KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah state assembly today unanimously passed a bill to amend the state constitution to allow citizens above age 18 to become election candidates.
The amendment was approved after 57 assemblymen, more than the two-thirds majority needed, voted in its favour following the second and third reading of the bill.
The bill seeks to amend Article 16 of the Sabah Constitution to lower the age of a citizen who is qualified to be elected as an elected member or appointed as a nominated member of the state legislative assembly from 21 to 18.
In moving the bill, Sabah Law and Native Affairs Minister Aidi Mokhtar said this was to streamline the eligibility process with the lowering of the voting and candidature age by Parliament at federal level.
He said this would allow the younger generation to be part of the policymaking process as well as provide an avenue for them to be actively involved in politics.
Speaking to the media later, Aidi said: “To the best of my knowledge, Sabah is the first state to respond to the call by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to amend its state constitution to correspond with the lowering of the voting age passed by Parliament.
“This bill is in line with the Age of Majority Act 1971 and also with the United Nations and international conventions.
“This shows that the government is sensitive to the role of the young in Sabah so that they can be policymakers for the good of the state,” said the Pantai Manis assemblyman.
Aidi said the state did, however, acknowledge there might be some difficulties.
“We are aware there would be pros and cons such as they might just have finished their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations, but don’t forget, there are 15-year-olds who are smarter than adults.
“We are confident that despite their age, they can be capable,” he said.