KUALA LUMPUR: May 9 has been declared a special public holiday to allow Malaysians to perform their duty to vote in the 14th General Election.
Malay Mail Online reported the Prime Minister’s Office stating it was invoking the Holidays Act 1951 to make polling day an ad hoc national holiday.
“Pursuant to the Election Commission’s announcement that the 14th general election will be on May 9, 2018, the government has set the day to be an additional public holiday for the entire country.
“This is to let Malaysians fulfil their duties as voters,” the PMO said in a statement.
It said that the public holiday declaration was in accordance with Section 8 of the Holidays Act 1951 for Peninsular Malaysia and the Federal Territory of Labuan.
“As for Sabah and Sarawak, the respective state governments have to declare the additional public holiday on the (polling) date in accordance to their Public Holiday Ordinance respectively,” PMO said.
There was public outrage after the Election Commission set Wednesday, May 9 as the polling day amidst concerns that people would be working and thus unable to go out to vote, especially those who had to travel back to their hometowns to vote.
Malaysians rallied on social media yesterday to offer funding to help people return to their home towns to vote, while some companies offered employees days off.
Several Twitter users said they had set aside funds ranging from RM150 to RM1,000 to pay for flights or bus rides home for those needing assistance, and many offered carpool rides.
“I am seeing total strangers offering help to fellow Malaysians to go home and vote. No one shall deny our right to vote!” wrote a user with the handle @Klubbkiddkl, who started a hashtag to connect those in need.
The hashtag #PulangMengundi, or “Go home to vote”, was trending by late afternoon.
Free Malaysia Today reported that earlier today, the Penang government was considering declaring May 9 a public holiday in the state if the federal government did not make do so.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had urged the prime minister to declare a national public holiday on polling day, to enable more people to go home and vote.
“Under the Elections Act 1958, employers are bound to give their employees time off to vote, but if the work place is far from their hometowns, they might not be able to make it back in time.
“It is better to declare a public holiday like what former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad did in 1999,” Lim said at a press conference today.
The DAP secretary-general said this had to be done to quash the notion that Barisan Nasional did not want a high voter turnout as that would give an advantage to Pakatan Harapan.
“We see the weekday polling as a dirty tactic to reduce voter turnout so as to increase BN’s chances of winning.
“The people can see through the ploy, and they will feel disgruntled, and this will make them even more determined to come back and vote,” Lim added.
Meanwhile, Malaysiakini reported that by this afternoon, more than 115,000 people had signed a petition asking the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong to declare May 9 a public holiday.