High Court dismisses applications by youths to be eligible to vote in PRN12 under Undi18

Counsels representing the three applicants, from right: Clement Wong, Simon Siah and George Lo.

By Dorcas Ting

KUCHING, Dec 13: The High Court here has dismissed the application by three youths to be declared as citizens entitled to vote in the coming 12th Sarawak Election.

With the ruling by the High Court Judicial Commissioner (JC) Alexander Siew How Wai, Undi18 and those who have yet to register as voters are not able to vote in the coming election.

JC Alexander in his ruling today said that Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) does not mean instantaneous, as the Election Commission will still have to go through a process to verify and gazette the updated electoral roll each month.

He said the difference between AVR and the old voter registration system is that with AVR, citizens do not need to go through the process of registering as a voter.

Avril Clarice Chin Ning, 18, Ivan Alexander Ong, 19 and Addam Johanson Jeremy Shayne, 19 applied to the Court to seek relief from the court to allow them to vote in the coming Sarawak election.

Following the ruling of the High Court, one of the applicants, Addam Johanson said though they were disappointed with the ruling today, but would still respect the ruling by JC Alexander.

“Sadly, we are not able to vote in the coming State Election but you will hear our voice the loudest in the coming General Election.”

Avril Clarice Chin Ning, said they were disappointed as they were denied of their constitutional rights as a citizen to vote.

“Because whatever happens in the next five years affects us the most. We will come back stronger.”

Ivan Alexander Ong said they were sad to see that they are not given a chance to vote as promised on the amendment of the Article 119 of the Federal Constitution.

“We may try harder in the next five years to get our rights back.”

On July 16, 2019, Dewan Rakyat had unanimously passed the Federal Constitution (Amendment) Act 2019 to reduce the minimum voting age in Malaysia from 21 to 18 years old (Undi18) and for automatic voter registration (AVR).

The government then had projected that the implementation of Undi18 and the AVR would be done by July 2021 at the latest. The same assurance was given by the government throughout 2019, 2020 and early 2021 that Undi18 and the AVR would be implemented by July 2021.

On March 10, 2021, the Deputy Chairman of the Election Commission (EC) had informed the media that their system was ready to accommodate the lowering of the minimum voting age from 21 to 18 years and the AVR.

On March 25, the EC issued a media statement stating that Undi18 and the AVR would only be expected to be implemented after Sept 1, 2022.

The respondents are the Registrar of Electors for Sarawak and Election Commission of Malaysia.

The applicants were represented by counsels George Lo, Jonathan Tay, Clement Wong, Simon Siah, Thien Siaw Lien and Yvonne Sia.

Senior federal counsel Azizan Md Arshad from the Attorney-General Chambers, senior federal counsel Ahmad Hanir from the Attorney-General Chambers and Federal Counsel Jessica Lee from the Attorney General Chambers, Sarawak represented the respondents.

Sarawak Attorney General (SAG) appeared as amicus curiae, while the SAG was represented by State Legal Advisor Dato Sri JC Fong, Oliver Chua, Khairul Kabir and Anisa Jamil. — DayakDaily