Malaysians Abroad Should Not Vote

by M. Bakri Musa

Malaysians abroad are misguided and plain wrong in agitating for exercising their right to vote in Malaysian elections.

I can the see the validity for students, diplomats and others on temporary assignment abroad demanding such rights, but then they already have them. For others, especially those who have acquired permanent resident status elsewhere, their clamor for retaining their right to vote in Malaysian elections is misplaced for at least three major reasons.

The first and most important is that since they do not live in Malaysia, they would not have to bear the burden of the consequences of their voting decision. Second, those Malaysians are essentially seeking representation without taxation; that is presumptuous. Third, since they had sought permanent residency status abroad, their focus should now be to prove to their new host country that they are deserving of such a status. Meaning, they should focus their attention, indeed loyalty, to their new adopted land.

My last reason is not major but merely financial. There are considerable added costs to have Malaysians abroad vote in Malaysian elections; I would rather have the government spend that money and resources in Malaysia.

Elections Have Consequences

For an action to be meaningful its consequence must affect the participants, otherwise the exercise is merely academic or worse, a game. It may be a fun game for those abroad to vote in Malaysian elections, but for the locals who have to live with the consequences, it would not be so. In short, Malaysians abroad participating in Malaysian elections are engaged in a fraudulent act besides muddying the waters for the “natives” who have to live with the results.

It is also the height of presumptuousness for those residing abroad to seek political representation but at the same time dispensing with paying their share of the costs, meaning, Malaysian taxes. Americans abroad have a right to vote not only because of the fact that they are citizens, but also because they are taxed on their worldwide income. An American may earn her entire income in Malaysia and in ringgit, nonetheless she still has to pay her share of income tax to Uncle Sam as if she had earned that income stateside. So I can see her demanding her right to vote and that the American embassy provides her the necessary facility so she can readily exercise that right.

Malaysians abroad in contrast do not pay any Malaysian income tax, unless they have Malaysian sources of income, and those Malaysians already retain their right to vote. If the rallying cry of those original New England “Tea Party” colonists back in the 17th Century was “No taxation without representation,” today we have Malaysians abroad who pay no Malaysian tax yet perversely are demanding their right for representation without taxation. Absurd if not arrogant!

The Election Commission’s retort to them should be, paraphrasing the famous words of John Hampden uttered at the height of the English Civil War, what a Malaysian abroad has no right to demand, their home government has a right to refuse.

Malaysians abroad on permanent residency visas should not seek or be given the right to vote in Malaysian elections because they have essentially decided that there is no hope for them in Malaysia. If they were to harbor any sliver of hope for change, then they would have stayed behind and agitated for change from there, where their efforts would have the potential of having the greatest impact.

Besides, having made the emotionally wrenching decision to emigrate, their main focus now should be to adjust to that decision and make the best of it. Thus they should endeavor to plant roots in their new adopted community, be an active and contributing member, and not be bothered with matters (especially political ones) they left behind.

If they should be clamoring for any voting rights, it should be for the right to vote in the affairs of their new community, if for no other practical reason than that those decisions will now directly impact them.

If after adjusting well in their new adopted community, these émigré Malaysians still retain a reservoir of goodwill and gratitude for their homeland and wish to contribute, then there are other more productive avenues to do so than to agitate for the right to vote in Malaysian elections.

Eradicating the “Temporary Abode” Mentality

There is something irritating when I see Malaysians holding green cards or otherwise having permanent resident status being more concerned with Malaysian affairs then they are with those of their adopted homeland. If as a non-native in a new land I feel that way, imagine what the real natives would feel. In America I see frequent backlashes against Mexican-Americans for example, who are more concerned with affairs south of the border than they are with matters American.

A green card (or any permanent resident status) is a privilege; literally millions in the world would give anything to secure one. Having secured one and then to treat it so cavalierly is being disrespectful to the grantor state. Worse, that is the height of ingratitude. In fact in some jurisdictions, any political involvement with affairs back in the “old country” would be grounds for rescinding that permanent resident status.

