Making the case for youth representation

The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.

—  Diogenes, Greek philosopher

On the back of the decision of the Kuching High Court which ruled in favour of the youth, who took the government and the Election Commission (EC) to court for the delay in lowering the voting age to 18 — in general, it was a big win for youth, make no mistake about it.

It ruled that the government and EC must take steps to implement Undi18 by the end of the year, to enable Malaysians aged 18 to vote in the next elections instead of waiting until they turn 21.

Surely, it sent youth in jubilation over the expedited implementation of Undi18 which itself was passed unanimously in Parliament in July 2019.

The problem was that while it was passed, the EC was quoted to have said that the movement control order (MCO) had derailed the commission’s planning to implement both Undi18 and the automatic voter registration (AVR).

But now, with the government not planning to appeal on the decision, it appears to stand and Undi18 will be implemented in time before the Sarawak election and the next general election.

So, now we are in a state where political parties are hard at work to lure these group of voters, who will contribute to an estimated increase of 7.8 million new voters in the age group of 18 to 21.

But the question will be, how can they truly be able to tap into the new voting group and capitalise on their votes and be a major swing in political support.

While I can’t speak for the young voters in Malaya or Sabah, I think for Sarawak in particular where political parties will need to pander to the youth in light of this new development.

This is a time that the local parties over here can instil the meaning of being a true Sarawakian while at the same time inculcate in them certain values to ensure that they do not stray off the wrong path.

The first part while not straightforward per se, is achievable with a renewed sense of nationalism promoted at least, by the local parties.

The second part is undoubtedly more challenging. The youth need to understand the system of governance, its intricacies and approaches to its policies as well as its implementation.

Democracy isn’t just about shouting to the wind or making noise in public hoping that somehow their voice is being heard — it is more than that.

Making your opinions known is one thing, but more importantly is to contribute to the solutions.

For the most part, the youth today, at least those who will be voting under Undi18, have grown up in the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) era of GE13 and undoubtedly those who want changes were being sympathetic to Pakatan Harapan (PH) in GE14.

While it easy to dismiss that they might be just ‘anti-government’, then again it is prudent that we find the root cause of the problem and understand them better.

Sure, it is good that we have long-term development strategies, making inroads in terms of improving our financial capacity and adopting new technology in our approaches post Covid-19, but then again, the question will be, is it really what the youth want?

We must draft policies that are of momentous value to the youth — letting them know we are with you, and we want your help to better Sarawak.

For Sarawak in particular, we must have an icon and a major selling factor to the youth — someone they can truly look up to and idolise.

I have said it then and I will say it again: We need someone to a public face of our own youth movement; it should be promoted as one of the main factors of the next state and general elections.

We should also consider to do away with convention.

At the very least, there must be a youthful representation in the government.

Take Khairy Jamaluddin during the Barisan Nasional (BN) era and Syed Saddiq of the PH era.

These two individuals, although being appointed to some might say ‘window dressing’ position of Youth and Sports Minister, they have the ability to connect to the youth, which in all honesty we are sorely lacking.

To end, I believe the Undi18 will play a major part in deciding future elections and that we best prepare for it. We shouldn’t be a day late and a penny short.

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