want to be part of the change from darkness into light.
    Credit must also be given to Bersih movement which has a wordwide following.

    Now the time is ticking away for the awakening destiny of this nation

    Are we coming to the end of the tunnel?

    Like

  10. taikohtai
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 18:32:45

    Yes, my wife’s nephew Dr Wong will also be heading back to Malaysia soon to vote. He told me that the return airfare from Gold Coast to KL is over A$400 but it is a small price to pay despite not able to take leave longer than three days.
    Be afraid BN, be very afraid.

    Like

  11. arthur christie
    Apr 22, 2013 @ 21:27:09

    As an independent and hopefully unbiased foreign observer, I believe that in any aspiring democratic country it is undesirable to have the same party in charge of the government for in excess of 50 years. I would make the same comment were we discussing Malaysia, the UK or any other developed country. Human nature is such that personal agendas inevitably replace those that should serve the country best. The opposition parties which wrested control from the BN party in Selangor and Penang have improved the finances of these states from deficit to surplus. So why not allow them the opportunity to attempt the same on a national level? If they succeed, all (but a select few) Malaysians will benefit. If they do not, then the democratic process will remove them from office at GE14. This is true democracy at work.

    Like

  12. HY
    Apr 26, 2013 @ 08:42:48

    well said arthur, but didn’t you read here in this thread the familiar long whining from an unimaginative mind that is incapable of breaking free of it’s own racism conditioning to see thing and issue in wider perspective? there are many more with likewise mentality, that’s why. pretty sad isn’t it?

    Like

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