Permanent resident status is more than a long-term permit to work; it is a statement of your intent to be a permanent resident of that country, as the terminology of the document implies. In many countries permanent residents are granted nearly as full a privilege as citizens. Thus it behooves the holders of such visas to exercise their privileges in such a way as to demonstrate to the host country that they value and thus are deserving of such a status.

If I were a native Singaporean, for example, I would not be too happy to see the republic’s permanent resident visa holders more interested in Malaysian rather than the island’s elections. Indeed there is now a palpable backlash among the republic’s citizens to these new permanent residents who treat the affluent island merely as a place to earn a good income and nothing more.

Malaysians would not be too enthralled either if foreigners granted Malaysian permanent residency status were to preoccupy themselves with matters in their former native land while ignoring local affairs.

A common complaint among Malays is that too many non-Malays treat their Malaysian citizenship merely as a stepping stone for them or their children to emigrate to the West. Thus Malays see the lack of enthusiasm by non-Malays to learning our national language as a manifestation of this “temporary abode” mentality. So when these Malaysians emigrate and then agitate to have the right to vote in Malaysian elections, they are reverting to their old stereotypical “temporary abode” behavior, albeit not in Malaysia this time but in their new home country.

Just to be clear, I am directing my comments not to those Malaysians on temporary assignment abroad as students, civil servants and company employees. For students especially, I would encourage and give them every facility to vote. Doing so would be the best way to get them engaged in the affairs of their homeland. God knows, if they were back in Malaysia their political activities would be severely circumscribed. At least abroad they would be free to partake in full in the political affairs of Malaysia.

If the Malaysian government were to give in and pander to those abroad (parties in power tend to do that!) then I suggest that those voters be made to pay for the full costs of making the necessary accommodations. In my estimation, a fee of US$100.00 per voter would be appropriate, at least in America. That fee would of course be waived for those with proof of payment of their Malaysian income tax in the preceding year.

Impose that fee and then see how many abroad still remain “passionate” about Malaysian affairs to demand the right to vote in its elections. Now if those expatriate Malaysians were as passionate in seeking amendments to the Income Tax Act to making their global income subject to Malaysian taxes as they are in clamoring for their rights to vote in Malaysian elections, then I would salute them, but I would still not support it simply because of the costs it would impose on me.

The Malaysian Election Commission faces a host of monumental problems not least of which would be to clean up the electoral roll and streamline the postal voting process for those already in Malaysia, as with the police and military personnel. The clamor of Malaysians abroad seeking the right to vote is so far down the list that I can hardly see it. Further, I see little merit in representation without taxation.

  1. #1 by monsterball on Monday, 7 November 2011 - 11:04 am

    Bakri Musa has missed out one point where thousands of Malaysians have to leave… out of no choice…but their hearts are always true Malaysians.
    And at this fine hours… when freedom is near..and for him to say Malaysians abroad should not vote is shortsighted.

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Monday, 7 November 2011 - 11:30 am

    Dr. Musa is wrong about the basis of his argument

    1. Malaysia who are abroad already paid for the consequences of their citizenship. They already paid for the poor decision made at home. The argument they need not pay for the consequence of their bad decision is past the point and not even entirely correct present tense. Most Malaysian still have families, assets and a wish to return at least some of the time. If a bad decision is made, they pay for it albeit they have a hedge. There are plenty of UMNO/BN leaders and cronies that have way more than Malaysian abroad when it comes to not paying for their bad decisions. UMNO/BN leaders should NOT vote?

    2. Representation without taxation. The choice to pay taxes does not reside with Malaysian abroad. They did NOT choose it even if they have PR in other countries. Its the ruling govt that decides how taxes are charged. Putting the burden of paying taxation as a pre-condition to citizens abroad is no different telling non-Malays they should accept second class citizenship because of the lie of the bargain of Merdeka.

