High Court told 1.2 million youths affected by govt's decision to delay Undi18

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court was told that approximately 1.2 million youths between the ages of 18 and 20 by July this year have been affected by the government’s decision to delay the implementation of lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.

The Undi18 Act, which was passed by Parliament on July 17,2019, was supposed to be implemented by July 1 but the implementation has been pushed to Sept 1,2022.

In a written submission, 18 Malaysian youths aged between 18 and 20, who are challenging the government’s decision in the delay, said they would not be able to get on the electoral roll.

“As a result, the applicants are unable to vote in any election after July 1,2021, and before September 2022, including the possibility of not being able to vote in the 15th General Election, ” it said.

The applicants said the by-elections of Batu Sapi, Sabah (P185) and Gerik, Perak (P054), have not been conducted in light of the Emergency Proclamation, which is expected to cease on Aug 1.

“Therefore, these by-elections will most likely be conducted before September 2022.

“Furthermore, the election of the Sarawak State Assembly has to be conducted on or before Aug 7 this year, ” it added.

The applicants, who are part of the Undi18 Movement, had filed for leave to initiate judicial review in their challenge against the government’s decision.

They contended that only Malaysia and Singapore (from Asean countries) together with Kuwait, Oman, Cameroon, Lubnan, Samoa and Tonga still maintained a minimum voting age of 21.

“This means all the other Commonwealth countries that adopt Westminster-style democracy, including India, which is the biggest democratic country in the world with 900 million voters, have fixed 18 as the legal voting age, ” it added.

During the hearing for leave to initiate judicial review, counsel Datuk S. Ambiga said it was “most embarrassing” for Malaysia to still maintain the voting age at 21 when “the whole world has changed”.

“The minute you are 18, you should automatically be a voter. That is called automatic voter registration (AVR), ” she said here during an open court proceeding on Monday (May 24).

Lawyer Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh Nijar, who is also representing the group, said the court ought to grant leave to the applicants to proceed with judicial review as the issue involves critical questions of law and the three respondents should come to court to justify the delay at a substantive stage.

Senior Federal Counsel Shamsul Bolhassan, in his reply, said certain mechanisms need to be in place in order for the AVR to be effective.

He said legal provisions pertaining to the elections had to be amended.

“If we don’t amend the regulations, how are we able to implement them?” he added.

High Court judge Justice Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid then fixed June 17 for decision in the leave application.

On April 2, the youths filed their legal action seeking several court orders arising from the respondents' delay in the implementation of Undi18, a move to lower the voting age to 18 and to enable AVR.

They named Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the government and the Election Commission (EC) as respondents.

In the application, the group sought a declaration that the government's action to delay the enforcement of lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 was irrational, illegal, disproportionate and a form of voter suppression.

They want a declaration that those aged 18 to 20 have a legitimate expectation that they will have the right to vote on or before July 2021.

The youths are also seeking a declaration that the decision of the respondents to delay the enforcement of Section 3(a) was a form of voter suppression on those aged 18 to 20 years as of July this year.

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