Freedom to choose so do it wisely


  • Letters
  • Sunday, 21 Mar 2004

IT has been an exciting eight days. We have heard our politicians promise everything under the sky – in some cases, voters have also been promised heaven. 

I intend to be among the early birds to cast my vote at SM Damansara Utama. I will have a hand in deciding who wins in the Petaling Jaya Utara parliamentary seat and the Damansara Utama state seat. 

Some of us take our voting rights lightly, preferring to skip the exercise if no one informs us about our voting centre. Even those who know how sometimes do not take the trouble of checking the Election Commission website. 

In many countries all over the world, the people dream of having free and fair elections. They are prepared to die for the privilege of casting their votes to determine the future of their country. 

Then there are places where women are prohibited from voting, while candidates have been rejected because they are deemed to be un-religious in a country run by theologians. 

Malaysia has been lucky. We can complain about flaws in our system, we can grumble about how unfair the opposition has been treated, and we become emotional over the status of some political figures – but no one can deny that our elections have been fair. 

The two opposition-held states bear testimony to this. 

The opposition gets a chance to campaign the whole year round in villages and no one has stopped them although they do shout loudly in one or two cases when they break the law. 

The electoral system may have its shortcomings but no one, not even the opposition, can deny the fact that the voting process is free and fair. 

This general election has been a smooth one. Some would even say there is a festive air because the anger and emotions of the 1999 elections have dissipated. 

The ceramahs have attracted fewer people because the law prohibits contenders from launching personal attacks, which in the villages meant a night of comic entertainment. 

But more than that, our elections are often watched closely because foreigners read of reports that the fundamentalists are poised to take over more states, which alarm many investors. 

Foreigners also want to see whether the power-sharing concept can still work after 47 years of independence. Over the past eight days, Malaysians have proven their ability to work as a team, regardless of their political allegiance. 

Ironically, Malaysians are often most tolerant during elections. Local authorities impose language restrictions on signs but during elections, they seem to be extra liberal. One wonders why they are not this flexible at all times. 

More importantly, when we cast our votes today, we know we can do so without fear. Malaysians must realise that is the result of political and economic stability. 

It did not happen overnight. It is the result of 47 years of hard work. This would have a bearing on how we want our lifestyles to be. We decide whether we want a progressive, democratic and modern Malaysia. 

When we vote today, it is important to remember and appreciate why we are able to do so. What party and which candidate we pick is as important as having the freedom to choose. 

The future of Malaysia is in your hands. Vote with your head, not your heart. 

 

  • Wong Chun Wai can be reached at onthebeat@thestar.com.my 


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