KOTA KINABALU: Parti Bersatu Sabah voted in favour of reducing the minimum voting age to 18 from 21 but reminded Parliament that the provision for automatic registration must be treated with care.
Party president Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said the conditional vote in favour of the proposed amendments was made because PBS wants the electoral roll, especially in Sabah, to be cleaned up.
“We are in favour of the proposed amendments to the Federal Constitution to reduce the minimum voting age from 21 to 18, be automatically registered as voters and stand as candidates for general election when they reach the age," he said.
In his debate speech after the tabling of the proposal, Ongkili said the recommendation was not new as it was part of 22 suggestions adopted when he chaired the Parliamentary Select Committee in 2011.
Ongkili, who is Kota Marudu member of parliament, noted that PBS was fully supportive of reducing the minimum voting age from 21 to 18, and allowing them to become election candidates, adding that these proposals were consistent with the party's stand.
"Our party believes that youths should be given more opportunities to participate in national political decision-making and democratic responsibilities.
"However, the provision for automatic voter registration must be treated with care. The Select Committee in 2011 recommended that among the Election Commission's (EC) main tasks was to clean up the electoral roll first, especially in the case of Sabah.
"For Sabah, it is widely known that the electoral roll is infiltrated by illegal immigrants and questionable voters. Efforts to clean up the roll must continue," he said.
Ongkili said automatic voter registration for youths in Sabah ould not be treated the same way as in other states, as the situation is different.
“Automatic registration in Sabah should only be implemented after we are convinced that the electoral roll is deemed to be clean.
"So either the EC exempts Sabah from automatic voter registration for a period until the roll is cleaned up, or a pre-qualification committee should be formed to scrutinise all upcoming 18-year-olds before being automatically registered as voters," he suggested.
This way, he said, children of illegal immigrants and other questionable citizens could be screened out and prevented from registering as voters.
"We do not want illegal immigrants to decide through the ballot box who will be the next prime minister, or chief minister, or our elected leaders in Legislative Houses.
"Only rightful citizens can have such a privilege and decide the future of our nation," he said.