No way home for polling day

Malaysians working in Singapore are only some of voters who may not be able to return home for polling day thanks to expensive travel fees.

PETALING JAYA: Although employers are legally bound to give workers time off to vote in the general election, for many, going home to cast their ballots may still be impossible.

The Election Commission (EC) recently announced May 9, a Wednesday, as polling day for the 14th general election (GE14).

But whether or not his boss gives him time off to vote, Marcus Ang, 28, fears he will not be able to do so.

Ang works in Singapore and would have to fly home to Taiping in order to cast his vote.

“This is supposed to be my second time voting. I’m hoping for change for Malaysia, but unfortunately I am stuck in Singapore.

“I’m glad I’ve been given this chance to share how I feel because I know that many out there are trapped in similar situations,” Ang said when contacted.

He said he and some of his friends had checked if they were eligible for postal voting, but had found that Singapore is not included in the countries where postal voting is allowed.

This is according to EC rules which state that Malaysians staying in Singapore, South Thailand, Brunei, and Kalimantan are not eligible for postal voting and must return to Malaysia to cast their votes on polling day.

“The next option was to fly home. I checked for flights, hoping that they would not be too expensive and that I would be able to apply for a day’s leave and rush to Taiping to vote.

“But the cheapest option I found was a flight to Penang which would cost me S$400 (RM1,180). That really frustrated me,” Ang said.

Liew Chian See, 30, works in Kuala Lumpur and considers herself fortunate to have booked a RM440 return flight to Sabah.

However, she is taking a gamble as she has yet to apply for leave from work.

“My boss must say yes to me going back,” she said, adding that there were three of them in her company who hoped to go home to vote.

Of the 14,940,624 registered voters in Malaysia, 13,255 are early voters and 3,653 are overseas voters.

Nomination day is on April 28, with campaigning to run from then until May 8.

Opposition leaders and activists have criticised the midweek polling day, saying this will make it difficult for voters to plan ahead.

For Ang, his hope is that airline companies will help voters like him travel home to cast their votes.

“I don’t understand why they have to set the date on a Wednesday.

“It seems like they are trying to make it difficult for people who work abroad to go home and vote,” he said, apologising to his fellow Malaysians for being unable to fulfil his responsibility this election.

Click here to get live updates throughout the GE14 season

Polling day on May 9, campaigning period 11 days