By Frank Auger

KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 20)--The recent backlash against deputy youth and sports minister Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal over his comments that Malaysians below the age of 18 are telling of the Rakyat’s appetite for greater democratic freedom.

Despite having the support of all members of parliament present when it was passed, it is telling that an unelected official, a senator appointed by a government seen as having come to power without being given a mandate, seems opposed to the idea of letting 18-year-old Malaysians exercise their democratic right.

In a quick turn around the deputy minister then claimed that he was instead concerned over the ability of youth to act responsibly and proposed that “they would need some form of prior institutionalised political education”.

Well in a country where those 18 and below may be allowed to get married, for better or worse, the argument of not being responsible is moot. If people are mature enough to get married, are they not mature enough to vote or does the senator have a problem with those of that age being allowed to tie the knot?

Perhaps it is the growing dissatisfaction with a lackluster economic direction, dropping Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), the huge loss of jobs and other problems that are riling up the youth, making them unpredictable as far as their voting patterns go.

The solution would be to allow the youth the right to vote, and accept the results, not to shut them out of the process and deny them the means to vent their frustration. Surely in this day and age the youth are among the best informed in the country, having access to an unprecedented level of information, opinions and news as never before.

But as with the Third Vote i.e. local council elections, there are people afraid of the “wrong” result or in other words being unable to accept that their party or affiliates would lose.

Dr M says 'no' to local council elections
“No local council elections. Local council elections may produce the wrong result. The urban (areas) may be different, the rural (areas) will be different.”

This is another means to retain power, deny the Rakyat their democratic rights and further stunt the growth of the country instead of being politically mature and working to serve the people, the means of bringing in better leaders is being stifled.

Denying the youth the right to vote, denying the Rakyat the right to elect their leaders at the local government level and denying the aspirations of the nation by suspending parliament are all going to affect the country and its people negatively, not to mention harming its reputation in the eyes of the world.

Of course all this simply means that level headed lawmakers, civil society and the Rakyat must push ever harder to to secure and expand their rights. Failing that what would we be other than a failed state?