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KUCHING, March 27 ― Rise of Social Efforts (ROSE) civil society today said it is unacceptable and ludicrous for the Election Commission (EC) to blame the Covid-19 pandemic for the delay in implementing the voting age from 21 to 18 years and the accompanying the automatic voter registration (AVR).
Its chairman Ann Teo said this is because the necessary data for the EC to work on is available from the database of the National Registration Department and other agencies.
“It is really not so much about the number of voters that are in the 18-20 years age group, which according to the EC is about 1.5 million, but it is about their right to play a part in choosing the leaders of this country,” Teo said in a statement.
She said the immediate effect or impact of the delay for Sarawak is that about 135,000 youths in this age category are immediately excluded from the right to vote or to choose their state assemblymen and new state government in the coming 12th state election, widely expected to be held just after Emergency Order comes to an end on August 1.
“It also makes a mockery of the constitutional amendment passed by the Sarawak State Assembly last November in lowering the age of candidates running for the state elections from 21 to 18 years.
“As it is, it will be a long long time before any Sarawakian youth will be inspired to run for public office at the state level,” Teo said.
She said prior to the announcement, there has been no indication of the implementation on the delay of Undi18 and AVR, despite the change in the federal government in March last year.
“The EC must therefore explain why they now need 36 months for implementation. Why the sudden U-turn?” she said.
“Unless it does so, it will not be able to rid itself of the public’s perception that they are deliberately delaying the Undi18 at the behest of the executive or ruling parties and that the EC is not independent and free from executive influence.
“We, therefore, agree with Bersih 2.0’s call for the EC chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh to resign,” Teo said.
Two days ago, the EC announced that it has decided to postpone Undi18 and the accompanying AVR, citing Covid-19 for causing delays to its implementation.
The EC said it needed to evaluate new obstacles and persisting issues as well as account for the various movement control orders (MCO) that are in place.
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.
Undi18 can only take effect once it has been gazetted, which was scheduled for the second half of this year.