Malaysians in Britain eager to vote

(Bernama) – LONDON: More than 70,000 Malaysians are now residing in United Kingdom (UK). Some are studying in colleges or universities and mostly working. Many have brought along families and have been staying in UK for more than a decade.    

With the polling date for the 13th General Election (GE13) set on May 5, and Malaysians overseas for the first time allowed to vote as postal voters, Malaysians in Britain are eager to exercise their rights as voters.     

Bernama’s writer had the opportunity to look into the preparations being made by Malaysians in London for the GE13 as postal or absent voters.   

 “As of 24 March 2013, a total of 839 Malaysians have registered as postal voters in UK to vote during GE13,” explained Malaysian High Commissioner to Britain Datuk Seri Zakaria Sulong to Bernama when met in London recently.         

This is the first time in the country’s election history, Malaysians have been allowed to vote from another country. Previously, only civil servants stationed overseas had the privilege of voting in absence but not the other employees and students.     

Zakaria expects the number of Malaysian voters in London to increase on the run up to the election.     

“Those who have registered as voters have to be at the High Commission office to certify their identity through their IC or passports before they are handed over their voting slip, on the polling day meant for postal voters,”explained Zakaria.     

The Election Commission (EC) has set an early polling date for postal and absent voters on April 30.     

The postal voters voting for the first time in UK will be receiving voting slips based on their respective parliament and state assembly seats.

Yet there are other loyal Malaysians who are planning to return home for the GE13 to vote at the respective polling centres.     

Nevertheless, the postal vote facility helps to save cost as they don’t have to waste money on air tickets to return home and there is no need to take long leave to be back home to vote in GE13 and the subsequent elections.     

Moreover, postal voters need not have their fingers marked with indelible ink according to Zakaria because of the limited numbers of voters and as there is only one voting centre in London, the Malaysian High Commission.           

A Malaysian, Wan Nur Suryani Firuz Wan Ariffin when met at the Kings College campus at The Strand, London, pointed out how easily she registered as a postal voter.     

“It just took me a short while. I went into the EC website as required and submitted my application, received a message that my submission has been received in less than 10 minutes,” explained Wan Nur who is into her sixth month of her Phd degree in telecommunication engineering at the prestigious college that boasts for 25,000 undergraduates and postgraduates.       

When asked if her application to vote was successful, Wan Nur nodded with asmile.     

“Alhamdulillah. I definitely want to vote in PRU13. Me and my husband who works at the immigration section of the Malaysian High Commission here will exercise our rights as citizens,” he added, while walking to a restaurant for a tea break.               

Meanwhile, S.Devina from Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan, who continued her stay in Britain after completing her studies also concurred with Wan Nur that registering as a postal voter was easy.       

“When is the election? I have been waiting all this while, and have been asking on the date. When ever I meet fellow Malaysians, I ask the same question,” said Devina with a giggle.     

Devina, who is fluent in the Malay language, is attached to the Southeast Asian and African Studies (SOAS) Department at the London University in Bloomsbury, got to know of the postal voting and the registration process involved through social websites.     

“I welcome the opportunity to vote given to Malaysians overseas. This is a wise move of the Malaysian government. As soon as I heard of the announcement, I was exhilarated and waited for the postal voting registration to be activated,”added Devina when met at the Brunei Gallery, located right opposite of the SOAS building.     

Malaysians working for locals or multi nationals in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia also underwent same registration process recently.

While the returning officer is in charge of the polling centres, the polling centre at the High Commission will be managed by an official and his assistant both appointed by the EC.     

Apart from that, the agents for candidates also given the opportunity to observe the voting process like back home.     

A clerk will be appointed to counter check the voters list at the polling centre in London and hand over to the voters the respective ballot papers.     

After receiving the ballot papers, the voter then proceeds to the polling booth to make his choice and the marked ballot is then cast into a bag.     

After the voting is closed, the bag will be taken by the official back  to Malaysia using the fastest route.     

“From London’s Heathrow, there are two return flights to Malaysia daily, therefore the ballot papers can be dispatched speedily,” explained Zakaria.     

After the ballot papers arrive in Malaysia, they will be sent to the respective Parliament and state assembly polling centres.

Those who have registered as postal voters should take advantage of this opportunity introduced recently by the Malaysian government.     

Malaysia is among a handful of countries that now allows its citizens to vote from outside.     

Apart from that many of the outstanding contention that haunted the voters hither to will be over once they mark the ballot papers.     

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had signed a MoU with Transparency International to monitor and ensure GE13 freely and fairly to fulfill the Malaysians aspirations