Hakam rights group asks Putrajaya to also let 18-year-olds be senators

At the moment, entry into the Upper House is restricted to Malaysian citizens in good standing aged 30 and over. — Bernama pic
At the moment, entry into the Upper House is restricted to Malaysian citizens in good standing aged 30 and over. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 9 — The government should expand its bid to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 by also opening up the Senate to entry for 18-year-olds, the National Human Rights Society (Hakam) suggested today.

Hakam secretary-general Lim Wei Jiet said the move would be consistent with Putrajaya’s ambition to amend the Federal Constitution to give 18-year-olds the power of the ballot and the ability to run for office.

“Hakam would further suggest that the minimum age for Senator-ships in the Dewan Negara to also be lowered to 18, in line with the logic of the universal right to democracy and the Government’s decision to lower the age of candidacy for members of parliament in the Dewan Rakyat to 18,” he said in a statement today. 

At the moment, entry into the Upper House is restricted to Malaysian citizens in good standing aged 30 and over.

Expressing support for the move to lower the voting age, Lim said this was consistent in principle with the assumption of social and legal responsibilities that youths in Malaysia are expected to bear once they reach the age of 18.

“At the age of 18, a Malaysian has the freedom to serve in the military and police forces, as well as the responsibility to be tried as an adult in a court of law.

“It is only logical for the government to recognise that 18-year-olds of Malaysia play an integral role in the democracy of our nation; whether as a candidate or a voter,” he said.

He said this landmark amendment will enhance democratic participation in Malaysia by nurturing greater political awareness among Malaysian youth.

Lim also lauded the government’s decision to adopt automate voter registration as it will increase and encourage more to partake in the country’s democracy.

Automatic voter registration will be tacked on to the Bill lowering the voting age after the PAS and Umno Opposition parties made this a precondition for their support of the constitutional amendment.

“These positive developments are in line with international human rights standards, as well as the vast majority of global democracies and fellow Asean nations,” he added.

Lim urged all political parties to support these amendments which will be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat soon.

Yesterday, the Pakatan Harapan presidential council agreed to adopt automatic voter registration as part of the larger reform.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said this will go along with the proposed amendment to reduce the voting age from 21 to 18.

The council also agreed to allow 18-year-olds to contest in elections.

Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman tabled the Bill to amend Article 119 of the Federal Constitution on July 4 and it is expected to be read for the second time on July 16 before being put to vote.

However, it requires a two-thirds majority of 148 votes in the Lower House as it seeks to amend the Federal Constitution.