WITH the 14th General Election approaching fast, we might be wondering whether the Election Commission is doing enough to serve the rakyat.
Alternatively, we can all raise the important question: “Can the Election Commission (EC) do much more for us?” GE 14 could be held around the end of September this year, after we celebrate Hari Raya, to put the whole nation in a happier and more optimistic mood.
If that is so, we only have this month of March for eligible voters to register to vote.
This is because voters who are registered at least six months before the elections can only vote at the next GE.
Hence, there should be an urgency to organise an all-out national campaign to register voters this month.
If GE14 is held later than September, however, then we will have a little more time to register voters.
This will be a bonus for the rakyat and we must use it too.
This time, the registration of voters will be a real challenge for the EC, and indeed for all Malaysians, because over four million have not registered as voters as yet.
Most of these eligible but unregistered voters are young Malaysians in the 21 to 30 year age group. It’s a shame that our youths have been so tardy in registering as voters.
It’s also disappointing that they have shown so little responsibility in doing their duty as our future leaders.
It is depressing that our youth are quick to blame the many wrongs in our society but don’t want to register as voters to put things right.
The adults should be able to encourage youths to register but often enough, many also do not care.
There is a sense of malaise that seems to have grown and gripped the country.
There is a sense of hopelessness that is debilitating. This pessimism can undermine our socio- economic progress and national unity.
Perhaps the unregistered youths feel the EC has undertaken too much gerrymandering and indulged heavily in the malapportionment of votes all over the country and particularly in the urban areas.
But all these reasons are, nevertheless, no excuse for not registering to vote. Youths have a duty and an obligation, like the adults, to bring about greater fairness and justice in our electoral system. We can’t afford to be indifferent to any abuse in our system, for we the rakyat will suffer in the end.
We have to soldier on for a better Malaysia and the youths should take the lead and carry the banners forward.
Can the EC do more to strengthen the election process? For a start, it can do more to help register the four million eligible but unregistered voters.
But the EC may have failed us so far. Why, for instance, has the EC severely cut down on the appointment of assistant registrars of voters?
Why does the EC not step up voter registration campaigns at townhall meetings, malls and community centres and around post offices?
Why can’t the EC work closely with the hundreds of dedicated non-governmental organisations and thousands of volunteers to register the four million eligible voters?
NGOs are seeking cooperation with the EC. I have myself tried to reach out to the EC but the response has been cool.
The EC must strengthen the electoral process and the voter registration system and win more confidence from the rakyat.
If the EC is weak or passive, it could well give the impression to the rakyat that it merely wants to play a marginal role in promoting healthy and active democratic elections and abstain from building a viable and sustainable democracy.
The GE determines the future success or failure of our beloved country. I am sure I speak for majority of Malaysians who want free, fair and honest elections.
This means that the EC must go all out to cooperate with the rakyat to register the four million eligible voters as soon as possible.
This must happen before the time constraints deprive eligible voters of their birthright and deny us all our full democratic electoral participation and choice of elected representatives!
I therefore believe that the Government has a grave and sacred duty to urge the EC and its officials to do their job well and to be truly worthy of the public trust of Malaysians.
TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM
Asli Center of Public Policy Studies