Heartbreak for Malaysian voters living overseas

Neither SPR nor political candidates are very accommodating to postal voters

THE desperation and despair of one Malaysian postal voter from the United Kingdom is clearly felt as she posted: "My vote is lost now but I am writing this so people are aware and will do the necessary to follow up on their ballots.

“I will also inform my candidate and Global Bersih to hold the Election Commission accountable. If you are back home and fed up with the injustice of it all, please do me a favour, share this post so others are aware, sign up to be a PACA or volunteer. 

“My right to vote has been stolen this time but we will do what we can to ensure there is no next time." 

There is enough blame to go around. In 2013, I registered as a postal voter in the United States. In order to qualify as a postal voter, I have to meet certain criteria and that includes:

  • I must be a registered voter, and
  • I must have returned to Malaysia for not less than 30 days in the past five years before the dissolution of Parliament or State Assembly.

For PRU13, I met that criteria and I was notified by SPR to say I was qualified to be a registered postal voter, but, here is the curve ball, I had to cast my vote in the Malaysian Embassy in Washington, DC.

I live in Florida and Washington DC is a two-plane tickets ride away, almost as expensive as going back to my kampong in Malaysia to vote! Not exactly voting by post is it?

Fortunately for me, I was able to be in my kampong for PRU13 to cast my vote in Batang Lupar. I had my finger dipped in purple ink but at the last moment, I was told that I was not qualified to vote in my village of Bajong. Reason? I was registered as a postal voter in the United States! That year, Pakatan lost by a mere 15 votes in my village of Bajong, Sebuyau.

This PRU14, folks who live overseas, once again are allowed to vote by "undi pos"  but little information was distributed on how to register and where to vote. I have registered as a postal voter before and having to go to Washington, DC to cast my ballot, was not exactly voting by post!

I was very sceptical. I don't even know who my candidate of Batang Lupar is; and as I said in the beginning, enough blame to go around for lack of information. 

Here in Sarawak, the candidates go all out to get a handful of votes from ulu areas but neglect us overseas voters. I heard in the grapevine that there are at least 4,000bMalaysian voters in London alone and about 20,000 in the United States.

By the time we found out, this time, it would be really "undi pos", literally and technically postal voting in the true sense of the word, it was too late for many of us to register as postal voters.

Parliament was dissolved and the election date was announced before some of us who reside in the US could register ourselves as postal voters. Information on this issue is not readily available. Therefore, in terms of time, how early can we register as postal voters?

As one Sarawakian, who lives in Texas put it: "The SPR should let all Malaysians living overseas know in advance, so that we have ample time. I suggest that all registered Malaysian voters should send their votes to our embassy or consulate. 

“Then they can open the ballot boxes, as it takes a least a week or more for postal votes to arrive in Malaysia."

There was a strong sense of desperation and urgency among Malaysian voters who live in the United Kingdom. They were told, their ballot papers must be received on May 8 and not on the actual polling day.

So, another voter spent £26 to send her ballot by courier service to make the deadline of May 8. 

Another Malaysian voter lamented: "My ballot is stuck in Putra Jaya. Incompetence or something else?"

According to her, the ballot paper was due to be sent to the UK on April 30 and should have been received by May 2 but instead the ballot paper was sitting in Putra Jaya over the past five days.

Another voter cried for help: "I need help guys. My ballots arrive today (May 5) but I just noticed that Monday is a bank holiday and they will only post the parcel on Tuesday (according to DHL, can't get in touch with FedEx), it will only arrive the earliest on Thursday. This voter is living in Nottingham and would not be able to get her ballot down to London on time.

Another voter reported: "Just got a SMS from DHL. My ballot paper will only arrive on May 9."

Who is to be blamed for this fiasco? 

Some Malaysians were lucky to be able to find PACA (polling agents and counting agents) volunteers who are flying back to Penang and Kuala Lumpur and they have volunteered to carry the ballot papers.

If you want your ballots from the UK to arrive within two days, the postal service quoted the price of £63. In the US the FedEx courier service delivery of one to three business days, cost about $54. US Postal Service Priority Mail Express International takes three to five business days at $42.50.

It is much cheaper than plane fare back to Malaysia, approximately RM6,698.85 but can SPR deliver the ballot papers on time? SPR chairman Mohammad Hashim Abdullah announced that the 14th general election will take place on May 9 2018 with Nomination Day set on April 28 and early polling day set on May 5.

On another note, candidates ask for donations but they do not make it easy for us to donate. They provide bank account numbers but expect us to donate directly to the accounts which cost approximately $45 in wire transfer fees!

Why can’t they use PayPal so Malaysians living overseas can easily donate?

In 2013, the 13th general election saw a record turnout of 12 million voters, or nearly 85 percent of all registered voters in Malaysia. However, despite winning the popular vote (50.87 percent), gerrymandering and malapportionment meant that (the now defunct) Pakatan Rakyat only won 89 parliamentary seats to BN’s 133 parliamentary seats." Let that sink in!

May God bless and help our candidates who contest with the purest of hearts. Pakatan Harapan is no match against BN's election machinery or the evil deeds of spoilers who contest as independents but by the grace of God we will prevail!

Let's pray for God's blessings and help against corruption and evil in our country.