Syed Saddiq: If 18-year-olds can marry, why can’t they vote?

Yiswaree Palansamy
Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman gives a talk at Karangkraf in Shah Alam December 7, 2018. — Picture by Choo Choo May

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 7 — The youth and sports minister today defended Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) decision to lower the age of voting, pointing out that 18-year-olds in Malaysia could marry.

In the Bicara Minda forum series organised by Sinar Harian, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman also reminded the masses that democracy should not be confined to only the educated and elites.

“This is an investment in young people,” he told the audience.

The 26-year-old minister acknowledged that not all 18-year-olds would necessarily exercise their right to vote.

“But if we don’t give voting rights to those who are 18 to vote every five years, why are we giving them the right to wed at 18?” Syed Saddiq added, saying that marriage comes with a bigger responsibility.

“Marriage is till jannah... till the end of life. It’s a huge decision, but we still entrust our youths with the responsibility.

“I feel if the youths can build a household and family, they must also be given the right to build their beloved nation,” he added.

Syed Saddiq was answering a question from an audience member, who had asked whether Malaysian youths were ready to vote at 18. The person used a recent viral video of a group of teenagers wildly celebrating the end of their Form Five SPM examinations as a point of contention.

Syed Saddiq had in September announced that the Cabinet was agreeable to lowering the minimum voting age to 18, although the proposal requires the approval of two-thirds of the Dewan Rakyat before it can be implemented.

He added that the proposal may be tabled next year so that it can come into force by the next general election due in five years.

In Malaysia, the age of maturity is 18 years old, meaning one can drive, get married, sign contracts and be tried in court as an adult. But Article 119(1) of the Federal Constitution states eligibility for voting is a citizen who has reached 21 years of age.

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