Sunday, April 28, 2013

GE13: For a better Malaysia

I woke up bright and early on Sunday, when normally, I would sleep in. In fact, I hardly had any sleep due to the excitement. I could not wait for the day trip to Canberra to begin. It was a special trip. In fact, any trip we make to Canberra is special because we were not going to drive for 3 hours to a place as boring as Putrajaya for no good reason. Okay, I admit, not as boring but nearly. At least Canberra is more picturesque.

This particular trip was extra special. This trip may be the one trip that will change our homeland.

I made this trip with a Malaysian family I got to know recently. They very generously offered me a ride down south and it was one joyful ride with Mandarin children's songs playing half the time. Their adorable two-year-old was so well-behaved the whole trip. As we made the turn off Hume Highway onto Barton Highway at Yass, she asked ever so innocently, "Why so long? We there?"

It was like an omen - the transition of lush summer green to red and golden autumn was symbolic of change. Not only did we have fantastic weather that day, we did not face issues with traffic and were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of fellow postal voters at the High Commission. The sides of the roads were lined with cars, there were children playing happily in the adjacent playground and there were people making new friends. Such a heartwarming sight.

In all honesty, I was expecting a more serious atmosphere. I am new at this, you know, this being my first voting experience. As laughter was heard as we approached the gate of the Malaysian High Commission, I wondered if we were there for the right event.

We were greeted by friendly, smiling faces. Interestingly, almost all personnel on duty were men of Malay ethnicity. Perhaps two or three were women and only one was a Chinese man. We recorded our details in the Visitors Log. The time was 10:30am and I think it was about 70 names before us. Security personnel screened us using a metal detector and had a quick look at the insides of our bags. Even the little one looked up at all these strange uncles, replied them 'Good Morning' and also held her hands up for them to screen. They liked how adorable she was!

A local Aussie personnel checked our ICs, matching the photo on the IC to the cardholder. "Yup, that's definitely you, alright..." before we signed another logbook on the way up to the building where the 'serious business' was taking place. The two Malay pakciks manning this counter asked us where we traveled from to get there and when we asked if there were people from places further than Sydney, their reply was, "Oh yes, some came from Brisbane!" I take my hat off to the Queenslanders. Makes our drive from Sydney seem like nothing compared to your flights from Brisbane. And if you were not on a direct flight to Canberra, you would have had to take a bus or train to Canberra from Sydney, where more flights stop. Respect!

Two entrances to separate voters according to state, I queued behind Kar Meng at the entrance that included the state of Selangor. Wan Fei's entrance did not have a queue so she went straight in. We had to wait for about 10 minutes before we were welcomed in by the two pakciks who checked our names against their list of registered postal voters, searched for our envelopes and crossed our names off the list.

With Very Important Envelope in hand, I waited for my turn to approach the witness table. A very friendly Malay chap, he patiently went through the procedure with me, explaining which forms go into which envelopes and all. Mistake #1: After checking the spelling of my name and my IC number, I immediately initialed the form. My excitement to be voting for my first time clouded my senses so much that I did not even think of reading the form, to find out what I was initialing my life away to. Mistake #2: I did not check that I had the correct ballot papers. Thank goodness I had them, though.

No use of indelible ink, which meant that I did not need to bring the cling wrap, nail polish remover and facial cotton. I brought them in the event that other voters may require them. Oh well...

Very carefully, I retrieved the ballots. I scrutinised every inch of the paper for suspicious marks. I made sure the surface of the table was clean before I drew two big pangkahs, one for each ballot using the Sharpie pen provided. I even fanned and blew the ballot papers so that the ink would not stain other parts of the paper when folded. I think it would be hard to somehow 'move' the pangkah to a different box because the Sharpie ink soaked straight through the paper! You could see that big black pangkah from the back!

Even more careful than when I retrieved the ballots, I attentively matched the right Borang 2 to its Sampul B and enclosed with this Borang 2 is Sampul A containing the matching ballots. A sudden urge to be kiasi had me using the gluestick they provided to glue both envelopes.

Mistake #3: Apparently, we had to drop our envelopes into the diplomatic bag hung on the same side of the room as the entrance we entered. Wan Fei was informed by the witness who attended to her. I, on the other hand, was not told this piece of information, therefore my assumption that either diplomatic bags would be fine. Still, I walked out of the voting hall with a sense of achievement. My first vote - done!

A lady from Jom Balik Undi queried us on the voting process. I thought it went smoothly, in all honesty. My friends concurred. In fact, we were all first-time voters and found the process pretty straightforward (despite the discrepancies mentioned above).

We joined in the festivities on site. Tables and benches were set up for voters to enjoy home-cooked Malay food, just like what we would get at those roadside gerai set up by makciks and pakciks.

I bought a box of nasi ayam for $5 and a box of kuih for $3. Ah, so long since I had authentic Malay food. And the kuih, the lady even ensured me, "Amoi, kuih ni sedap tau. Yang sirap ros ni, dari Malaysia. Nak tak? Yang ni ade jagung, yang ni ade coklat. Mau kotak ni?" Yes, rose syrup kuih. I was totally sold.

During the 3-hour car ride back to Sydney, I took a jog down memory lane. I remember how I partook in the Bersih 2.0 rally here in Sydney in 2011. I remember getting myself registered as a voter at the post office back in KL. I remember praying for friends and family who were at the Bersih 3.0 rally back home. I remember keeping abreast with news regarding voting for Malaysians overseas. I remember understanding and ensuring my eligibility to be a postal voter, downloading, printing, scanning and e-mailing the application form to SPR to register as a postal voter. I remember how every other week I keyed in my IC number into that SPR link to confirm, double confirm, triple confirm that I am a registered voter. I remember the anxious wait for my application to be a postal voter to be accepted. I remember the elated feeling when this flashed before my eyes:

From that first Bersih rally I was part of 2 years ago, look at where we have arrived. In true Malaysia Boleh fashion, we made overseas voting possible. And just like how the seniors of the University of Malaya Yao Lan Shou Music Composing Unit (马大摇篮手音乐创作坊) very aptly put it, perhaps we are at the last hurdle of a better tomorrow...

This is a music video of a song produced, composed and performed by ex-students of the above-mentioned unit. They included lyrics in Mandarin with English translation. Many of the faces you see in this video are Malaysians residing outside of Malaysia, who will be traveling home for the elections.

As we were leaving the High Commission, more people began to arrive. It was a moving sight to see that there were more Malaysians than I thought who are still deeply concerned in executing their Malaysian civil duties.

Like the colour change in the Australian autumn landscape, it is time for a change in the Malaysian political landscape. We owe it to ourselves and our future generations. Do not underestimate the power of one vote, for we do not know what the future holds for us from the ripple effect of one small, seemingly innocent action. 

My respect, prayers and well-wishes go out to all who are heading home for the real deal. Stay safe, stay strong.

To all back home, we have done our part. On 5/5, it will be over to all of you.

For a better Malaysia, let's have our voices heard and votes counted.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you. It was an enlightening and very interesting read. Move on well in your journey of life. God bless.
Regards. Eugene yip