SINGAPORE: On Feb 24 (Friday), Workers’ Party MP Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) called for Singapore’s voting age to be lowered from 21 to 18 for the purpose of empowering “younger Singaporeans to have a say at our national elections.”
This is by no means a new proposal, as both Ms Lim, who raised the matter 16 years ago, and Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, who responded to her, pointed out. Mr Chan said that “previous considerations remain valid” and added that the youth in Singapore are already asked to engage in national and societal issues.
Ms Lim said that when she had first raised the issue, the voting age in the majority of countries was already 18, but had been answered by then-Law Minister, Professor S Jayakumar, that Malaysia’s voting age was also 21 and Japan’s was 20.
“Today, these 2 countries have also lowered their voting age to 18 – Malaysia in 2019, and Japan in 2016. Therefore, today, Singapore is becoming an outlier in keeping the voting age to 21 years,” Ms Lim said in her speech.
“What is so unique about our youths aged between 18 to 21, that they should not be entrusted with the vote?” she added.
The reasons the government has so far given have been inadequate.
Ms Lim also pointed out that at the age of 18, boys are already enlisted into National Service and are “required to carry weapons and vow to defend Singapore with their lives.” Also, if an 18-year-old commits a capital crime, “he is liable to suffer capital punishment and be hanged,” she added.
“Since our policies treat them as adults for these undertakings, how do we justify depriving these youths of a say at national elections?”
Noting that “momentous change” has occurred recently, as exemplified by the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code, she said, “I hope the government will be similarly open-minded about lowering the voting age as well.”
Answering on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Mr Chan acknowledged that “The opinions of our youths are indeed important.”
“The majority of our youths under the age of 21 are in our post-secondary institutions and we do regularly and proactively engage our youths on national issues and societal issues to take into account their views in our decision making and policy formulation. MCCY, NYC, MOE, MSF, and various other Government institutions do this on a regular basis,” he continued.
The second part of his answer did not appear to address the points Ms Lim had raised when he said, “if we take a step back, the evergreen challenge for any democracy is how do we deliver good governance and a good Government. And the key to that lies in two things.
First, how do we have good people with the right values and right capabilities stand forth to serve? Second, how do we encourage every voter to not just think of his or her individual interest for the here and now; but also the wider interests of our society and future generations.” /TISG
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