‘Don’t deny Sabahans, Sarawakians constitutional right to vote’


PETALING JAYA: A prominent former civil servant has thrown his support behind the call by Bersih 2.0 for the Election Commission (EC) to implement advanced voting for East Malaysian voters living in the peninsula and West Malaysians living in Sabah and Sarawak

Ramon Navaratnam, who is chairman of the Asli Center of Public Policy Studies, said such a move by the EC would be welcomed by most Malaysians as well.

“It’s about their constitutional right to vote. Why should we deny this precious right just because of some outdated regulations insisting that Sabahan and Sarawakians in Peninsular Malaysia have to return to their homes in Sabah and Sarawak to vote.

“Why can’t we give them the same privilege as emergency workers, police, army and media personnel, to vote before the actual polling date,” Ramon said.

On Thursday, Bersih launched a campaign calling for the EC to ease the voting process, highlighting the plight of over 150,000 registered voters from Sabah and Sarawak living in Peninsular Malaysia.

“Each election, these voters must spend hundreds of ringgit and find time to make the journey back to their home constituencies in order to vote,” Maria had said at the press conference announcing the campaign’s objectives.

Ramon, who is a former treasury deputy secretary-general, agreed with her comments, saying it is tantamount to penalising these Malaysian voters who are “our brothers and sisters from Borneo”.

“The same arguments can apply to the thousands of peninsula-based Malaysians who are working as civil servants, teachers, doctors and businessmen and women, who serve faithfully in Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.

Ramon added that aside from promoting “transparency and accountability”, rectifying this electoral irregularity wouldl also add “integrity” to the work carried out by the EC.

“How can the public and voters have full faith, confidence and trust in the electoral system, if the EC continues to ignore the people’s appeals for more care, consideration, sympathy and justice for loyal Malaysians who want to vote?

“So our appeal to our government and the EC is to please take heed and enable us to undertake our patriotic duty to actively participate in our sacred responsibility to vote,” Ramon said, urging the EC to show more empathy if it wants to gain more respect.

Ramon said the EC had a primary aim to encourage and enable all Malaysians to fulfil their duty to vote, rather than discourage and even deny them their fundamental democratic and human right to vote.

“So, please don’t alienate these Sabahans and Sarawakians in the peninsula, as well as those from the peninsula working in East Malaysia, and instead go all out to win their hearts and minds and support,” Ramon said, calling for the government to make an urgent decision on the matter.

Bersih pushes advanced voting for Sabah, Sarawak voters