Eighteen Good Enough to Vote?

Just recently, the Cabinet has agreed in lowering Malaysians’ voting age from 21 to 18. The nest step would be for the Minister to table it up in the Parliament whereby the Parliamentarians will debate and decide whether it should be lowered or not.

I welcome and agree to the fact that this has been a long-awaited decision. Many nations’ 18 years old has been given the rights to vote since a long time ago, and that left only a few countries with people above 18 years old to be eligible as voters, which includes Malaysia currently.

18 years old means a lot to all of us. It is the age where we are technically considered matured. The eligibility to drive a car, to own a house, starting a business, getting married. If 18 year-olds are considered matured for all those, why aren’t voting as well?

Allowing 18-year olds to vote means more voters which signifies the relevance of democracy. The results of an election will be more relevant and inclusive with the add-ons, provided that the turnout is high.

But even before we proceed to approve the decision, I think tabling the motion of lowering the voting age must come together in solving a few related issues. We must not only consider the technical part of voting, which is the age limit.

If we do not improve or change our political culture and behaviour, amending the limit of voting age that does not make any difference.

Age is only the technical part. Somehow, the Government and the society plays an important role to develop the teenager’s mind prior to voting, so that they could make wise decision, especially towards issues as important as choosing a leader and government of a country.

Neil deGrasse Tyson once gave a great speech on the value of knowing how to think is far more important than just knowing what to think. Sadly, our education system only teach us the latter. We were mostly taught to cram as many facts into our head as we can, only to spit out on a piece of paper, then forget about them.

Instead of just remembering the facts, it is more important that we learn how to navigate the modern sea of information, how do we filter out the important, and how to determine what’s downright false.

This is what is happening in our political arena these days, the people were fed with too much information, which many were false or incorrect news. And therefore, they make mistakes by believing in those news. It is hard to blame them, as the algorithm of the internet does not filter whether a news is correct or not. Many does not justify whether a news is true or not by its content, the truth today is justified by the top results of the Google.

When we talk about the top results on social media justifies the truth of an issue, the same goes to what is considered important to many individuals.

It is a sad thing when we take a certain movement in the wrong meaning. Take patriotism for example. I don’t consider myself overly-patriotic, but I do love my country, I love myself for being a Malaysian. I may be of Chinese descent, but I am born a Malaysian, and therefore proud to be one. The problem with patriotism is when it morphs into chauvinistic ultra-nationalism. We have to admit that there are such signs, and if we are not careful, it will cause us more damage than development.

Instead of believing that one’s nation is unique, one starts to believe that his or her nation is supreme. That is worst when it comes to races.

When we are too focused on nationalism, we tend to forget of what is more important. Issues like climate change and environment is not attractive to nationalists, we rarely see nationalists advocates of such issues. When there is no national agenda, but only a global agenda to such issues, some nationalist politicians prefer to believe the problem does not exist.

We can always do whatever to prove that one nation or race is supreme than the other. But when climate change and natural disaster strikes, it doesn’t differentiate which nation or race you are from, it affects everyone.

And what is causing many to divert away from what is important? The modernisation of technology and branding is causing more confusion than ever. And that is why we need to educate our young generation to develop them to know how to think and decide for the government.

We are using technology the wrong way. It is easier than ever to talk to our friends who are staying thousand of miles away using the internet; but it is harder to talk to our loved ones over a dinner because we are constantly looking at our smartphone instead of them. Instead of analyzing the information that we derive from the internet, we rely on the internet algorithm to decide what is the truth and the important.

When we think about a famous soft drink, you probably imagine young people, having fun, playing sports and living a cool life. You probably don’t think about the overweight diabetes patients lying in hospital beds. Similarly in the general elections, we were given beautiful and sweet promises, but many never thought of going into details and the practicality of each promises.

The young generations, and in fact, most of the population are heavily influenced by technology and branding. We do not want ourselves to be influenced the wrong way in making decisions such as the government. Hence, it is critical to develop political awareness, maturity and the ability to think and analyze, so that we choose the best for our nation.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 9th April 2019.

The Change that Changed DAP

Change in the dictionary generally means “the process or end result of becoming different.

When people talks about change, we are always hoping to change for the better. That is what Malaysians were hoping for in the governance of the nation. We wanted a more transparent, effective, progressive and a better government.

It was that hope for a change that has mobilized probably a historic voter turnout in the 2013 general elections.

It was the ‘Ubah’ spirit that DAP has instilled in many people; that has urged our family, friends, neighbours and colleagues to come out and vote.

There were many first-time voters; there were many who drove back to their hometowns to vote; and there were also many who flew back to Malaysia to fulfill their responsibilities as voters. All for the hope of change.

The word ‘change’ in government can be very subjective and have different interpretations. Change can possibly mean a change of leaders. It can also mean a change of different political party governing the nation. Or it means a change of new, progressive ways of governing the nation irrespective of who wins the elections.

Recent happenings on several issues has incited doubts in how people perceived ‘change’ as campaigned by the DAP.

There were cases where DAP’s actions contradicts with what they have fought for in the Parliament.
One of the obvious contradictions can be seen when we compare the Malaysia Stadium Corporation Act which was passed in 2010 in the Parliament and the Penang Stadium and Open Area Enactment that was passed in the State Assembly last May. Both the act and the enactment are pretty much similar which is to further improve the management of sports facilities with the exception of a few sections. The main difference though is that one is a federal law, and the other is a state law.

When the Malaysia Stadium Corporation Act was tabled in the Parliament in 2010, the then DAP Seremban MP, John Fernandez questioned the absolute power of the Minister in appointing the Chairman of the Stadium Corporation; but in Penang, the Chief Minister is the Chairman of the Penang Stadium and Open Area Corporation himself.

In the same Parliament motion, YB Ngeh Koo Ham of DAP objected for the section of the “protection from legal actions” in the Malaysia Stadium Corporation Act; but in Penang, the DAP-led state Government passes a similar law with the section that includes protection from personal liability.
There was so much irony on what they have campaigned for ‘change’, but they were practicing the same thing that they have objected for in the Federal Government.

There is probably one change in the enactment though is that the DAP-led State Government added an “Open Area” as the responsibility of the corporation, which would mean the Chairman who is also the Chief Minister having even more power towards the lands of Penang despite there are already controversies in regards to land matters.

There were also many occasions where we see how the DAP objected when it was the act of the Barisan Nasional, but was considered noble when it is the act of the DAP.

Freedom of Information and speech was one of the agendas when the DAP campaigned in the election. They have also boasted their action when they passed the Freedom of Information (FOI) Enactment in Penang. Today, it seems that the FOI has become a tool to hide documents rather than opening it up. Gerakan has applied to gain access to over 20 documents but we never gain access to any one of it.

The Federal Government was accused of selling the nation to China when huge investments were brought into the country; but when the Penang Government applied for loan from China, it was claimed that it was for the best interest of the state.

The DAP was so against the UMNO that they have vowed not to award the state projects to companies owned by UMNO members. Few weeks back, Zarul Ahmad, the chairman of Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd which was awarded to build an undersea tunnel and three major roads in Penang admitted that he is an UMNO member.

There are other ironies, such as the open tender in state government projects, the public car park charges, restoring local government elections, cleaner, greener and many others.

It is not about the right or wrong regarding the decisions on the said issues; but it is a matter of the meaning of ‘change’ is perceived by the DAP.

Yes, there is indeed change, the DAP changed.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 30th June 2017.