Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Should Malaysians Abroad Vote?

No, says M Bakri Musa, a Malaysian abroad.

This is his point of view:

Malaysians Abroad Should Not Vote
M. Bakri Musa

Malaysians abroad are misguided and plain wrong in agitating for exercising their right to vote in Malaysian elections.

I can the see the validity for students, diplomats and others on temporary assignment abroad demanding such rights, but then they already have them. For others, especially those who have acquired permanent resident status elsewhere, their clamor for retaining their right to vote in Malaysian elections is misplaced for at least three major reasons.

The first and most important is that since they do not live in Malaysia, they would not have to bear the burden of the consequences of their voting decision. Second, those Malaysians are essentially seeking representation without taxation; that is presumptuous. Third, since they had sought permanent residency status abroad, their focus should now be to prove to their new host country that they are deserving of such a status. Meaning, they should focus their attention, indeed loyalty, to their new adopted land.

My last reason is not major but merely financial. There are considerable added costs to have Malaysians abroad vote in Malaysian elections; I would rather have the government spend that money and resources in Malaysia.

Elections Have Consequences

For an action to be meaningful its consequence must affect the participants, otherwise the exercise is merely academic or worse, a game. It may be a fun game for those abroad to vote in Malaysian elections, but for the locals who have to live with the consequences, it would not be so. In short, Malaysians abroad participating in Malaysian elections are engaged in a fraudulent act besides muddying the waters for the “natives” who have to live with the results.

It is also the height of presumptuousness for those residing abroad to seek political representation but at the same time dispensing with paying their share of the costs, meaning, Malaysian taxes. Americans abroad have a right to vote not only because of the fact that they are citizens, but also because they are taxed on their worldwide income. An American may earn her entire income in Malaysia and in ringgit, nonetheless she still has to pay her share of income tax to Uncle Sam as if she had earned that income stateside. So I can see her demanding her right to vote and that the American embassy provides her the necessary facility so she can readily exercise that right.

Malaysians abroad in contrast do not pay any Malaysian income tax, unless they have Malaysian sources of income, and those Malaysians already retain their right to vote. If the rallying cry of those original New England “Tea Party” colonists back in the 17th Century was “No taxation without representation,” today we have Malaysians abroad who pay no Malaysian tax yet perversely are demanding their right for representation without taxation. Absurd if not arrogant!

The Election Commission’s retort to them should be, paraphrasing the famous words of John Hampden uttered at the height of the English Civil War, what a Malaysian abroad has no right to demand, their home government has a right to refuse.

Malaysians abroad on permanent residency visas should not seek or be given the right to vote in Malaysian elections because they have essentially decided that there is no hope for them in Malaysia. If they were to harbor any sliver of hope for change, then they would have stayed behind and agitated for change from there, where their efforts would have the potential of having the greatest impact.

Besides, having made the emotionally wrenching decision to emigrate, their main focus now should be to adjust to that decision and make the best of it. Thus they should endeavor to plant roots in their new adopted community, be an active and contributing member, and not be bothered with matters (especially political ones) they left behind.

If they should be clamoring for any voting rights, it should be for the right to vote in the affairs of their new community, if for no other practical reason than that those decisions will now directly impact them.

If after adjusting well in their new adopted community, these émigré Malaysians still retain a reservoir of goodwill and gratitude for their homeland and wish to contribute, then there are other more productive avenues to do so than to agitate for the right to vote in Malaysian elections.

Eradicating the “Temporary Abode” Mentality

There is something irritating when I see Malaysians holding green cards or otherwise having permanent resident status being more concerned with Malaysian affairs then they are with those of their adopted homeland. If as a non-native in a new land I feel that way, imagine what the real natives would feel. In America I see frequent backlashes against Mexican-Americans for example, who are more concerned with affairs south of the border than they are with matters American.

A green card (or any permanent resident status) is a privilege; literally millions in the world would give anything to secure one. Having secured one and then to treat it so cavalierly is being disrespectful to the grantor state. Worse, that is the height of ingratitude. In fact in some jurisdictions, any political involvement with affairs back in the “old country” would be grounds for rescinding that permanent resident status.

Permanent resident status is more than a long-term permit to work; it is a statement of your intent to be a permanent resident of that country, as the terminology of the document implies. In many countries permanent residents are granted nearly as full a privilege as citizens. Thus it behooves the holders of such visas to exercise their privileges in such a way as to demonstrate to the host country that they value and thus are deserving of such a status.

If I were a native Singaporean, for example, I would not be too happy to see the republic’s permanent resident visa holders more interested in Malaysian rather than the island’s elections. Indeed there is now a palpable backlash among the republic’s citizens to these new permanent residents who treat the affluent island merely as a place to earn a good income and nothing more.

Malaysians would not be too enthralled either if foreigners granted Malaysian permanent residency status were to preoccupy themselves with matters in their former native land while ignoring local affairs.

A common complaint among Malays is that too many non-Malays treat their Malaysian citizenship merely as a stepping stone for them or their children to emigrate to the West. Thus Malays see the lack of enthusiasm by non-Malays to learning our national language as a manifestation of this “temporary abode” mentality. So when these Malaysians emigrate and then agitate to have the right to vote in Malaysian elections, they are reverting to their old stereotypical “temporary abode” behavior, albeit not in Malaysia this time but in their new home country.

