KUALA LUMPUR, March 27 — Around 100 of young protesters marched towards the Parliament today to protest the Election Commission’s (EC) delay in allowing 18-year-olds to vote, and also the closure of lawmakers from sitting in the House.
As they arrived bearing banners saying “Mana undi kami?” (Malay for “where is our vote?”) and chants of “buka parlimen” (Malay for “open the Parliament”), the protesters sat down on the road heading to the building which was earlier barricaded by the police.
Amir Abdul Hadi of the Malaysia United Democracy Alliance (Muda), who led the march, had stopped the march from the historic Padang Merbok metres, from the entrance, declaring that the entourage would sit here in silence for 18 minutes in protest of the delay of the initiative called Undi18.
Among the faces in the crowd are former education minster Maszlee Malik, and activists-turned-politicians Maria Chin Abdullah and Tian Chua, along with several NGOs like Bersih 2.0 and Demokrat Nasional showing their support for the movement.
Also present were youth wings from Pakatan Harapan, who called for the protest yesterday, and from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Parti Pejuang Tanah Air.
With one minute left on their silence, Amir once again hyped up the crowd, chanting pro Undi18 chants and counting down the last minute of their protest.
This was followed with a speech by 18-year-old Nur Rifayah speaking on behalf of Muda and all participating parties condemning the EC’s decision to postpone implementation of Undi18 and calling its use of Covid-19 as an excuse nonsensical.
In her speech, she presented two solutions for the EC and government to mull over, the first being letting youths between 18 and 20 to register manually if it is difficult to implement Automatic Voter Registration, and the second a joint venture between the National Registration Department and the Ministry of Youth and Sports in an effort to obtain voter data and provide political education.
She said that the group is urging Undi 18 be implemented as soon as possible, adding that Parliament should also be opened as it is the symbol of democracy in Malaysia.
“We have had enough with the excuses given by the Perikatan Nasional (PN). We, the people of Malaysia, love the concept of democracy and the PN government cannot get rid of it.
“If PN cannot administer the country, resign! Give the chance to someone else to guide Malaysia towards a better future,” she said.
She added that the decisions by the EC will affect 1.2 million youths between the ages of 18 to 20, adding that the rights of these youths have been taken away by the government by not allowing them to vote.
“We have also heard that the 15th General Election may be held at the end of the year. Where is the logic of the PN administration, it’s as if they are trying to silence the voices of the youth,” she said.
She then claimed that the PN government has now turned into a dictatorship that always relies on the Covid-19 pandemic to cover up all the wrongdoings done by them.
“Add in the Emergency, the government today seems like it has veto power in handling the administration of the country,” she said.
The speech by Rifayah was endorsed by multiple groups, including Mahasiswa Haparan, Young Democrats Malaysia (YDM), Pertubuhan Demokrat Sosial (DEMUDA), Persatuan Kebangsaan Pelajar Islam Malaysia (PKPIM), Kesatuan Mahasiswa Universiti Malaya (KMUM) and Harmoni Malaysia.
A representative from each group then delivered a speech, with all of them condemning EC and the PN government for the delay of Undi18.
On March 25, the EC announced that the implementation of Undi18 has been postponed to September 2022, citing Covid-19 and its accompanying movement control orders (MCO) and the declaration of Emergency in the country as the reason why its being delayed.
Federal lawmakers crossed the political aisle and voted unanimously to amend the Federal Constitution in July 2019 and lower the minimum voting age from 21 to 18.
Undi 18 can only take effect once it has been gazetted, which was scheduled for the second half of this year.