Lowering of Voting Age from 21 to 18

Adjournment speech by DAP Member of Parliament, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Ra’ayat on 10th December, 1971

Lowering of Voting Age from 21 to 18

Early this year, Parliament passed a law, ‘The Age of Majority Act’, reducing the legal Age from 21 to 18 years. If young men or girls of 18 years are to treated for serious civil purposes as mature people and be able to own property, to enter into contractual obligations and rights, then the case is strengthened that they should have the vote as well. People ought to have the right to vote and to have a say about the way in which their lives are governed and in which the country is being run – at the age at which society expects them to assume adult social responsibilities. When there is war or national emergency the young men of 18 are conscripted to service and many serve without conscription. It is clearly a strong argument that if you can expect a young man of 18 to die in the defence of the country, then he should be given the right to help decide in the shaping of the country for which he is being asked to die.

Malaysia, Mr. Speaker, Sir, is a very young country; 60% of our population are below 25 years of age. It is only right that youth should have a greater say in the direction the country is going of which they comprise the overwhelming majority. The youth organizations in the country have made this one of their objectives, and if the country is to utilise to the full the youth energies and contributions, it must also heed their aspirations.

More and more countries are reducing the voting age of their electors, taking into cognizance this fact. Thus in 1969 England passed a law to reduce the voting age from 21 to 18 years – The Representation of Peoples Act. I mention this because the Honourable the Prime Minister had said that Malaysia does not intend to reduce the voting age of voters because it is not being widely practiced in other countries. The fact is more and more countries are doing so. If in Britain where the percentage of youth is so much less than Malaysia the Government can respond to the wishes of the youth, there is a stronger argument that a youthful nation like Malaysia should give this proposal serious consideration and study.

Mr. Speaker, Sir I propose that the Government set up an All-Party Committee to study into this proposal, the pros and cons. Let there be a public debate on this so that the matter can have a chance of a national discussion and decision.