1. Why have you started MyOverseasVote?
There are around 1 million Malaysian citizens living and working overseas, out of a total potential electorate of 15 million. Under the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002, Malaysians living overseas can register as absent voters only if they are full-time students or military / government servants. Those who are working in the private sector, retired or unemployed cannot vote unless they to fly back to vote.
2. What is the aim of the MyOverseasVote Campaign?
Our key aim is to secure the right to vote for all Malaysian citizens who are living overseas, without discrimination on the grounds of employment or profession. We also want to educate and engage Malaysians so that they are aware of their role in charting the future course of our nation, and more assertive in demanding their rights.
3. How do you plan to achieve your aim?
We are taking a three-pronged approach to this campaign:
- First, we are raising awareness and support amongst the Malaysian community overseas, via our online petition, Facebook, Twitter, as well as word of mouth.
- Second, we are engaging with Malaysian MPs, civil society organisations and the media to start a debate back home about the right to vote of their fellow citizens who are living and working overseas.
- Third, we are raising funds to support a legal action to force the Election Commission to allow Malaysians overseas to register as absent voters.
4. I have been told by the Malaysian embassy that only Government scholars can register as absent voters. Are you sure private students can currently register?
The Regulations are clear that all Malaysians of or above 21 who are in full-time higher education outside Peninsular Malaysia or Sabah or Sarawak can register as absent voters. That the authorities have in ithe past not followed their own regulations is proof of why we need to increase public awareness and scrutiny. It has taken four months of pressure from MyOverseasVote for the Election Commission finally to acknowledge (in Feb 2011) that the information given out by Malaysian embassies was not in accordance with the law.
5. Why should overseas Malaysians have the right to vote?
Malaysians overseas represent 1 million out of 15 million potential Malaysian voters. Many have left the country out of necessity, in search of education, training and employment. But at heart Malaysian citizens overseas are still Malaysians. That is why although they may have been living overseas for 20-30 years, they have declined to take up British or US citizenship but retain their Malaysian passports.
Malaysia also cannot afford to lose the best and brightest of its citizens to other countries. The right to vote is the most basic right of the citizen. Yet the irony is that Malaysian citizens who live in the UK and those who are permanent residents in New Zealand can vote in those countries’ elections but they cannot vote in Malaysian elections. If Malaysia continues to discriminate against Malaysians living and working overseas and treat them like foreigners, then more will be drawn to give up their Malaysian citizenship in order to enjoy the convenience of a foreign passport.
6. Are you affiliated to any political party?
No, we simply believe that all adult Malaysians must have the right to vote, without discrimination, whether they vote for BN or for PR or any other party.
7. What is the Malaysian authorities response to MyOverseasVote?
The Election Commission has stated that they are studying the possibility of reforming the system of registration, but there is no timescale of this process of “membuat kajian”, and it has no beginning and no end. Recently, the Election Commission has given various excuses why overseas voting is impractical – ignoring the fact that tens of thousands of Malaysian students are already entitled to vote overseas.
UPDATE: The EC has promised that Malaysians will be able to vote by post from overseas for the 13th General Election. However, it has still not made the necessary amendments to the Postal Voting Regulations. Until this is done, only students and governement servants will be able to vote by post from overseas.
8. Why is the campaign being launched now?
It is widely believed that the next election may be launched as early as late 2011. Our country is going through a period of enormous change, and Malaysians overseas cannot afford to remain on the sidelines while others determine the future of our country. The Constitution has made provision for the enfranchisement of absent voters since 1960; yet 50 years later, the vast majority of Malaysians overseas still do not have the right to vote. We are not prepared to let another election pass by while we are denied our constitutional rights.
9. Why are you planning to sue the Election Commission?
It is the responsibility of the Election Commission to make the necessary regulations to allow Malaysians to vote. The litigation will go ahead unless and until the Regulations are amended to allow all adult Malaysian citizens to vote without discrimination on the grounds of employment or profession.
10. Do you think the litigation will be successful?
We believe that we have an undeniable case under Article 8 of the Constitution. Whether we succeed or not depends on the independent Election Commission and the Malaysian courts. But we will make it clear that they have a simple choice: either they say yes and give us our constitutional rights, or they say no and they will be completely discredited in the eyes of all Malaysians. Either way, they cannot simply ignore us any longer.
11. How can I get involved?
- Sign up to our Facebook page or follow our Twitter feed @MyOverseasVote.
- Sign our Petition.
- Donate via PayPal to MyOverseasVote@gmail.com.
12. What money are you looking to raise?
We are looking to raise RM200,000/£40,000/$60,000 in order to cover legal fees, disbursements and a contingency fund in case we are ordered to pay the Election Commission’s costs.
13. Why is the sum so large? What will you do if you have money left over?
The sum is 200% of the cost and expenses of bringing a legal claim in the High Court, and taking it up to the Court of Appeal and Federal Court. The sum has been doubled in case we are ordered by the court to pay the Election Commission’s costs. If there is money unused or left over, it will be donated to non-profit organisations that campaign for free and fair elections in Malaysia.
UPDATE: Our lawyers, Messrs Chooi & Co., are handling our case pro bono, so we are now only targeting to raise expenses and costs of RM50,000.