KUALA LUMPUR: Political literacy for the young generation should ideally begin when they are 13 years old, says political analyst and social science lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian.
“The existing education syllabus should be improved to enable the political literacy process to run smoothly.
“To enhance political literacy among students, we need the involvement of families, teachers, lecturers, media and even political parties in guiding our future young voters to become rational-minded and to reflect prudent political values so that they don’t make emotional decisions,” he said.
A Bill to amend the Federal Constitution to lower the voting age has been tabled in the Dewan Rakyat for its first reading on Thursday.
The Constitution (Amendment) 2019 Bill seeks to amend Clause 1
of Article 119 of the Federal Constitution to lower the age of a Malaysian who is entitled to vote from 21 to 18.
Dr Sivamurugan said as it is now in Malaysia, at age 18, a person can buy a car, enter into a contract, get married, obtain a business licence, join a political party and pay income tax.
“This shows that Malaysian citizens can already assume a number of responsibilities once they turn 18, so what’s wrong with allowing 18-year-olds to make a decision at the ballot box?” he asked.
It may even be incorrect to regard them as immature or incapable of making wise decisions since today’s generation has information at their fingertips, thanks to advancements in information and communication technology, he added.
Chan Yit Fei, coordinator of the Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy, feels the current education system does not create enough awareness of the nation’s political landscape, as well as the framework of its political system, for youths.“Many of them do not know how the government functions and have no clue what separation of power, Parliament and the Cabinet are all about,” said the political activist.
He fears that without such basic knowledge, they may not have what it takes to make a mature decision at the ballot box.
“The education system should be enhanced in a way to familiarise youth with the democratic processes,” he told Bernama.
Fellow political analyst Prof Dr Ahmad Martadha Mohamed, who is a lecturer at the College of Law, Government and International Studies at Universiti Utara Malaysia, is also all for early political literacy.
He feels it would enhance their sensitivity to issues such as nationhood, sense of belonging and love for the country.
“Currently, there is little participation in politics among Generation Y (born between 1980 and 1994) because they view politics as a web of power struggles and bringing others down.
“In actual fact, politics is about expressing oneself using the right channels,” he said.
He noted that Justin Trudeau became Canada’s Prime Minister at the age of 43, proving that if given the right opportunities, young people can take on the mantle of leadership.
Another young world leader is 38-year-old New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who displayed extraordinary leadership skills when handling the Christchurch terror attacks in March.
Dr Ahmad Martadha said in countries like Canada, people as young as 18 can become active in politics.
“When the minimum age is 21, it takes a person longer to develop a political career and get an opportunity to hold office,” he added.
In Malaysia, under the Age of Majority Act 1971, a person is deemed an adult when he or she turns 18. In a court of law, an accused who has turned 18 is tried as an adult. — Bernama