26th September 2017
BERSIH Sarawak Memorandum to Election Commission (EC) Sarawak
Today we are here to submit a memorandum to Election Commission (Sarawak) as part of a nationwide effort by Bersih 2.0 (and its coalition of NGOs) in demanding for electoral reforms. Besides that, we are requesting for a dialogue session to meet with the Director of Sarawak’s Election Commission to discuss more on the reforms.
The purpose of the memorandum is to draw EC’s attention to two (2) reforms that are urgent and important for Sarawakian and also Sabahan voters. These reforms are absentee voting and automatic voter registration. If implemented before the 14th General Election, it would be able to enfranchise Sarawakian (& Sabahan) voters.
At the launch of the Absentee Voting Campaign by Bersih 2.0 on the 21st Sept it was revealed that an estimated 150,000 registered voters from Sabah and Sarawak reside in Semenanjung Malaysia. Although we do not have the figures for West Malaysians and Sabahans studying and working here in Sarawak we believe it is no small number either. It is no secret that due to the prohibitive costs of travel Sarawakians normally ‘reserve’ their paid leave and finances to come back home to see family during festive season like Christmas or/and Gawai only. We support the call for this group of people ie. civilians ‘out-of-region’ to opt in as absentee voters, as it would go a long way to boost the turnout for Sarawak which in 2013 was the lowest in the country ie. 75% turnout.
We hold the view that it is the constitutional duty of the Election Commission to realize the voting rights of all Malaysians and in this particular instance, the votes of each and every Sarawakians who reside outside of their home state. Usually these fellow Sarawakians remain very much attached to Sarawak and what is going on here. The ‘Sarawak diaspora’ if you like are people who leave Sarawak for a season to study or for employment opportunities (cari makan). We want these voters to be eligible for advance voting.
The Absentee Voting reform addresses issues surrounding the eligibility criteria ie. what category of voters can qualify as absentee voter, transparency issues namely concerns relating to storage and transportation of ballot boxes in advance voting, access for polling and counting agents. In summary the reforms related to absentee voting are as follows:
Absentee voter must be military and police personnel, on-duty civilians (who will be limited to those with election-related duties on polling day), out-of-region* civilians, (*those who are registered to vote in one of the three regions of Malaysia (Sabah+Labuan, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia) but will be in another region on polling day) and overseas voters.
Postal voting will be available only to overseas voters in countries without any designated overseas polling stations or voters that are 1000km away from the nearest polling station.
All advance voting will take place one day before the national polling day.
Polling Agents, Counting Agents and Booth Agents shall have free access to all advance polling centres.
Counting of votes will be done at the close of advanced polling at the polling station. For overseas votes, advance and postal ballots will be counted at the overseas polling stations designated by the EC.
All domestic advance voting will be conducted in civilian polling stations, such as schools or community halls, not in military and police camps.
The gazetted electoral roll will indicate advance voters’ status. Military and police personnel will have their civilian IC numbers listed in the electoral roll alongside their service IC numbers.
We from Bersih Sarawak is also very concerned that young people in age group between 21-30 years old are not registering themselves as voters. There had already been repeated calls by the EC and by politicians from both side of the divide including lately the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak himself for everyone to get themselves registered. Recently Merdeka Centre released the results of their survey on Youth and their Perceptions on Leadership, the Economy and Current Issues shows a worrying trend that a lot of young people do not register themselves as voters due to lack of interests in politics, distrust of politicians and that their vote does not count. Among those not registered to vote, 53% said they were too busy to register, 30% said their vote would not make a difference, and 17% said they did not know how to register.
Nationwide the estimates is 2.5 million young people have not yet registered to vote. For Sarawak, we believe that of the 400,000 yet unregistered two-thirds are those are from 21-30 yrs age bracket. It is imperative now for the Election Commission to look into this reform which we believe is possible to implement in a very short time. To supplement its effectiveness the Commision should also strategise and carry out voter education campaigns including on the importance of voting. Hence we call upon the Election Commission to immediately adopt the recommendation.
We would like to urge the public who have yet to register themselves as voters especially the youths from 21-30 years old, please register themselves at the nearest post office before 30th September 2017 in order to have an opportunity to vote in the coming 14th General Election.
Our reform proposal are meant not only to give an opportunity to Sarawakians living in West Malaysia to exercise their constitutional rights but also West Malaysians who are working, studying or living in Sarawak and Sabah to exercise their right in the next general election.
Finally if you believe and stand with us that EVERY Sarawakian’s right to vote must be real and tangible or accessible, we urge the East Malaysians who are residing in West Malaysia in particular and YOU the members of the public to sign Bersih’s online petition http://tiny.cc/undiluarkawasan
. Together we can make changes not only for Malaysia but also our beloved Sarawak.
The Memorandum is Endorsed by:
Rise of Sarawak Effort (ROSE)
Lawyer Kamek 4 Change (LK4C)
Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA)
Dayak Think Tank Group (DTTG)
People Association for Development and Education of Penan Sarawak (PADE)
End Statement 26th Sept 2017
BERSIH Sarawak Committee