    3. Cost of election really is just nit-picking and petty. The mechanism is already in place for uniforms and others. Dr. Musa is being insincere either on purpose or negligent.

  3. #3 by chengho on Monday, 7 November 2011 - 11:44 am

    only for tax payer

    • #4 by Bunch of Suckers on Monday, 7 November 2011 - 11:58 am

      Oops , Change Hole!

      How many holes have you changed, Sucker? Back to suck more and change more holes! Election time is still early, they won’t pay you for whatever posts/comments you posted! So, back to suck and change more holes…

  4. #5 by tak tahan on Monday, 7 November 2011 - 12:15 pm

    Can corrupt Umnoputras who don’t pay taxes be allowed to vote or be voted?

  5. #6 by monsterball on Monday, 7 November 2011 - 12:27 pm

    Hope you don’t change the wrong hole.
    Chengho has said…only for tax if poor folks working overseas that don’t pay taxes in Malaysia are not allowed to vote.
    You see…no taxes…no contribution to his adopted fathers to steal…and so chengho gets nothing …no bonus…no increment in salary..for sitting in Govt office…doing nothing.

  6. #7 by dagen on Monday, 7 November 2011 - 12:27 pm

    Huh? What about baking bumiputras (using dr mamak’s projek ic secret recipe) for the purpose of voting, then? What about resurecting people from their graves to vote? What about giving wives of armed forces two votes – one as civilian and another as postal voter. There are many many more issues.

  7. #8 by yhsiew on Monday, 7 November 2011 - 12:33 pm

    The writer should be aware that not many Malaysians would like to leave their family, siblings and friends to seek permanent residency abroad. Many who seek residency abroad are out of no choice as they do not want their talent and career to go to waste because of racial discrimination back home.

    It is perfectly rational for these poor souls who reside abroad to exercise their Malaysian citizen right to vote out the autocratic oppressive regime so that they can return to their home country to continue their career and be reunited with their family, siblings and friends.

  8. #9 by tak tahan on Monday, 7 November 2011 - 12:45 pm

    Then why bother to write about Malaysian affair since you too are no more tak la lagi kasi tax pun mah.

  9. #10 by hiro on Monday, 7 November 2011 - 2:05 pm

    I find it strange that the writer would actually say what he did. There are citizens who don’t pay any taxes. If representation is based on who can pay taxes, these folks would have been barred from voting. I could agree that those who have obtained another citizenship should probably not vote. But it depends on whether that nation provides for dual citizenship. If they are not prevented from holding dual citizenship, then who are we to say they can’t vote in Malaysia?

    Look at the practicality of the situation – of all Malaysians I’ve known that’s gone out of Malaysia, it’s always done for reasons of marriage, socio-political dissatisfaction or greater economic opportunities. Those who marry and migrate, that’s really a personal choice. The other two, is related to how this country is run. These people would have more than likely considered staying if the circumstances were much improved. I say they have as much right as those who continue to stay in Malaysia to have a right to vote. In the end, it’s an academic question because our Federal Constitution provides for it – it’s just a matter of the Election Commission implementing it.

  10. #11 by Loh on Monday, 7 November 2011 - 3:03 pm

    ///The first and most important is that since they do not live in Malaysia, they would not have to bear the burden of the consequences of their voting decision. Second, those Malaysians are essentially seeking representation without taxation; that is presumptuous. Third, since they had sought permanent residency status abroad, their focus should now be to prove to their new host country that they are deserving of such a status. Meaning, they should focus their attention, indeed loyalty, to their new adopted land.///–M Bakri Musa

    If those who do not live in Malaysia cannot vote, why should government servants overseas are allowed to vote? It is double standards, and certainly government servants are made to vote for the government, and they provide a convenient excuse for government to claim the right to add postal votes to win marginal constituencies.

    If overseas Malaysian cannot vote because they do not pay tax, but does the government allow non-tax paying citizens to vote? Is it not double standards?

