Erna Mahyuni

Erna tweets too much on @ernamh. Angry Sabah native, slave to her dog/cat and blogs at ernamahyuni.com

SEPTEMBER 27 — Believe it or not, the spoiled ballot protesters have actually been around since before I was old enough to vote. So long, in fact, I think I’m due an appointment at the dentist to get new falsies.

Even then, as a child (or teen, pardon my failing memory), I wondered why there were such decadent people willing to wait in long lines just to waste their time, other people’s time, as well as ink and paper. It was mind boggling. A nap would have suited them better, I thought.

Yet every time an election comes around, these people will go on and on about their “protest votes” which I assume are them just drawing hearts and ponies on their ballot papers.

It’s simple, really. You can vote, or choose not to vote. I’d prefer to vote though. Even if it means I have to apply for leave, cross my fingers MAS is having a sale (because I hate the AirAsia terminal in Kota Kinabalu), and endure my mother stuffing me with enough food to feed a nation of starving orphans. 

The thing about the whole voting thing is, you actually have to opt-in. Some of us have even found our right to vote contested by other apparently well-meaning Malaysians, so it is not a right to be taken lightly. 

There are stateless people out there, floating between countries, wishing they get to feel as though they had some say in the political process. Like, you know, don’t kick us out please, thanks?

Voting is not a magic wand that fixes all ills, paves all potholes, gives all our politicians a sudden attack of conscience. Politics is hard and politics is messy. It’s easy to think that voting is pointless when people you don’t like and policies you don’t want somehow win anyhow.

No, Virginia, you don’t always get what you want. That’s life. 

The simple reality of the whole process of governance is that it’s more than just elected people and non-elected people. Everyone has a role, if they want it. What is special about the vote is that it gives you this magic, golden ticket that gives you the license... to yell a lot.

Yes, I know, Malaysians already love griping about various things at the mamak, at the water cooler, in MMO’s FB comments (yes Dad I saw your comments) etcetera etcetera pancakes. But legitimised griping is precious. You can actually say, to your elected rep: “I voted for you and this is not what I expected from you!” If you need guilting tips, consult your nearest Asian parent.

We forget that the voting process is just the beginning. Too many think that you line up, vote, then magic happens. You think Malaysian elections are like Toto ah? You’re a lot less bitter about 4D numbers, though.

Taking another cue from Asian parenting, you need to fuss. You need to keep an eye on what that person you wasted one hour queueing for is doing. What is that person doing? What is that person’s party doing... or not doing? Pretend he/she is your kid and it’s an examination year, maybe that will help get you in the right frame of mood.

Governance is actually everyone’s job. It is not the citizen’s job to merely sit back and cross fingers. You need to make noise. Send letters, petitions or at least like the Tweets of people who do that sort of thing a thousand times. Or maybe donate to their legal defence fund. You know, that kind of thing.

In conclusion, either vote or don’t. But of course voting is better, it shows you have either a heart or a conscience, perhaps both. If you don’t, it’s obvious you have given up on the country and need to do something more useful like go to the nearest mall and at least contribute to the economy, you great big disappointment. If you can’t be bothered to at least participate, at least be a good little capitalist and prop up your favourite mall. Your GDP and the GST thanks you. 

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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