Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak also addressed this lack of youth involvement in the country’s democratic process in a recent blogposting.
He pondered on why many youths are passive in politics and expressed his sadness that more than four million Malaysians have not registered as voters, of which the majority of them are 21 years old.
"I think it's a loss if the young are politically passive. If their no-interest in politics is the factor, then their perception (about politics) needs to be corrected.
"Young people cannot go on like this as they will be the ones charting the country's future. There is still time and the young need to be drawn now to register as voters," he wrote in his blog, sskeruak.blogspot.com.
However, Liyana Yusof, publicity coordinator of Watan, a non-partisan non-government organisation working to get youths to register as voters, said that it is actually not surprising that we face this situation right now because youths have not been given space to be included in politics in the first place.
“There was no formal education or otherwise in school, high school and university that left me with the impression that I had a part to play in the political decisions of the country. Then, I am expected to know everything about politics once I leave university.
“We were not raised to be a politically active and socially conscious group so it is not a wonder that the youth voting bloc feels powerless.
“And the same older people who are telling us what to do (to vote) are the same older people who shut us out and don’t include us,” she said while adding that older people need to prove that the future is in the hands of the younger generation by not dominating the policy-making decisions of the country.
She also added that anybody concerned about democracy in Malaysia should want to see youth participation, which is not telling them to participate but making room for them to be involved in the nation building process and taking them seriously about their issues instead of telling them what they should be bothered about.
“When older people say what young people’s issues are, it’s not the same as what young people’s issues really are since they do not talk or engage with the young people.
“All political parties at the moment are failing youths because they are not focusing on their issues and meaningful involvement, so the collective distrust with entire political process continues,” opined the lass who is also in the 21 to 30 youths bracket.
As voting registration is not automatic and voting is not mandatory, Liyana said that by deciding to vote, youths admit there is a problem where their voice matters but is not included in politics, and voting increases the chance for them to be taken more seriously
“The youth voting bloc can collectively say our issues are the same such as PTPTN loans, rising cost of living, and difficulty in owning a house, and we need attention on these issues.
"We need to start making our Malaysia, we need to start being part of the nation-building process. It’s hard for us to feel that connection to our country because we are too busy trying to survive. I think we need to connect that survival instinct to voting,” she said.
Liyana also said that youths should not be distracted by the politics at the moment, which is overshadowed by older people bickering, and instead focus on the structure of politics itself by looking at the local level first before looking at the bigger picture.
“Look at what the candidates that will represent you do, what does it mean when you vote for someone, and keep them accountable for their responsibilities on a local level.
“Look at how you can engage with them in the next four years, and whether you should keep voting for them or vote for someone else to represent you,” she said, while saying that it is the first step of taking charge before going to a higher level.
“Taking charge is a form of protecting yourself and making visible all of your issues. Why should we rely on the older generation to make our issues visible for us, when they would not even know our issues because they did not include us?
“Youths need to mobilise not just as a voting bloc but as a collective generation, as a whole diverse group of people, with concerns that are very different from older perspectives,” she said.