In our Selected Exhortations category, we republish interesting stuff such as must-read articles and essays not originally written exclusively for the blawg, and which have come to our attention. Please feel free to email [email protected] if you would like to reproduce your writing, but first follow our Writer’s Guide here.
This post is by Eva Soo and was originally published in her personal blog under the title “Lackadaisical Malaysia”.
I’ve recently been flabbergasted by the recent news of the High Court’s verdict to dismiss the application of six overseas Malaysians who challenged the Election Commission (EC)’s decision to refuse to register them as absent voters, with the right to vote by post.
The court’s decision has not only left me dumbfounded but also created a confusion as I’ve recently had some email correspondences with the Malaysian Embassy here in Beijing. About 2 months ago, I received an email from the Embassy requesting us to show up at the Embassy to fill in some “Borang A – Pendaftaran Pemilih” to register ourselves as voters for the coming election.
I was not only surprised to receive the email, what more that the Embassy is so enthusiastic and proactive in reaching out to us. The email added confusion to me as Shawn and I have already registered ourselves few years ago back home and participated in the last General Election.
So I replied the email and asked if it is necessary for us to fill in this form. The email, obviously, was sent by the receptionist who was a local Chinese and was not really familiar with this matter. She referred me to the Third Secretary, whom which I forwarded the email to. I received a reply from her which as follows (verbatim):
“You and your husband can come to Embassy to fill up the form for Daftar Pemilih, Even though you already registered back home in Malaysia but for the next election are both of you going back to Malaysia to cast your vote? if you not going back eventhough already register back home, you still have to fill the daftar pemileh form so in the form we can fill in as “Daftar Tidak hadir” or Mengundi Luar Negara where they will sent the voting paper here you and your husband can come to the Embassy to cast your vote.”
After reading the news on the court’s dismissal, I emailed Edmund Bon, the lawyer who represented the 6 Malaysians in the UK to ask for advice.
Upon reading my email and the correspondence email documents that I forwarded, I was asked to follow the instructions in the email and register at the Embassy.
I was also given some advice on how the form would look like as well as things to look out for (so I don’t get any surprises).
So I went to the Embassy this morning, and met the shy local Chinese receptionist again. Trying not to look well-informed, I innocently asked for the “Borang A – Pendaftaran Pemilih” form, and the receptionist happily obliged. I went to the corner of the hall and quietly filled the form and noticed that there wasn’t a column for me to fill in my current address in Beijing. So I asked the receptionist and she shrugged her shoulders, indicating that she had no idea how to help.
She then asked if I’m a student or government servant, and said that those were the criteria to be able to vote abroad. Trying not to be TOO annoyed, I then asked her why I was instructed to come over to register? She said she was only told by the Third Secretary about this policy a few hours ago.
I rolled my eyes, and glanced at a stack of forms on her table. The stack of “Borang A” forms were filled by other people before. I asked her about the completed forms, and she said most of them are students, although there were a few working professionals from private companies.
If I had to venture a guess, I would assume that these people who filled up the form did not really know whether they were registering to be absent voters, or just registering for voting back home. And I don’t think many people would go so far to find out the very confusing protocols.
I then asked for the Third Secretary who came down to meet me. She said that the Election Commission wanted to confirm our home address in Malaysia. I found this very peculiar because we had already done the “Registration of Malaysians Overseas” the first month we moved here (both addresses in Beijing and Malaysia were filled in, along with our profession and company name). Surely it was clear as day that we’re not “students” or “government servants”. And now we’re required to record once again our address?
So, either the embassy is not doing their job by passing along our information to the EC, or our information got lost along the way. Either way, it is a shameless situation.
The Third Secretary then brought out another form with just two fields on a white piece of A4-sized paper. The only information they needed on this form was “Alamat di Luar Negara” and “Status Pemohon”. There were 4 classifications under “Status Pemohon”:
Seeing as we do not belong in any of the categories above, I was told to leave a remark at the bottom of the page, and she would highlight this matter to EC when she submits our forms.
Again, if I had to make an assumption, I think that this extra form was a recently added document, distributed to all embassies. There didn’t seem to be any document number anywhere on the page. It looked like it was created using Microsoft Word, no watermark, no carbon copies, no official emblems whatsoever.
Nevertheless, I filled in both forms for Shawn and I and submitted for the Embassy to mail it to EC. At this point, there was no assurance if we would get a response or if our papers would be “lost” in the mail again.
I left the embassy just as confused as when I first entered. Questions that were looming in my head were still unanswered.
Why did the Embassy send us the email in the first place? Were they assuming that we were students or civil servants? But how can they make such mistakes when we had presented them with all information the first month we moved here?
Why did she first tell us we can vote here in Beijing, and later on reverted by saying that only students and civil servants are eligible? Was she informed?
Or, was there a new policy that was new even to her?
These questions will remain a mystery and there is nothing anyone can do (except wait, I suppose). I’m seriously very annoyed by such lack of responsibility, incompetence and misinformation which led to a waste of time and effort. Such mistakes are intolerable! If something should happen to me whilst I’m here, how can my family back home be informed if they keep asking me where the “fudge” I live?!!
So to those back home who have not registered, do get yourself registered as the next GE is just around the corner.
Vote for change, vote for a better Malaysia.
Every vote counts!
Till the next blah-blah!