By Michelle Ng
Like it or not, 18-year olds will now be able to vote during the General Elections. I take interest in this subject because, being in my 20s, I am considered one of the representatives closest to that age group, and must therefore represent them.
I support this development because, prior to this, 18-year olds are considered by law to be of full capacity and can therefore enter contracts and be tried as an adult for a crime, they are allowed to register for a driving license, they can be sent to die for King and country – but they are not allowed to determine the effect of these policies on them through the ballot box. Now, they can, and rightfully so.
The argument against it is one of maturity. In my one year of service I can quite safely say that maturity does not necessarily come with age. I have met a 15-year-old and engaged in a conversation with him – the quality of which was on par with a person serving in the corporate world. My office has just conducted a visit to the State Assembly for 16-year-olds. We had a session of question and answers and I can safely say that the type of questions posed was on par with questions that I get during forums I attend with residents.
The issue of maturity, even when it was posed as a ground for objecting to the amendment to lower the voting age, was really one that can be overcome. The position should not have been “They are not mature so they cannot vote”, but what should have been said was “How can we better equip them to vote?”
In that vein the youth arm of my office, SJ+, will be rolling out a series of programmes, to which 8 secondary schools in Subang Jaya have agreed to participate. They are:-
- Visits to the State Assembly;
- Workshops on the Federal Constitution;
- Public policy competitions; and
- Meet and greet with policy makers.
As mentioned above we have just concluded a pilot visit to the state assembly. We also rolled in together with the programme a meet and greet with my colleagues, YB Jamaliah Jamaluddin and YB Lim Yi Wei, together with a workshop on the Federal Constitution.
The feedback so far has been positive, but of course with room for improvement. This came from one of the participants:-
“It was very informative. I learned a lot about the Federal Constitution and Human Rights. Definitely useful for students of our age to learn more about politics and how our country is run. Since more and more youth are getting interested in politics it was a useful field trip in my opinion. Seeing the Dewan Negeri in person was very nice too”
I would like to end by saying this – the duty to teach falls on all of us who are able to. It can be as simple as having a conversation with your teenager over dinner about recent developments in the country, getting them to read the newspapers, showing them useful videos of forums, interviews etc. to watch. My hope is that we will all play our part.
On that note, I would also like to extend an invitation to young people out there who might be interested in joining me on this journey. The last pilot was put together by 6 of my interns who are of college age. I can’t be prouder of them for putting together a programme like this seamlessly, and for the very first time at that.
If you are interested, please write to me at michelle.ngmeisze[email protected]