PETALING JAYA: Every vote counts, which makes 103 votes especially precious – which is why Dinesh Nair travelled over 13,000km in a day just to deliver postal votes from Malaysian students in India.
The 36-year-old hopped on a Malaysia Airlines flight from Bangalore at 12.20am yesterday and arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) at about 8am to hand over 103 ballot papers to Vote Malaysia representative Siti Nazatul Nadia Mohd Ridzuan – before hopping on a flight back to India that very day.
Dinesh, who is studying at the University of Manchester and temporarily on a research assignment in Bangalore, said he came to know of Malaysian medical students at Universiti Sains Malaysia-Karnataka Lingayat Education (USM-KLE) who were desperate to see their votes counted in GE15.
“I came across a number of Malaysian students on Facebook expressing their concerns about the exorbitant courier charges to get their individual votes sent back.
“We started talking and felt that flying in the votes in bulk through a representative would be a more cost-effective option.
“Unfortunately, these students were not able to travel due to academic commitments and visa restrictions.
“That was when I decided to step in,” he told The Star yesterday.
Dinesh, a Chevening scholar, said that he decided to help out despite being busy with his own research work.
“It was done in the very last minute as India was a unique case, because Bersih Global and Vote for Malaysia teams did not have a coordinator or person to fly the votes back to Malaysia.
“I decided to bring my laptop with me so that I could continue with my research in KLIA until I board for the flight back to India,” he added.
Owing to the rush, he said that there was not enough time for his family in Kuantan or his extended family in Petaling Jaya to visit him at the airport.
“I have not seen most of my relatives since leaving for my post-graduate studies in Britain in September last year,” he said.
Dinesh, who is also a former lecturer, said the students chipped in to purchase the airline ticket for the trip costing about RM2,200.
“The determination of the students is exemplary.
“A student named Sharafee Ishak travelled on a 10-hour overnight bus journey from the campus in Bangalore just to hand over the votes to me before my flight.
“The drive shown by young Malaysians thousands of miles away should serve as a motivation for voters in Malaysia to turn up at their polling stations on polling day (tomorrow),” he added.
Unfortunately, Dinesh said 50 students were unable to hand in their ballot papers to him on time as they will only receive them on polling day itself on Nov 19.
Redha Baharuddin, a fourth-year medical student at USM-KLE, said Malaysian students in India were determined to exercise their rights as voters.
“This demonstrates that regardless of background, racial and religious differences, the true Malaysian spirit will always emerge in moments that matter.
“We may be far from home, but Malaysia will always be part of our identity,” Redha said.
Early postal voting began on Tuesday with the Election Commission saying that ballot papers must reach returning officers before 5pm tomorrow.