Ex-electoral reform group chief moots institution to educate public on civic rights, voting

Tan Sri Ab Rashid Abdul Rahman speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur December 18, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Tan Sri Ab Rashid Abdul Rahman speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur December 18, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 18 — Tan Sri Ab Rashid Abdul Rahman has suggested that Malaysia provide an agency or institution that educates Malaysians of their civic rights and the significance of their votes.

The former Election Reforms Committee (ERC) chairman said when it comes to elections in Malaysia, most voters do not realise the power they have when they go to the ballots, with many thinking it is merely to pick a representative for their constituencies.

“This means they are voting just for the sake of it,” said Rashid during a press conference after his opening speech at an event called Seminar Minda Merdeka at Intercontinental Hotel here.

“They don’t know why and they don’t know the larger and deeper implications their votes have. “That’s why we must follow what other developed and more advanced democracies are doing in indoctrinating the spirit that the people must own the country and they must own the elections.”

He gave the example of Germany, which he said has a civic and democracy institute for all levels of society, and starts this education at the primary school level.

Rashid also said from his visit there, the country also provides different programmes on the matter for migrants as well.

“The Turks who came there to work have a strong German pride. When you ask them about their background they will say they are German because they love the country which has given them an opportunity in life,” he said.

“They realise that they have the power to choose what they want to do with their country and influence the direction its taking by realising how important their vote is and the larger implications it has,” Rashid explained.

“This is why we need this central institution to train all Malaysians in civic matters and the need for them to start owning their elections,” he added.

On a side note, when asked if postal voting could be the way forward for Malaysia seeing as Covid-19 infections are still rife, he said it can be done but the system must be almost flawless so the people can put their trust in it.

“The thing about postal votes is the timeliness. If these votes arrive late and say 80 per cent are not counted then it defeats the purpose.

“It has to be an efficient system, otherwise the people won’t trust it. Not to forget the fact that Malaysians actually love going out to vote.

“You don’t believe me? Have you seen how excited people are to vote? They dress up well, stand in line early, talk about it with their friends and so on. So these are some challenges that need to be overcome,” added Rashid.

The ERC sent 49 electoral reform recommendations to the government in August and Rashid said he is optimistic that the current government is serious about looking into these reforms.

As for implementation, he said: “That will come down to political will.”

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