EC must facilitate overseas Johoreans to exercise voting rights

by FAYYADH JAAFAR / graphic by MZUKRI MOHAMAD

THE Election Commission (EC) should set up at least five vote collection centres outside of Malaysia for overseas voters, says Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah.

She noted that there are thousands of Johoreans living, working and studying in Singapore who need to cast their votes in the upcoming state election.

“Elections amid a spike of the Omicron variant is a challenging process for the EC as well as the voters.

“Foreseeing that many Malaysians will travel across the border either by land, air or water in a short period to cast their vote in this state election, we can expect the manpower requirements of our immigration, police and Health Ministry (MoH) officers being stretched to their limit, not to mention the additional resources that will be used,” she said in a statement last Friday.

This, she said, would inevitably increase physical interaction and exposure between both travellers and authorities, a risk that must be mitigated at a time of Covid-19.

She added that furthermore, the quarantine requirement for overseas travellers may deter many voters from returning as they may need to take at least a week off just to comply with the standard operating procedure (SOPs).

“The EC should encourage postal voting as an alternative for voters to exercise their right and civic duty by setting up at least five vote collection centres outside of Malaysia for overseas voters.

“Overseas Johoreans can cast their votes in a ballot box in advance and later return them via diplomatic bags to their respective polling stations in Johor. There will be thousands of voters who will benefit from this, as they will still be able to exercise their civic voting duty while being across the Johor-Singapore Causeway,” she said.

She also called on the EC to ensure that all voters are provided with information about the background of contestants, their track records and their manifesto.

“I suggest that the EC, with the consent of the National Security Council, allow small gatherings of no more than 30 individuals at any one time for candidates to meet the people in their constituency.

“All candidates organising such meetings must abide strictly by all the SOPs set by MoH,” she added.

Maria also said all candidates and contesting parties should be given equal media access and coverage throughout the campaign period, and there must not be any restriction or preference on who can use public-funded media channels such as TV, radio, newspapers and official websites.

“Prime media time must be equally accessible to all candidates. These platforms should be fully utilised to educate the public about the democratic process, thus minimising the need for physical gatherings.

“The next five years of Johor will determine the livelihood and wellbeing of its people, depending on how this state election is managed and handled,” she said, urging all outstationed citizens to register as postal voters.

“May the people of Johor make the smart choice by voting for a just and fair government,” she concluded.