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Overseas Malaysians demand right to vote

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A group of Malaysians has kicked off a campaign demanding that voting rights be extended to all citizens living and working outside Malaysians.

overseas voters
London

A campaign to extend the right to vote to all Malaysian citizens living and working outside Malaysia is launched today by a group of Malaysians in London. The campaign group, ‘Malaysians Overseas – Right to Vote’ or ‘MyOverseasVote’, aims to conduct an education campaign and to circulate a petition in order to raise awareness of the civil rights and responsibilities of Malaysian citizens overseas, and to raise funds for a legal challenge against the regulations preventing most Malaysians overseas from registering as absent voters.

Article 119 of the Federal Constitution grants the right to vote to all Malaysian citizens of the age of 21 and over who are resident and registered in a constituency or who are registered as absent voters in accordance with election laws. However, regulations made by the Election Commission exclude the vast majority of the estimated one million Malaysians living overseas who work overseas in the private sector or for international organisations, or who are retired or unemployed, from registering as absent voters.

At present, only students, government servants and members of the Armed Forces and their spouses living overseas have the right to cast their vote by post. Other Malaysians living overseas can only vote if they register to vote in Malaysia and physically return to Malaysia to cast their ballots on election day. This effectively prevents most Malaysians overseas from exercising their right to vote, given that elections are called with only a few weeks’ notice, and given that it would be physically impossible for hundreds of thousands of Malaysians to fly back en masse to vote, as well as being beyond the means of those with low incomes. There is at present no provision for Malaysians overseas to vote at Malaysian embassies and consulates abroad, which is routinely done by many other countries.

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The MyOverseasVote campaign is committed to challenging the unequal treatment of the majority of Malaysians overseas on the grounds that it is contrary to the grant of equality under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution. It seeks to raise RM200,000 from Malaysians (20 sen for every Malaysian overseas) to create a legal fund for its action. This will cover the legal fees and expenses needed to take the claim all the way to the Federal Court, and cover the contingency that the applicants, if unsuccessful, are forced to cover the Election Commission’s legal costs.

MyOverseasVote campaigns for the rights of all Malaysians overseas regardless of political orientation. The campaign will make a presentation to supporters of Pakatan Rakyat in London on 2 October 2010, and to supporters of Barisan Nasional at a future date.

Background

Over one million Malaysians are estimated to work outside Malaysia. Of this, roughly 40 per cent work in Singapore and 20 per cent in other Asian countries.

There are 11 million registered voters in Malaysia, out of a potential electorate of 15 million. Under the Election (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002, only members of the Armed Forces, public servants, students and their spouses living overseas are eligible to register and vote as absent voters.

Our legal advice is that the discriminatory provisions are an abuse of the Election Commission’s discretion under the law and a violation of the grant of equality under the Federal Constitution.

Our aims

  • To end discrimination against Malaysian citizens living and working outside Malaysia.
  • To re-enfranchise all Malaysian citizens overseas, and to re-engage them in charting the future course of Malaysia.
  • To launch an educational campaign and a petition, to raise public awareness amongst Malaysians both overseas and at home.
  • To bring legal proceedings against the Election Commission challenging the discriminatory provisions in the 2002 Regulations.
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Your role

Sign up to our Facebook page ‘Malaysians Overseas – Right to Vote’ or follow our Twitter feed @MyOverseasVote.
Pledge a donation/get involved by emailing [email protected]. We are looking to raise RM200,000 in order to cover legal fees, disbursements and a contingency fund in case we are ordered to pay adverse costs.

This press release was written by Andrew Yong, Yolanda Augustin, See-See Leong and David Arasnath Kimis.

London, UK
1 October 2010

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Jimmy Tay
Jimmy Tay
27 Oct 2010 10.44am

I am 100% behind your campaign and would be interested to follow the news and development of what you guys do. Keep me posted.

Having lived 12 years overseas before where I did not have the chance to vote in any Malaysian elections, I totally share your views and concerns about Malaysians having the right to vote overseas at a Malaysian mission, just like most other democratic countries.

For a start, I shall be forwarding your appeal to all on my email list which runs to over 150 names!

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