“Let’s Talk: Voter’s Education & Youth Politics”, a virtual forum held by the BAC Law Society, discussed a range of interesting points within these topics. Conducted on the 13th of February, their panel consisted of Mr.Tharma Pillai Let’s Talk: Voter’s Education & Youth Politics (UNDI18), Mr.Jeffrey Law (YPOLITICS), and Ms. Nur Izzatul Diyanah (YPOLITICS).
To ease their audience into the discussion, Mr Tharma explained the delay in the implementation of the UNDI18 Bill. Mr Tharma is the Advocacy Director and Co-Founder of UNDI 18, an organisation that successfully advocated for the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18. Mr Tharma explained how the government has not provided a clear timeline with regards to the implementation of the Bill, resulting in a lack of clarity. He suggested there be a reasonable amount of time for the implementation of a gazetted act to avoid such delays. Due to certain opinions, Mr. Tharma believes that the conservative elderly are ‘‘distressed and they fear the youth’s capabilities’’.
Mr Jeffrey is the Content Lead for Socioeconomics at YPOLITICS, a multi-partisan and independent youth-led movement that aims to raise political awareness among Malaysian youths. He highlighted that 86% of countries in the world have set their voting age at 18. He views Malaysia’s voting age of 21 to be rather medieval and the amendment is a progression to a more democratic nation. However, Mr Jeffrey believes that the youth need to be equipped to vote and as such, this requires further civil engagement within the Malaysian education system. He stated that the younger generation should also educate themselves and be more aware of their constitutional rights.
In contrast, Ms Izzatul, the Administrative Lead from YPOLITICS, was of the opinion that it is a person’s democratic right to vote and this right should not be qualified by their degree of knowledge. She also emphasised the importance of youths holding positions of leadership. This will enable the younger generation to resonate with their leaders. Mr Tharma agreed, adding that there aren’t enough people to look up or relate to.
The panelists agreed that social media has greatly democratised knowledge due to its accessibility. It also acts as an effective platform for youth politics education. Mr Jeffrey admitted that he learns a lot through social media, with ‘heavy information in bit-sized pieces.’ Mr Tharma noted how politicians are basing governmental actions on social media sentiments, demonstrating the power of social media. He encourages advocating issues from a demographic approach.
The panelists concluded the forum by expressing their personal views on hope for youth politics. Mr Jeffrey hopes to see more meaningful youth representations and more conversations surrounding politics. Ms Izzatul hopes for more accessibility and more inclusivity thus making youth politics less intimidating to the masses. Mr Tharma hopes for youths to face more serious issues and will be more willing to engage and have discussions among themselves.
During the question and answer session, Mr Tharma, in responding to a question about steps to overcome race-based politics, said that it is important to communicate effectively with higher-ups. He added that the their long-term goal is to change the culture of racial segregation amongst political parties. Mr Jeffrey was asked how politics could be made cool and conversation-worthy amongst youths. He answered by saying that youths need to change their ideologies of what politics is and find their niche in politics. “Everyday life issues are politics…,” Mr Jeffrey said.
The event was a major success overall. The conclusion seemed to be that the future for youths in politics is indeed a bright one and that more youths will be enfranchised soon. Regardless of what the government does consequently with the UNDI 18 Bill, the youths are and will always be ready to VOTE.