Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Voting for the first time and the immense despair that followed.

It's been a few days, and I've maintained silence on the subject because I may just post something that will haunt me. I'm going to keep it vague so whatever I write is not going to land me in jail.

[Really, you never know with these guys.]

Yup I voted. For the first time in my life, I voted. I voted as a citizen.

Early Sunday morning, my parents and I went to my uncle's place since we were all assigned the same polling station. We decided to go together as an extended family to vote. The polling station was just down the road in a public school. We walked there in the rain with all our brollies, all excited. One side of the road was closed so people could park nearer to the school. You could sense the excitement and hope in the air.

Maybe for the first time, there was hope. There was a better tomorrow. Maybe.

We queued to be assigned to another queue. Yeah you read that right. The elderly would go the Line 1 where they wouldn't have to wait while the young and able would be assigned to the last line. My cousins and I got into Line 4 and waited in line for about 1.5 hours. The line was very long, from the school canteen all the way to a classroom on level 2.

We chatted and trodded along like everyone else, reading the noticeboards set up by the students and teachers. It was cute, reminiscing the time when we were little and talking about the knots Brownies had to learn.

As we got further into the school, the content of noticeboards matured too. When did primary schools talk about smoking, drugs, sex and AIDS? Really? Are primary school children all caught up in these now?

We noticed the library. The library was a tiny little nook with small chairs and a tiny shelf by the corner. We saw some books on the shelf, all brown with age. We thought, if only more money went into education. We could have more books for the children. We could encourage the children to read and perhaps learn another language. After all, children pick up languages very easily when they are young.

We were at the bottom of the stairs when we noticed the hand rails. They were corroded and rusty, with gaping holes along the way. What happened if someone cut his hand on the rails? Tetanus shots? This is not the actual photo, since we didn't bring a phone to the polling station. But it looked exactly like this, in a primary school.

We thought, if only more money went into education and infrastructure. We could have a newer school for the children. We could replace the hand rails. We could have a safer school for the children. We were more determined to vote.

As we slowly approached the classroom, we saw a policeman outside the classroom. Hmm, they must really want a peaceful and just election this time. A policeman outside the classroom to maintain the peace. But why was the policeman making a mark every time a person walk through the door? Was he paid by the number of voters he watched? We were curious.

As I stood outside the door, I saw the policeman's note. It was a sheet of paper, marking the number of people who went to vote. What's the aim of this count? Was it even legal for the policeman to count the number of voters? I got increasingly paranoid. Was he counting by race, by age, by gender? He's not doing statistics right? I wondered.

I went into the classroom and presented my ID card. The polling agent found my name on the list and struck it with a pencil. Not the entire line, just the empty spaces. Hmmm why pencil? Why not something more permanent like a pen? Why just the spaces? I wondered.

After he struck my name, he painted my index finger with the indelible ink. He painted the top and bottom of my finger. It was supposed to stay on your finger for days and irremovable so we could identify voters so no one could vote twice. I could live with this for a few days. Cool.

I took great care not to stain my ballot paper because that would render it void. I voted and left.

As I left the classroom, I saw the lady who was in front of me in the queue. She came out of the washroom and exclaimed, "Look! The ink came off. Wash it now so it doesn't stain."

That was quick, I thought. Wasn't the ink supposed to stay on for days? Why didn't it work?

We went home and we checked online for updates and news. We realised this happened everywhere.

It became increasingly clear that the ink didn't work. There was poor communication to the public, especially the aged. The elderly didn't know what the ink was for, they thought they were to stamp their inked finger next to the candidate they wanted. There goes the elderly votes, I thought.

-- if you Google for it, there are even comparisons on what you can use to get the ink off faster.

As the hours went on, videos and posts about foreign voters became viral. Foreign voters from neighbouring countries were given money and citizenship to vote. I didn't know what to make of it. Anyone could play dirty in this game. I needed more proof. This country didn't just sink that low, did it? I didn't want to believe.

[Just search on Google. There's even a flight manifest of the passengers.]

And then I saw the public confront these "phantom" voters on the videos. If it was just 1 video, it might be a spoof or fake. When there were so many of such videos all over the country, I couldn't help but get more paranoid. When these voters couldn't answer questions such as "what's your ID number", "what's your address on the ID?" and "what's the national anthem?", I got puzzled and angry. Who were they?

When I watched the policemen chaperoned these "phantom" voters into the polling station, I felt indignant. Really? We do this now?

As the poll closed, the count started. There were talks about mysterious blackouts and when the lights came back on, more boxes of ballots appeared out of nowhere. There were more ballots than registered voters in certain areas. There were videos of policemen and polling agents bringing bags and boxes of ballots into the polling stations. Where did these ballots come from? Really? We do this now?

My heart sank. There will be no change. There will be no new schools. There will be no new books. There will be no fair treatment to the people. We are not one. We are still 2nd class citizens.

And then the Guy of the Moment said this, "What more do the Chinese want?"

Hey Guy of the Moment, it's not what the Chinese want. It's what Malaysians want. We want a fair, just and clean government. Is that so hard?

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