MyOverseasVote is deeply disappointed by the Friday’s decision of the High Court in Kuala Lumpur, which dismissed the application of six overseas Malaysians which challenged the Election Commission (EC)’s decision to refuse to register them as absent voters, with the right to vote by post.
Based on media reports of the Court’s oral judgment, we believe that the Court appears to have misunderstood the nature of the Applicants’ case. The Applicants have always maintained in their pleadings and their submissions that the definition of “absent voter” in the 2002 Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations, which allows only government servants, military personnel and students (and their spouses) to be absent voters, is arbitrary, discriminatory and a violation of the grant of equality in Article 8, as well as of Article 119 of the Federal Constitution, which allows for voting by absent voters who are not resident in a constituency.
The Applicants, however, did not apply for the Regulations to be struck down, but instead asked the Court to declare that the Applicants were entitled to register as absent voters based on Articles 119 (read with Article 8) of the Constitution, or alternatively, to compel the EC to extend the definition of “absent voter” in its Regulations to cover the Applicants and other Malaysians resident overseas, so as not to disenfranchise those government servants, students, etc., overseas who had already registered under the Regulations. This approach is legally sound and based is on Indian and South African precedents.
MyOverseasVote hopes that Malaysians recognise that the EC has failed to identify any legitimate basis for the Regulations that it has made, which disenfranchise and deprive 1 million Malaysians overseas of their constitutional rights as citizens. The EC cannot be allowed to rely on its own discriminatory Regulations to argue that it is entitled to deny the Applicants and others like them the right to vote as absent voters.
We further note that the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform has agreed that the current Regulations are inadequate, and that all Malaysians overseas should be allowed to vote by post, and we call upon the EC to implement this recommendation straightaway instead of continuing to resist the Applicants’ legitimate demands based on technicalities.
MyOverseasVote understands that the Applicants will shortly be filing an appeal to the Court of Appeal with a certificate of urgency and calls upon all Malaysians to support them in their fight for equal voting rights.