Urged to respect the will of the Parliament as the bill to lower the voting age was unanimously by all MPs in July 2019.
The Youth wing (Armada) of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), Umno and DAP leaders today took Dewan Negara Speaker Tan Sri Rais Yatim to task, chiding him over his recent remark on Undi 18.
Armada chief Mohd Ashraf Mustaqim Badrul Munir said the wing fully supports Undi 18, as it is important for youths to be given the rights to vote.
In 2019, Putrajaya’s bid to amend the Federal Constitution to lower the voting age to 18 years old was met with resounding success with unanimous backing from the Opposition bloc and government backbenchers.
The Bill, which also includes automatic voter registration and allowing 18-year-olds to contest in elections created history for the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration when it was in power as it was the first successful constitutional amendment that received support from both sides of the political divide.
“Rais is the Dewan Negara speaker, not an Election Commission representative nor a government individual speaking on behalf of it.
“As such allegations towards the government on the implementation of Undi18 is a fallacy meant to create negative sentiments towards the government,” said Bersatu Youth information chief Mohd Ashraf Mustaqim Badrul Munir in a statement today.
In an interview with national news agency Bernama TV yesterday, Rais reportedly said that he believes it is not practical to lower the voting age to 18 at the moment as this involves various agencies including the EC and the National Registration Department (NRD) and would be too time-consuming.
He had previously also disputed the readiness of 18-year-olds to vote, saying that teenagers are not yet mature or educated enough to do so.
The Undi 18 bill, officially known as Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019, was passed by the Dewan Negara in July 2019 and gazetted two months later. The amendment lowers the voting age from 21 to 18.
De facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan has set a July deadline for implementation.
Ashraf said the majority of Bersatu Youth supported the implementation of Undi18.
However, he claimed the criticism painting Rais as representing the government showed the need for better political education.
Umno information chief Shahril Sufian Hamdan also criticised Rais via Twitter, over his remark.
“This is ridiculous. How to face the public with this? Credibility down the drain for anyone who so blatantly moves the goalposts just because you think opponents are favourites to score. If you are worried, compete again. Win/lose with dignity,” he said, challenging for a re-election.
Former Umno president and Pekan MP Datuk Seri Najib Razak also joined the cohort, saying that the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government is not keen on Undi 18, as its leaders are aware of the seething anger among the majority of the young voters towards the administration.
“However, the Undi 18 Bill was passed unanimously by all MPs in July 2019 and we were informed that this would come into force at the latest, two years later. That is July 2021, which is close.
“Therefore, the PN government is trapped and is still thinking if it wants to enforce Undi 18 or otherwise, as if it does not enforce it, this would be the biggest insult to the Parliament and the democratic process,” he said.
PKR deputy information chief G Manivannan said Rais should not be pre-empting the EC, even if it was facing technical problems.
“For a person who is not within the circles of the EC to make such a statement creates uneasiness.
“If there are any prevailing issues, EC should be highlighting the issues, not Rais,” the lawyer said in a statement, adding that the separation of powers had to be respected.
Muda co-founder Lim Wei Jiet, said Rais’ remarks contradicted the government’s July deadline to gazette the new eligible voting age.
“This statement is very surprising. When the constitution was amended in 2019 for Undi18, the government has clearly stated that it will be gazetted at the latest by July 2021.
“In November 2020, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Takiyuddin Hassan also promised that Undi18 will be implemented at the latest by July this year,” he said in a statement.
Lim added that contrary to Rais’ remarks, the Election Commission through its deputy chairperson Azmi Sharom had on March 10 said the body is ready to accommodate Undi18.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s party Pejuang, meanwhile, said the statement from Rais was “unacceptable”, saying it not only belittles the youth of Malaysia, but insults the democratic process itself.
Pejuang told Rais Yatim that 19 months had lapsed since the bill was passed and there should have been enough time to compile a new voters’ list.
In a statement today, it reiterated that Malaysian youths had the right to choose their leaders.
“We also call on the PN government to make their stand on Rais’ statement, to let the people know how they really feel about Undi 18,” it said, calling the statement a “political excuse”.
DAP’s Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim called on the Dewan Rakyat to criticise Rais over his remark and urged the government to implement what was passed in Parliament.
He branded Rais’ remark as “irresponsible, irrational, an insult to the youths and an insult to the Parliament”.
“The narrow-minded thought that youths are not prepared, shows that Rais Yatim clearly does not understand the sentiments of majority Malaysians and does not know about youths.
“This is very saddening for a veteran political leader who is also the Dewan Negara Speaker,” he said, reminding Rais that both the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara already passed the said Bill.
He also urged Rais to respect the “will of the Parliament” and not issue haphazard statements viewed as an insult to the Parliament.