    Malaysians overseas had to acquire a permanent resident status to work; how else can they live there? Is the writer suggesting that they should remain in the country so that they can be effectively deprived of a chance to live, and to cause trouble for a change of government? The resident status of Malaysians abroad does not change the citizenship, and so they have every right to vote.

    The writer chose to cast aspersion on the loyalty of Malaysians to Malaysia in suggesting that they show loyalty to the host country. Is the writer also suggesting that because Indonesian workers are loyal to Malaysia and that they should now be given voting right like what UMNO is doing?

    Malaysians who are overseas are mostly forced by circumstances and by the discriminatory policies? The writer obviously hopes that they do not return so that racists would achieve their aim sooner.

  11. #12 by Jeffrey on Monday, 7 November 2011 - 3:25 pm

    Any Malaysian who could, with the Malaysian passport, be eligible to return to vote here should have the same concomitant right to vote if he were overseas being unable to return at polling day for whatever reasons. This is about the right to vote that transcends issue of where he is for so long as his vote can be collected. I just don’t know where Bakri Musa is coming from his arguments. Is he saying that if he being a surgeon in California should not be eligible to vote from California just because he cannot return here to vote because he has to attend surgery there at around polling day? Or because living in California Dr Bakri does not bear the burden of the consequences of their voting decision? If tat were so why is Dr Bakri entitled to blog and write about Malaysian affairs in a manner influencing other readers who are voters how to vote since Dr Bakri does not personally have to bear the burden of the consequences of their voting decision or consequences of influencing them how to vote?????

  12. #13 by boh-liao on Monday, 7 November 2011 - 3:27 pm

    No PAY TAX, No RIGHT to VOTE – apa rule ini?
    If like dis, lots of voters in dis land CANNOT vote lor, cos only a handful of ppl paid tax every year
    Even MMK said taxes r paid mostly by Chinese

  13. #14 by slashed on Tuesday, 8 November 2011 - 12:27 am

    This is certainly an astounding comment by the writer. I certainly see the logic of “no taxation without representation” but the logic of “no representation without taxation” does not follow: in brief: representation, in a modern democratic society flows from the fact of membership. Taxation, just one of many obligations placed upon the citizen is not a condition of a right to vote especially where no laws are broken; rather, the imposition of an obligation on a citizen ought to be conditional upon representation in a modern democracy; otherwise it would just be autocracy. If we take the writer’s argument further, should we endeavour to give more votes to those who will be most affected by an election? Those who pay more taxes?

    The writer, moreover, misses the point everyone else here understands – that a lot of Malaysians abroad are away predominantly as a result of the stagnant and discriminatory economic environment created by the government! I live the consequences of having a Barisan government every day of my life here in the UK.

    If there is a reason to bar voting, it is in my opinion, due to practical reasons, rather than academic arguments such as that presented. It is due to the problems associated with (1) ensuring that no votes are meddled with on route from overseas; and (2) ghost voters.

  14. #15 by monsterball on Tuesday, 8 November 2011 - 7:55 am

    So all poor Malaysians who does not pay taxes from their low income ..also cannot vote?
    Perhaps another big rally will change their minds.
    They are afraid of protestors…U students and smart Malaysians.

  15. #16 by monsterball on Tuesday, 8 November 2011 - 7:57 am

    Moo moo here …moo moo there…
    Mhuyiddin can keep on mooing till all his cows come home….who cares.

  16. #17 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 8 November 2011 - 10:33 am

    Actually, UmnoB/BN gomen is sustained by voters many of whom DO NOT pay tax or UNDER PAY tax (How much tax toyol fella paid? He who could afford 2 buy palaces)

  17. #18 by Bunch of Suckers on Tuesday, 8 November 2011 - 12:02 pm

    Apparently, it is one of the chauvinistic tactics to cheat and hold on powers! By disqualifying Malaysians working aboard from voting is a dirty tactics to win election confidently, most Malaysians abroad will be voting opposition parties!

