Final week of Dewan Rakyat — how will it end?

Key on the agenda within the next 4 days is the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 to lower the voting age from 21 to 18

pic by TMR File

THE final sitting week in the lower house could very well end on a historic note after a slow, albeit productive, first two weeks.

Key on the agenda within the next four days is the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 to lower the voting age from 21 to 18.

The government has so far played their cards right to deserve a two-thirds majority that it would be near impossible for the Opposition to find any excuse to vote against it.

The latter’s pre-condition for an “aye” to the bipartisan bill, which included automatic registration of voters and reducing the candidacy age to 18, had been factored into the revised bill tabled by Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman last Thursday.

It would be interesting then to see if the Opposition will keep to their side of the bargain or have last-minute surprises up their sleeves. But if all goes well, this would prove to be a watershed moment on so many levels.

If the bill passes, it would be the first time in a decade where an amendment to the Federal Constitution is made.

The last time the Opposition MPs agreed to work together to change the Constitution was in 2009, in relation to the number of judges that can be appointed for the Federal Court and the Court of Appeal.

Today, an amendment to Articles 47 and 119 will force a change to the dynamics of the local political landscape which has long been dominated by age-old narratives on racial relations and religion.

With 3.8 million new voters eligible to cast their votes in the next general election, issues like youth unemployment and unaffordable homes will likely be pushed to the forefront and govern the way politicians behave in the coming years.

If the bill is passed by a two-thirds majority — or even a unanimous decision, it could also point to systemic changes where political parties are concerned.

Given the fact that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had earlier called for the Opposition members to join his party, this crafty example of being able to “join hands for a greater purpose” could set the stage for more guileful partnerships between parties on both sides.

Apart from the “Undi 18” bill, the august House is also expected to vote on three other bills before the week ends. These include the Workers’ Minimum Standard of Housing and Amenities (Amendment) Bill 2019, which will make it mandatory for employers in all industrial sectors like plantation, construction and manufacturing to provide centralised accommodation for their employees.

The current Act only compels employers of estate workers to provide accommodation.

Meanwhile, a bill to increase the number of assemblymen in Sabah from 60 to 73 is also expected to be tabled on July 17.

Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal (picture) has expressed confidence that the bill will be approved as it required only a simple majority.