The EC could help more East Malaysians to vote

MOST Malaysians would welcome activist Maria Chin's public call to the Election Commission to allow East Malaysians living in Peninsular Malaysia and others to register as absentee voters.

It's their constitutional right to vote. Why should we deny this precious right, just because of some outdated regulations insist that Sabahan and Sarawakians in Peninsular Malaysia have to return to their homes in Sabah and Sarawak to vote.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, the police, the army and media personnel, to vote before voting day as absentee voters.

Why do we subject the 150,000 Sabahans and Sarawakians to the requirement to go back to their homes to vote 1,000 miles away. In order to vote, they would have to incur costs of air tickets. We are thus penalising these Malaysian voters, our brothers and sisters from Sabah and Sarawak.

The same arguments can apply to the thousands of Malaysians from the peninsula who are working as civil servants , teachers, doctors and businessmen in Sabah and Sarawak.

Chin and a whole host of NGO leaders and particularly all those voters who are directly involved, have appealed to the government and especially the Election Commission, to rectify this electoral irregularity, in the interests of what she says, would promote "transparency and accountability".

However, I would humbly propose that we add the goal of "integrity" to "transparency and accountability!"

How can we the public and the voters have full faith, confidence and trust and amanah in the electoral system, if the Election Commission continues to ignore the people's appeals for more care, consideration, sympathy and justice and righteous for ordinary and loyal Malaysians who want to vote? The EC must show more empathy to win more respect!

So our appeal to our government and the Election Commission, is to please take heed and to enable us to undertake our patriotic duty to actively participate in our sacred responsibility to vote.

We should not be penalised by having to incur unnecessary air transport costs to exercise our duty to vote.

Surely, the primary aim of the Election Commission is to encourage and enable all Malaysians to fully fulfil their duty to vote, rather than discourage and even deny them their fundamental democratic and human right to vote.

I believe that the government and the opposition will be greatly rewarded if the Sabahans and Sarawakians in Peninsular Malaysia and voters from Peninsular Malaysia working in Sabah and Sarawak, are allowed to attain their fair and legitimate status as "absentee voters".

Please don't alienate them but go all out to win their hearts and minds and support. Don't instead, earn their regret and remorse.

Hence my appeal to the government is: to please decide soon, to help more East Malaysians and others from Peninsular Malaysia in a similar position, to register as absentee voters in time for the general election.

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam
Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies