Making young senators a brilliant move, say youth groups

The Upper House: The Dewan Negara has 102 seats although there are only 70 senators. Its styling is similar to that of the larger Dewan Rakyat, but on a smaller scale. — Filepic

PETALING JAYA: The plan to allow youth over the age of 18 to be appointed as senators in the Dewan Negara will be one of the best parliamentary reforms the country will see, youth groups and an analyst opined.

Describing it as a laudable and “brilliant” move by the Senate president Tan Sri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, they said the initiative is timely and would increase the confidence of Malaysians in the country’s parliamentary system.

Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman pointed out that there is a great need for young people to be in the Senate as the Upper House is meant to be a reflection of the country’s population.

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“Aside from the youth, this (the country’s population) includes women, the various indigenous groups as well as professionals and athletes.

“Wan Junaidi has successfully instituted many long-standing reforms when he was the Law Minister and hearing him pursuing this now clearly shows that his heart is with the country with the aim to empower young people in Malaysia.

“This is a brilliant move,” said Syed Saddiq.

The Star spoke to Wan Junaidi about his missions for parliamentary reforms and the former minister said he is looking into creating a provision under the Federal Constitution to allow young people aged 18 and above to be appointed senators.

Echoing a similar view was Umno youth chief Dr Muhamad Akmal Saleh who expressed delight over the effort to hear the voices of the youth in the Dewan Negara, saying that the move will lead to positive outcomes.

“I strongly agree with this. If the Dewan Rakyat can have (representatives over the age of 18), why not the Dewan Negara?

“This way, more voices of the younger generation from various fields can be heard in the Dewan Negara,” he said.

Undi18 founder Tharma Pillai said age should not be an indicator of a person’s talent and experience, adding that every adult regardless of their age bracket should be given the chance to serve the country and their respective communities.

He said that it is unfair to exclude the views of a person just because of his or her age.

“We have many talented, experienced and high-achieving individuals in various fields who could provide huge benefits to the country and policymakers, and therefore, they should be allowed to give their input in the Dewan Negara as senators.

“Talent and experience are not indicated by age. We can’t undermine the capability of certain people from any age group,” he said.

Dr Mohammad Tawfik Yaakub of Universiti Malaya said the move will improve Dewan Negara’s image.

He said Wan Junaidi’s plan to allow the membership of young people in the Upper House is timely, especially following the implementation of Undi18 in 2021 where the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18.

“This is one of the best reforms to our parliamentary system and national politics. I believe the interpretation of eligibility to be a member of the Dewan Negara needs to be expanded.

“For example, Article 45(2) of the Federal Constitution states that members to be appointed must excel in their respective fields. Today, many young people excel in their careers and their voices should be heard in the Upper House by being appointed as senators.

“If this is carried out, I am sure the ‘rubber stamp’ label for senators and the Dewan Negara will be erased.

“It will also increase the people’s confidence in the efforts to reform national institutions,” he said.

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