KUALA LUMPUR, July 16 — Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob proposed that the Education Ministry create clear guidelines and policies on politics in schools and universities as part of the government’s bid to lower the voting age from 21 to 18.
During the debate of the Bill for the proposed constitutional amendment today, the Bera lawmaker said it is critical to ensure that students and teachers who support the Opposition will not face discrimination.
“There are worries that if there are no guidelines or regulations for such activities, it will lead to a tense atmosphere in schools and colleges not only among students, but also teachers. There is currently clear discrimination against teachers in school who support the Opposition.
“How about students who support the Opposition? Will they face discrimination in gaining entry into the universities or when applying for student loans?” Ismail said.
He also called for classes on democracy to be introduced in schools so that the students are more politically informed.
Petrajaya MP Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof took up Ismail’s call and expanded upon it when he took his turn to address the floor.
“I agree that educating (youths) on the democratic process must begin at school as (currently) there is no specific programme on democratic literacy for our youths. The school is the best place to have a curriculum to understand the best practices of democracy.
“At the same time, the Election Commission must also create a guideline with the Education Ministry (on the syllabus) and teach our students on policy-based politics that focus on development instead of negative politics that is based on defamation and hatred.
“We must eliminate this type of politics,” said Fadillah who finished his speech by clearly stating that Sarawak lawmakers are behind the constitutional amendment.
Kota Baru MP Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan also said that the 18 PAS lawmakers will back Putrajaya’s bid to lower the voting age.
However, he also asked if the government will include a law that makes it compulsory for Malaysians to vote.
“I would like to get the government’s view on whether or not a law will be drafted compelling all Malaysians to vote.
“It could also follow other countries where those between the age of 18 and 21 have the option to vote but those above 21 must vote and if they don’t vote, it will be an offence,” said Takiyuddin.
MCA president and Ayer Hitam lawmaker Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong suggested that the government should also standardise the age of consent across the board.
He made the observation that non-Muslims still require parental approval if they want to marry before they are 21 years’ old but could soon be allowed to vote and decide who will be the nation’s prime minister when they are 18.