Support bill to lower voting age, opposition MPs urged

Dr Kelvin Yii

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KUCHING, June 27: Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii hopes Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), Umno and PAS will support the proposal to lower the voting age from the current 21 to 18.

“I wholeheartedly welcome the announcement by the Election Commission (EC) on the government’s intention to amend the constitution to lower the voting age to 18 in the upcoming Parliament session.

“I hope the opposition, including GPS, Umno and even PAS, will support such an amendment to further empower our youths and encourage more political participation of our youths,” he said in a statement today.

The first reading of the bill will likely be on July 4, and the second and third readings on July 16. It will require two-thirds majority support by MPs to pass, meaning it needs the support of the Opposition as Pakatan Harapan (PH) only holds a simple majority.

Dr Yii opined that under the PH government, the Education Ministry had done good work to restore greater autonomy to universities as well as amend the UUCA (Universities and University Colleges Act) to allow greater participation of university students in political activities on top of promoting more freedom to discourse different political views in the university.

“Now the government is taking another big step forward in lowering the voting age to reflect our emphasis on our youths, who are the future of our country,” he said.

He believed there would be reservations whether Malaysian youths are matured and ready for such a responsibility.

“I would respectfully disagree and believe more trust should be given to our youths and empower them with the right to vote. I believe that many of our young people today are far better equipped — intellectually, physically, and emotionally — to make the type of choices involved in voting than were past generations of youths.

“While there are exceptions, but many experts believe that today’s 18-year-olds are at least the equal, physically and mentally, to the 21-year-olds of his father’s generation or 25-year-olds of his grandfather’s generation,” he said.

He said because of the enormous impact of modern communications, especially the internet and social media, Malaysian youths are extremely well informed on all the crucial issues of the time, foreign and domestic, national and local, urban and rural.

“Today’s 18-year-olds, for example, have unparalleled opportunities for education at the secondary level. Our 19 and 20-year-olds have significant university experience, in addition to their high school training.

“Indeed, in many cases, 18 to 21-year-olds already possess better education than a large proportion of adults among our general electorate. And they also possess far better education than the vast majority of the electorate in all previous periods of our history,” he added.

In addition, Dr Yii believed that by lowering the minimum voting age, youths would be provided with a stronger incentive for greater political involvement and understanding.

“This will not just involve the 18 to 21-year-old age group but also in the pre- 18-year-old group and post 21-year-old group, as well.

“We will then also enlarge the meaning of participatory democracy in our society on top of giving our youths a new arena for idealism, activism and energy,” he said.

He, however, cautioned that it was important that more civic and political education should be emphasised in our education system, even at the secondary school level.

“Our civic and even history syllabus should be reformed to educate our young what it means to vote and participate in a democratic process such as this, to think for themselves and also to deliberate through different issues that affect them,” he suggested. — DayakDaily