Just to be clear, I am directing my comments not to those Malaysians on temporary assignment abroad as students, civil servants and company employees. For students especially, I would encourage and give them every facility to vote. Doing so would be the best way to get them engaged in the affairs of their homeland. God knows, if they were back in Malaysia their political activities would be severely circumscribed. At least abroad they would be free to partake in full in the political affairs of Malaysia.

If the Malaysian government were to give in and pander to those abroad (parties in power tend to do that!) then I suggest that those voters be made to pay for the full costs of making the necessary accommodations. In my estimation, a fee of US$100.00 per voter would be appropriate, at least in America. That fee would of course be waived for those with proof of payment of their Malaysian income tax in the preceding year.

Impose that fee and then see how many abroad still remain “passionate” about Malaysian affairs to demand the right to vote in its elections. Now if those expatriate Malaysians were as passionate in seeking amendments to the Income Tax Act to making their global income subject to Malaysian taxes as they are in clamoring for their rights to vote in Malaysian elections, then I would salute them, but I would still not support it simply because of the costs it would impose on me.

The Malaysian Election Commission faces a host of monumental problems not least of which would be to clean up the electoral roll and streamline the postal voting process for those already in Malaysia, as with the police and military personnel. The clamor of Malaysians abroad seeking the right to vote is so far down the list that I can hardly see it. Further, I see little merit in representation without taxation.


Anonymous said...

The right to vote for every citizen is enshrined in the constitution. Let us get this understanding out of the way first. There should be no argument to this basic right.

What is in question here are the following 2 points:
1. Should those living abroad have the right to vote. Based on the principle above, YES they do for as long as they remain citizens of this country and they wish to remain so. If they have already indicated their intentions not to remain as citizens of this country,such as seeking political assylum, citizenship, permanent citizency, then what is the point in voting for a country which you are no longer interested in.

2. Should the EC go out of its way and spend huge amount of money to make it easier for such peopke to vote. I say, the EC can do whatever that is reasonably practicable to allow them to vote e.g. Opening voting centers at Malaysian Commissions/Embassies or postal voting. But it is encumbent on the voter to register their intention to vote and must exercise it.

To me this whole issue is just another brick thrown at our window by ingrates. Will they vote if they win the right? I suspect a high majority of them in the end couldn't care less and they will continue to denigrate us.

Kalau dah tak suka pergi-lah biarkan kami.

Anonymous said...

Malaysians who are working and living abroad for more than 5 years have no business to exercise their so-called right to vote in the general election as they would not have to live with the election consequences, good or bad. Especially so for these Malaysians who hold PR status of a foreign country. If they are so interested to vote, then return and live in Malaysia. Earn your keep here. Contribute direct to Malaysia and not on some foreign soil. Otherwise, go and get involved in the country that you chose to live.

Anonymous said...

Those who have obtained permanent resident status elsewhere should have their citizenship revoked. Don't like to stay in Malaysia? And want to vote? Shameless idiot. Ungrateful. Don't come back. Get lost.

Anonymous said...

Balik saja ke Malaysia & mengundi pada tarikh PRU. Inikan yang berlaku semasa PRN Serawak yang lepas?

Masmanja said...

Anon 10:51 AM
Not the right thing to say and being prejudice with Malaysians living abroad. I am living abroad and I still follow Malaysian political news. I still send money and buy properties in Malaysia. Some countries like Australia allow the residence to vote. But we still come back to Malaysia and proud to be Malaysian.

Nevertheless, as Malaysian, our rights to vote should not be denied. Opening a voting centre at embassy doesnt take so much money. The only problem is many of us are misinformed and misguided community. That may not be a positive impact to the current government.

Anonymous said...

why even this discussion?
lets focus on postal votes

Anonymous said...

When it comes to voting, malaysians abroad make noise about their rights. When it comes to paying duo-taxes, all keep quiet and just pay to the country they live. Want to vote, pay taxes lah - if not shut-up. I'm a Malaysian Malay who has been working abroad for a decade now and I don't agree it's a given right to vote if one doesn't pay tax to Malaysia. I have American work mates working abroad and have to prove residency vis a vis tax return before they can register to vote. Canadians expats who don't pay taxes can't use their free hospital services nor vote.


anon@8:41AM: if malaysians (other than students, diplomats and armed froces personnel) living abroad want to vote in the general election, of course they have the right to. nobody's stopping them. the question is whether the government should provide them the facilities at the embassies, high commissions and missions..
i'm sorry but i don't think they government should waste their resources to do that.
these malaysians (other than students etc..), especially those earning a living in foreign lands and paying taxes to the respective government, shouldn't vote.
but if they so passionately want to and they are still malaysian citizens and registered voters, then by all means, come home and vote.
i agree with bakri on this issue.
that's my point of view.

anon@10:51AM: there you go.

anon@2:35PM: i get you..but i'd say it differently.

anon@7:34PM: Mungkin..

masmohd darby: indeed.

anon@8:06AM: this issue is being raised...thst's why.

anon@6:50PM: yep...

YB Dato' Abdul Rahman Dahlan said...

I recent Parliament debate, I was against the idea of allowing Malaysians residing overseas for the very reasons mentioned by Bakri Musa and Nuraina.

Those who have stayed for a long time overseas are normally disconnected culturally, linguistically, politically and socially with Malaysia.

In order for you to "feel" Malaysia, that connection must be established. Hence, I suggested that Malaysians living abroad but want to vote must come home at least once every 2 years.

This is not new idea. Other countries are having the same rules. In Singapore, you must come home once a year to be eligible to vote from abroad. Australia only allows those who have stayed abroad 6 years or less.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

the writer is just full of shit.