SEPTEMBER 13 — Last July, I had the opportunity to witness a forum organised by Undi18 in one of our local private universities. Undi18 is a brainchild of the Malaysian Student’s Global Alliance (MSGA).
It is a grassroots movement, spearheaded by a group of young people trying to lobby our politicians to lower the minimum voting age from 21 to 18. One of the panels started off by saying that out of 195 countries, there were 9 that still have a minimum voting age of 21.
The countries are Cameroon, Kuwait, Oman, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, and yours truly, Malaysia.
I am writing this article to show my support for this cause. According to Majority Act 1971, any Malaysian at the age of 18 is already recognized as an adult. If you see, at 18 you are transitioning into a new phase in life.
You are legally allowed to get married, sign contracts, join the army and die for the country. Many 18-year-old Malaysians are also busy getting themselves enrolled into either public or private universities to pursue their ambitions and, thus, slowly transitioning into the adult life. And for non-Muslims, they legally able to purchase and consume alcohol. They can do anything but, cast their votes in the ballot box in elections and choose who they want to govern the country.
According to the Ministry of Education Malaysia, 36 per cent of Malaysian youth are in higher education, and they are the minority. This begs the question. Where are the remaining 64 per cent?
Did they choose to not pursue higher education and straight away find a job? Or they were not qualified enough to get enrolled in universities? Or our universities are not big enough to place them all? We do not know for now. The Ministry of Education Malaysia wants to boost the percentage of young Malaysians in higher education to 50% by 2025. Even this, the other half of Malaysian youth will still be out of higher education. We need more youth in our universities to be educated because we cannot solely rely on the minority to maneuver our nation forward.
A labor force survey finding in 2015 by the Department of Statistics Malaysia found out that the unemployment rate among 20 to 24-year-old Malaysians is at 9.3 per cent.
What make things more worrying, this group make up the biggest chunk of the unemployment pie chart by 42.1 per cent.
The Department of Statistics Malaysia also found out last year that the average lifespan of Malaysian males and females are 73 and 77 years old respectively. Young people have much more years to live compared to their parents and grandparents. And this is why they should be given the voice to be heard in elections so that our politicians would design policies that can benefit them not just socially, but economically and financially as well.
Many would argue the youth are apolitical. This is for the most part, is false. You go on social media and you will see a lot of youth talking about national issues and politics. Last Ramadan, I stumbled upon a video by one of our local young comedians (he is below 21) slowly climbing the stairs of stardom. He made a 1-minute video about his father (acted by himself) accepting a bribe in a satirical manner. The video garnered almost 750,000 views and almost 150,000 likes. This will surely send messages to the majority of our youth given his followers are mostly young people. To say youth are ignorant is irrelevant. They are aware, they just express it in different ways.
Young people make up the majority of the country. We need to give them a voice so that our policymakers will craft policies that will benefit them so that they will be secured socially, financially, and economically in many years to come. We need to eliminate the double standards in our laws because they have sacrificed a lot but are denied to choose who they want as their representatives.
Lowering the minimum voting age will surely make our youth more politically aware, and will encourage our politicians to create policies that can benefit them even more in the future.
I fully support Undi18!
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.