KOTA KINABALU, Sept 10 — For the love of democracy, a group of youth activists are coming together to help crowdfund and coordinate efforts to send young Sabahans home this month in order for them to cast their votes in the snap election this September 26.
The group, identified as Pulang Mengundi Sabah, comprises nine youths who are students and graduates pooling resources, expertise, experience and networks in a non-profit effort to fly back Sabahans who are unable to foot the bill for air tickets.
“The initiative started middle of last month. We have reached out to the society about the crowdfunding by posting on Facebook and Twitter. We also have contacted airlines which are currently still in the middle of the discussion,” said Zariah Zakaria, 25 one of the group members.
Zariah, a UM post-graduate from the Demokrat Universiti Malaya group, said that they are mostly just a group of nine friends who wanted to foster the process of democracy and remain bipartisan. In the group, about five are Sabahans, including Zariah, but all of them are based in Sabah.
Some of them in the group were involved in similar efforts during the previous election (GE14) like Aaron Denison Deivasagayam ,who was a co-Initiators for the Pulang Mengundi Mahasiswa campaign in 2018
Aaron who has since graduated and is currently working in Kuala Lumpur said that this effort is considered smaller than that of GE14 as it only involves domestic travel.
“The motivation is the same as before, we want to get people home if they want to be part of the democratic process. We are focusing on helping youths either working or studying in the peninsula to go back home to Sabah to cast their votes.
“Voting is a right and one should be able to go back to vote regardless of their affiliation,” he said.
Aaron, 28, said he was aware of the voter apathy, stemming from disappointment in politicians as well as the current Covid-19 pandemic that has impacted livelihoods as well as caused health risk issues which have led to a lack of enthusiasm for those who may have otherwise considered returning home.
“But to us, the only voice they have is through their vote and they should exercise that right,” he said.
For Zariah, the snap poll has come at a significant time for Malaysians and Sabahans as many are enraged with the thought of a government formed on party hopping antics.
“I believe people were robbed of their mandate. I would rather this election than a government formed without the people’s mandate,” she said.
Since the group started getting the word out, some 1,600 applicants have applied to benefit from their effort. Most are from West Malaysia, but some are from Sarawak and even a few applied from within Sabah, asking for bus fares to return to their hometowns.
But funds for the group right now stands only at RM2,500, although crowdfunding efforts have yet to really kick-off.
Their data of applicants showed that while 40 per cent were the intended targets — 21- to 35-years-old, a big chunk of applicants was above the age group.
“Our intended target was youths, so that’s our priority but if we have the funding we will consider it. Funds are really limited right now but we hope to get more after negotiations and talking to more organisations,” said Aaron.
The group will run their first vetting of applicants this weekend. Successful applicants will be notified and the second vet will be notified after the closing date of application on September 18.
“We are looking at getting a chartered flight to send people back during the week before polls, or perhaps a group discount. Flights are limited now, so it's restricted.
“Many people have told us they’ve lost their jobs, suffered pay cuts, others asked for subsidies to fly their parents home, while the students just can’t afford flights,” said Aaron.