‘Overseas M’sians must assert right to vote’

Aneesa Alphonsus | January 29, 2012

Bersih co-chairman A Samad Said may be 76-years-old, but he's not 'leaving' without letting Malaysians know that they 'must fight for their country'.

KUALA LUMPUR: National laureate A Samad Said wants Malaysians abroad to assert themselves and demand their right to vote in the 13th general election.

Samad, who is now the co-chairperson of Bersih coalition, believes that there is no sound enough reason why Malaysians living and working abroad should be deprived of their most fundamental right.

“All Malaysians abroad should fight for that (their right to vote) from where they are.

“They should insist that their voices be recorded, that they have a right to vote and they must vote.

“If their right to vote is denied than as Malaysian citizens, they can deny the elections.

“I can’t stand intimidation, fraud, dishonesty. I think everyone, every Malaysian should go and fight against this so they can get the kind of country they want.

“You want to see a change? Then vote and insist on it.

“If I don’t remind them to do this, I’m not carrying out my responsibilities,” he told FMT recently.

Pak Samad, as he is fondly known to many Malaysians, went on to add that the question of difficulty should not take precedence over what needs to be done.

He said it was the duty of every Malaysian abroad to fight for their right to vote.

‘Overseas Malaysians must demand rights’

He said Malaysians abroad should let their respective embassy representatives know of their right and desire to vote.

The right to vote for overseas Malaysians was one of the eight demands that Bersih 2.0 made to the Election Commission. The EC however has not weighed this yet.

Pak Samad said it was not enough that in-country Malaysians fight on behalf of their brethren abroad for the right to vote.

“Malaysians (abroad) too must be willing to take steps towards making this a reality.

“They can change things. If all Malaysians abroad don’t fight for this, what are they doing outside there?

“I’m not saying it’s their sole responsibility to make this happen, but they should be accountable for the positive changes this country can achieve.

“If they allow the country to go on like this for another five decades in the hands of Barisan National, what will happen then?

“We are not talking about another five years of the government being in power, it’s five decades. It’s time. It’s the right time,” he said vehemently.

‘Everyone must band together’

Until July 9, 2011, Pak Samad was best known as author. These days, he’s being celebrated as an activist as well.

At the height of the massive Bersih rally, Pak Samad became a national phenomenon when he lost his slippers in the crowd and walked barefoot all the way to the gates of the palace.

At 76, Pak Samad is ready to die but not before he has said his piece.

When presented with the notion that many of the Malaysians abroad feel apathy towards their right to vote and are disillusioned by vote-buying, Pak Samad had this reply: “Irrespective of these things, you still have to vote. It is your right.

“If everyone bands together, it will work.

“Don’t allow the government to use racial, religious issues against us. Don’t allow them to say they are enriching the country. They are not enriching the country.

“Why aren’t these Malaysians doing anything? If things go on like this, we can be on the verge of bankruptcy.

“So if we don’t do what we can, don’t blame (Prime Minister) Najib (Tun Razak) or Nazri Aziz, or (Dr) Chua Soi Lek.

“We should blame ourselves. We must fight, otherwise don’t complain,” he said.

It must be noted that a test case filed by six Malaysians working in Britain to have the right to cast their ballots abroad failed when it was over-ruled by the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Jan 6.

The court dismissed their application by ruling that the Election Commission was following the rules in not allowing them to cast their ballots abroad.

The six had wanted the court to compel the EC to register them as absent voters and amend its regulation within two weeks to allow all Malaysians to vote overseas.

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