Producing mature voters through democracy education – Zuraida
From my early days in activism, and later rising in the political arena, the most important thing which I believe needs to be emphasised is the creation of society that is mature in intelligence and thinking.
In this context, a person’s maturity cannot be measured by age or educational background alone, but more by each individual’s ability to make important and calculated choices throughout their lives.
The maturity of society is the key to a successful nation. Therefore, from the very beginning, among the things that I feel need to be implemented are various sections of empowerment programmes to ensure that the community is educated, either formally or informally, to make decisions that can change their future.
In Malaysia, we are still lacking in terms of political education empowerment. Although there are some explanations on the structure of democracy and the Constitution, and the doctrine of separation of powers given at school and university levels, our children are not taught to evaluate, think and be directly involved in the democratic process of this country.
As such, we see at this point of time that most Malaysians consider politics as a trivial matter, or more sadly, equivalent to entertainment. But matters of democracy, politics and administration are very important for their future.
The shallowness of this society’s thinking can be seen more clearly with the existence of social media. When looking at the comments of “netizens”, I feel most of us (not all), do not understand what is trying to convey either the government or the opposition.
In short, we would rather hear or read something rhetorical than substance to really help us decide on a better future for this country.
It is clear from the observations and evaluations that I have done for more than 20 years of engaging in politics, the majority of people in Malaysia are still lagging behind in terms of civic literacy and competence.
Civic literacy is the ability of citizens to be effectively involved in life, in which they are sensitive to the current situation, understand the process of government, and know their rights as a citizen.
While civic competence will enable a person to be able to think and act as a responsible member of society, contributing to their society in any ways possible. This includes understanding that every choice he makes, in any case, will have a tremendous impact on themselves, their family, society and the country.
If these two elements can be strengthened, of course the country will be able to have a more mature society that is able to make appropriate choices in every matter, including the capacity to elect quality leadership in every level in this country.
As a political leader and community activist, I wholeheartedly support efforts to lower the voter age limit from 21 to 18.
This is because I believe that young people today are more advanced in terms of their thinking than those in the same age 20 or 30 years ago.
With the advent of communication technology, such as social media and the availability of foreign television broadcasts, it is certain that the minds of young people at this time are more open because they have seen the outside world, and can compare each issue with the current situation in the country.
However, in supporting the efforts to lower the age limit for these voters, I also believe that we, as a nation, need to prepare a syllabus of democratic or political education to prepare the next generation to be responsible in their choices, and who are fully aware of the current issues in this country, before giving them the responsibility to choose who to lead the government.
This education must be instilled in all Malaysians regardless of age.
Maturity in every voter is needed because we don’t want their decision to vote for a particular party or individual based solely on sentiment.
We want mature voters who understand the commitment to build a truly developed nation and are able to support the existing nation-building agenda.
The responsibility of a voter is not something that should be taken lightly.
This much-needed maturity must be instilled in the heart and conscience of every Malaysian, so that they are able to make the right choices for the betterment of our nation’s future. – PPI
by Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin
*The writer is Minister of Housing and Local Government and Ampang MP