KUALA LUMPUR: Human rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan has called for new legislation to empower youths, saying current laws restrict their development.
Speaking at a forum on Malaysia’s future after the 14th general election, he said he would like to see the winning party undertake a review of laws with the aim of encouraging youths to participate in the democratic process.
A recent survey indicated that 40% of youths of voting age were not registered to vote. Half of the respondents said they did not have time to register and a quarter said their votes would not make a difference to how the country was run.
Syahredzan said the first batch of laws that needed reviewing were those that restricted media freedom and other civil liberties.“The media can play the role of the fourth estate and ensure parliamentarians and the executive body carry out their duties only if they are free to publicise issues without having to worry about some minister asking for a show-cause letter,” he said.
He said it was also important to review how laws were made. “Currently, bills are passed in a matter of days. Lawmakers are not given the appropriate amount of time to truly scrutinise a bill, much less the time to get input from the people.”
He also spoke of the need for legislators to be free of control by party whips.
“MPs should only have to be loyal to the people who elect them,” he said.
He called for the reinstitution of local government elections to ensure accountability among councillors and to free MPs of responsibility over localised issues .
“Most everyday problems are local government issues, such as potholes and traffic lights that are not working,” he said. “Without an election, there is no reason local councils will want to do anything. So people go to MPs, whose focus should be in Parliament.”
The forum’s moderator, journalist Zam Azlee, said he was recently teaching journalism to a class of newly eligible voters.
He said he asked the participants if they had registered to vote or if they were at all interested in voting.
“Almost all of them said: ‘Why bother? We have better things to do.