Siswa Balik Initiative to help bring 237 S’wakian students home to vote for first time in GE15

A group of students ready to head home with the help from Siswa Balik Initiative.

KUCHING, Nov 17: The Siswa Balik Initiative has raised slightly over RM42,000 to assist and subsidise the travelling cost of 237 Sarawakian students who are studying away from their hometowns including in Kuala Lumpur to return to vote for the very first time this 15th General Election (GE15).

According to a media release, the Siswa Balik Initiative along with Rise of Social Efforts (Rose) and CSO Platform for Reform (Sarawak Chapter) launched the #JuhBalitNgundi campaign on Nov 3 in a bid to send as many Sarawakian students home to vote.

“The funds were crowdfunded and the initial target was to raise RM50,000 to help around 300 students to go back home and fulfill their civic duty.

“With the help of the people of Malaysia including many Sarawakians, we managed to raise RM42,072.51 and this has enabled us to provide transport aid and subsidies for a total of 237 students to get home,” the organisers said in a joint statement today.

However, the group is of the view that this hard effort and “pain” would not be necessary if only the government had cared enough to enable and facilitate access to voting for students who study far away from their voting station or in other Malaysian states.

“We had received a substantial number of applications for this campaign, but we have had to put aside or turn away some of these applications as we needed to allocate in the best way possible the amount that was crowdfunded.

“Crowdfunding is only a temporary solution to this problem. This will surely cost this nation their votes.”

Sarawakian students studying away from their hometowns and villages boarding a bus to return home to vote.

As such, the group once again called on the government, especially the Election Commission to step in and provide a permanent solution such as enabling postal voting or advance voting from the students’ respective public and private higher learning institutions.

“We believe that our demand is not in the realm of impossibility, and even if it is, it is not an excuse to deny the right of our people to vote. Strategies to empower youths including giving them the right to vote will be just mere talk if such right cannot be practised.”

The group also called on all GE15 candidates in Sarawak from all parties to put this matter on their agenda or manifesto, while reminding them that failing which all talks of fighting for Sarawak autonomy would just remain talk.

“How do Sarawakian youths find their voice if they continue to be disenfranchised as in the present circumstances?,” the group questioned.— DayakDaily