18-yr-olds can be YBs in Sabah
Published on: Friday, November 22, 2019
By: Hayati Dzulkifli
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KOTA KINABALU: Sabah-borns above 18 will soon be eligible to contest in any election following the passing of a Bill in the State Legislative Assembly sitting Thursday – the first State to do so in tandem with the recent decision in Parliament.

The Bill sought to amend Article 16 of the State Constitution to lower the age of a citizen who is qualified to be elected as an elected member or appointed as a nominated member of the State Assembly, from 21 to 18.

Speaker Datuk Seri Syed Abas Syed Ali announced the passing of the Bill after 57 members voted in favour, which was more than two-thirds majority needed to approve the amendment while eight members were absent.

The enactment is now cited as the Constitution of the State of Sabah (Amendment) Enactment 2019 that will come into operation on the date of its publication in the Gazette.

State Law and Native Affairs Minister Datuk Aidi Moktar, who tabled the Bill, said it was to streamline with the amendment to the Federal Constitution on lowering minimum age for voting and to become election candidate from 21 to 18 which was passed in the Parliament in July.

This is because the age limit of the State Assembly Members’ eligibility in Malaysia, especially in Sabah, remained at 21 despite the passing of the 2019 Constitution (Amendment) Bill that only involves eligibility of candidature age as members of Parliament at Federal level.

“In this regard, the Prime Minister has recommended that state governments take the initiative to amend their respective provisions regarding the age limit in the state constitution or their respective State Government Laws in accordance with federal law and bipartisan efforts to empower young people in the process of democracy.

“In other words, the government welcomes the recommendation that youths as young as 18 be given the opportunity to speak in the State Assembly.

“It will provide an opportunity for these young generation to become active in politics by raising the voice of young people in policy making and debating the laws for the good of Sabah,” Aidi said.

In fact, he said the age limit for eligibility for the same purpose in most European countries, Australia and New Zealand, has been standardised at 18.

“Although the Bill only involves amendments to a single clause of Article 16 of the Sabah Constitution, the implication is important, in principle, to foster democracy in the State.

“This proves that the Government of today does not consider political interests alone but rather the importance of our state and the future of our country.”

Speaking to the reporters later, Aidi believed that Sabah is the first state in the country to answer the call by the Prime Minister to amend the State Constitution on the matter.

He also said the Bill is in line with the Age of Maturity Act 1971 and the United Nation (UN) Convention where many countries have lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.

“With the passing of the amendment, I am appealing to the young people above 18 to be more prepared from now but nonetheless, I see that there are pros and cons because they just finished their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM).

“But don’t forget that there are 15-year-olds who are smarter than adults,” Aidi said. Tanjung Batu Assemblywoman Datuk Hamisa Samat said she supported the amendment because youths at 18 are qualified to marry, apply for loan and apply for driving licences, then why not also for voting and becoming election candidates.

She said the youths in this modern and globalisation era are different from past years. In fact, she said there is one political party that is aggressive is lowering the membership age to 16 to join the party.

She also agreed with Apas assemblyman Datuk Nizam Abu Bakar Titingan that the youths need to be instilled with moral values and have good characters.

Hamisa cited a recent gang-rape of a Form Two female student by seven SPM students in Tawau which she said she was made to understand that such incident was not a first time but the second. However, she did not elaborate whether it happened in the same school and was covered up or in some other school.

She was also puzzled how such incident could happen when a police officer has been assigned to each school in Sabah.



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