    The entire world is laughing at this Bolehland is governed by a bunch of suckers who are sucking here and there! No wonder, our FDI is damn low! No nations in the world disqualified citizens, who does not paying taxes from voting, only our Bodohland does!!!

  18. #19 by Ordinary on Tuesday, 8 November 2011 - 11:13 pm

    Another pro UMNO speaker and writer. Already UMNo rules Msian with far far behind Brunei and Singapore.

    So many outdated writers.

    They UMNO certainly fear these Malaysians who are outside Malaysians since they are mostly non Malay.

  19. #20 by on cheng on Wednesday, 9 November 2011 - 3:43 pm

    Strongly disagreed with this title !!
    Bakri wrote many good articles, but this one is rubbish!!

  20. #21 by on cheng on Wednesday, 9 November 2011 - 3:46 pm

    Most Malaysian stayed permanently abroad becos mainly of inefficient Msia govt, Anyone disagree, please explain how RM100 now worth less than 43 SGD ??

  21. #22 by Loh on Wednesday, 9 November 2011 - 8:57 pm

    ///A common complaint among Malays is that too many non-Malays treat their Malaysian citizenship merely as a stepping stone for them or their children to emigrate to the West.///–M Bakri mUSA

    It is the writer’s personal opinion and it now becomes the thought among Malays. Only racist Malays among UMNO leadership, and some are certainly not true Malay, who want non-Malays to emigrate. UMNO policies discriminating against non-Malays cannot hope that they stay, and to cause unhappiness among Malays at their success. That was why Tun Razak said that it was good riddance that non-Malays emigrated because of NEP. Now even this writer is jealous that non-Malays become successful in the countries they are forced to remain.

    Is the hatred against people of other races that deep?

  22. #23 by klse on Sunday, 13 November 2011 - 5:17 pm

    Bakri Musa’s “no taxation, no representation” advocates no voting rights for Malaysians with overseas permanent residency status. This could give rise to difficulties and unintended result.

    I remember Dr Mathathir had remarked that most Malays did not pay taxes. I read another news that muslims can choose to pay their income tax liability to zakat, which benefits the muslim comunity, instead to Inland Revenue Board which benefit Malaysians of all faiths.

    In this case, would Bakri Musa’s argument be interpreted that most Malays and/or muslims be denied of their voting rights?

    [email protected]

  23. #24 by sadakan on Monday, 14 November 2011 - 3:34 pm

    Frankly, the last time I checked, there is no requirement for paying tax or non-PR etc and until the law is changed (for the worst) then it remains one man’s opinion. In Federal Constitution Art 119(1)(b) it says “if not resident, then an absent voter” – there is no qualification other than not resident.

    But, I can’t help but notice that there are two definition of “absent voter” – one under the Federal Constitution (see 119 (4)) and the other under the Election (Registration of electors) Regulation 2002 (- the latter limits this to students, uniformed etc. As far as my understanding of this is concerned, wherever there is any inconsistent (or perhaps a narrow reading) then to the extent of this, is void.

    (See Section 23(1) of Interpretation Act ) – Any subsidiary
    legislation that is inconsistent with an Act (including the Act under which the subsidiary legislation was made) shall be void to the extent of the inconsistency.

    Obviously, Federal Constitution is not merely an ACT, it is the supreme law in Malaysia.

    Moreover, if I am in error, then I can also draw comfort from the fact that the Election Regulation 2002 is only applicable in Malaysia…….which means uniform and all would not be affected by such definition as they are not within Malaysia at the time of submitting their vote to come under ‘absent voter’ as per Regulation 2002. The fact that the votes are taken in a Malaysian High Commission does not matter (unless there is a treaty with the host country that Malaysia’s law applies in HC or embassy – non commonweath countries). Therefore, the definition should refer back to FC.

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