Malaysia’s diaspora sends tens of thousands of votes

Malaysia’s diaspora sends tens of thousands of votes

COMMENT | The overseas postal ballot in GE15 will be distributed across the country today and tomorrow, setting a new high for representation of Malaysians abroad and making the diaspora itself a voting bloc. At the time of writing, nearly 12,000 overseas votes had been collected, the bulk of which was being flown back home.

At the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), volunteer flyers will be able to hand over the ballots to ‘runners’ up to 11pm today. These runners will then use a pre-arranged distribution network to carry the votes to the appropriate returning officers or their agents across the country.

Symbiotic relationships have sprouted, almost organically, among NGOs abroad and at home, volunteers, their families, friends and, most importantly, overseas voters.

Clearly, voters living abroad are now a constituency with clout. An estimated 50,000 Malaysians living outside the country have registered to vote. It’s impossible to gauge the final tally when counting concludes in the days to come.

Nevertheless, more than 100 people carrying precious cargo for GE15 have flown out from at least 27 countries: Australia, Cambodia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, the Philippines, Qatar, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam.

In the UK, where most Malaysians abroad live, the ballot count was conducted at Malaysia Hall, London, beginning 6am on Nov 17. The overseas vote from the UK and Ireland was a whopping 6,932, or 140kg of ballots.

Australia follows the UK with the most number of Malaysian residents. In Melbourne, 2,573 ballots were collected in six centres, and six flyers are due to return to Malaysia. Separately, another six flyers have carried Sydney’s 1,001 ballots from more than a dozen centres. In Sydney this morning, votes are still being collected by volunteer couriers who are flying back home today.

In Queensland, Hema Preya’s team bagged 540 ballots. Hema reported to the Global Bersih team that an airline pilot had agreed to carry ballots home to Malaysia.

Tallies are still being taken in cities across the world’s time zones. By 10.55 GMT today (5.55am in Kuala Lumpur), the numbers stand at: France (248 ballots), Wellington (74 ballots), Geneva (44 ballots) and San Francisco (372 ballots, four collectors and two flyers).

Malaysia’s diaspora has chiselled its demographic with the strength of a unique partnership, hardworking, determined, truly Malaysian and willing to go where no one has gone before, so to speak, to Get Out the Vote (GOTV).

Malaysia’s children, homegrown and living abroad, the NGOs they support and the volunteers that have almost organically moved to the centre of action, have come to the GE15 table to bring voice and vote to support people at home and exercise their democratic rights.

The partnership has brought about change – very real change – that bequeaths the right to choose and vote to more and more people, more and more thousands, which can only make louder the voice of citizens calling for accountability, justice, transparency and fairness.

Whatever the GE15 outcome, it can only serve Malaysians well to remember that voters have turned night into day before, and two steps back is not the same as turning back.

Today, the voices of NGOs like Global Bersih, headquartered in Europe, Amsa (Australian, Malaysian, Singaporean Association) and Masca (Malaysian Students Council of Australia) – just to begin with – are heard loud and clear.

The target audience has been Malaysians abroad who are eligible to become overseas voters…

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