KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 20 — Amid the Election Commission’s continued refusal to extend postal ballots to out-of-state voters, Malaysians are again uniting to help each other vote in the 15th general election (GE15), this time under the umbrella of the #UndiBanjir initiative.
Within it are four movements — #PulangMengundi, #UndiRabu, #CarpoolGE, and #KitaJagaKita — and the umbrella group will officially launch the assistance schemes once polling day for GE15 is announced.
#UndiRabu co-founder Alzari “Joey” Manshahar said at its core, the initiative aims to assist those who cannot afford to travel back to their respective constituencies, primarily university students and young, first-time voters.
Currently, postal ballots are only available to Malaysians abroad during the election, while those residing outside of their home states are still required to travel home in order to vote, often at great expense due to the necessary rush.
Picking up from the #UndiRabu movement that was founded in 2018 just right before the 14th general election (GE14), Alzari said that #UndiBanjir would subsidise the travel costs of voters trying to get back to their hometowns to vote, regardless of their plan to get there.
“We will liaise with the applicants about how much they need to travel back to their respective constituencies; it can be a flight ticket to Sabah or Sarawak, or a bus fare to Kelantan.
“The voters only need to fill up an application form consisting of their details like identification card (IC) number, their constituency (to check whether they coincide with others), and method of traveling. Then we will coordinate on what type of assistance that is suitable for the applicant,” he told Malay Mail.
Alzari said the assistance scheme worked on an honour system, as there was no practical way the informal movement would be able to vet all applicants to ensure that only those who needed aid would qualify.
He stressed that the idea was to help one another overcome the obstacles towards exercising the right to vote in the general election as Malaysians.
“I believe that if you have the means, resources and capability to go back to your hometown and vote, you would not be asking for assistance. This is to educate the people that we have to learn to trust each other again,” he added.
Reviving the initiative for those looking to travel together for GE15, #CarpoolGE co-founder Naim Ahmad said the movement will set up a Telegram group to serve as a matchmaking platform for the drivers and the passengers.
In GE14, Naim said, #CarpoolGE managed to transport approximately 7,000 voters from various parts of the country to their respective constituencies.
“If they refuse to install the Telegram group for personal reasons, we will provide them another platform like Twitter or Facebook for the matchmaking process,” he said.
As its name suggests, #UndiBanjir’s concern included voting as well as the threat of floods from the year-end monsoon starting November, when GE15 is set to be held.
#PulangMengundi co-founder Joseph Lee said #UndiBanjir is preparing relief efforts for the floods already predicted by the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia).
He said that #UndiBanjir will also serve in this regard as a matchmaking platform between non-government organisations (NGOs) and Malaysians interested in helping or contributing.
“#UndiBanjir will serve as a platform to empower each and every Malaysian as this time it will not only involve specific groups especially for the flood relief efforts. This time it would be more organised and every detail will be laid out on our website,” he told Malay Mail.
Founded during the first movement control order (MCO) from the Covid-19 pandemic, #KitaJagaKita co-founder Hanna Alkaf said that under #UndiBanjir, her movement will also be responsible for the flood relief portion of the initiative.
She said that by matching donors to those needing assistance, relief efforts could be simplified, streamlined, and coordinated.
“Sometimes when there’s a disaster, Malaysians always want to help but it can get overwhelming at times due to misinformation and many other reasons.
“So, we are here to simplify the process by matchmaking those who would like to contribute and the ones that are affected by the flood,” Hanna told Malay Mail.
On October 10, caretaker prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob dissolved Parliament despite pleas for him not to trigger GE15 this year due to the high risk of floods from the north-east monsoon period.
Political leaders from Pakatan Harapan as well as the rival Perikatan Nasional have spoken out against forcing a general election in November, saying the predicted heavy rain and floods would make conditions treacherous for Malaysians.
Last year, Malaysia suffered one of its worst floods on record, causing an estimated RM6.5 billion in property damage and displacing over 71,000 people.