THE NEW PAPER
OCTOBER 23, 2004
Seriously, don't mock us!
Young PAP members out to stir debate with radical 'bill' to lower voting
and marriage age
By Josephine Chew
IF this NSman had his way, his 19-year-old cousin would be able to
vote in the next general elections.
Said Mr Mervyn Sek, 25: 'If you can use a rifle to kill at this age,
then you should have the ability to think and exercise your right to
make a choice, and be engaged in your country's future.'
The Mindef officer and Young PAP (YP) member feels so passionately
about this that he helped to draft a radical 'parliamentary bill' on
behalf of the 'Ministry of Youth'.
Tomorrow, Parliament House will see his 10-member team sparring
against 10 'Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC)' members who will
speak against the bill, which seeks to lower the voting age to 18.
Its other proposals include compulsory secondary school education and
the right to marry without parental consent after 18.
Both groups in this mock 'parliamentary debate' are from the
Northwest District YP.
And in the four weeks that they got to prepare for it, the 20 YP
members, aged 19 to 32, have worked hard.
Lawyer Nicholas Lazarus, 32, who is on the GPC team, had only less
than five hours of sleep on some nights because he had to juggle his
career as well as his 'CCA in politics'.
'I've seen my girlfriend maybe once in two weeks, and she has been
complaining. But thank goodness she understands that it's important to
me even if it is a mock-up,' said the litigator at Justicious Law
'It's all part of being politically engaged and responsible to enact
When The New Paper asked debate participants about their views on the
bill, they all immediately launched into detailed arguments to support
Said Mr Lazarus: 'There's no doubt that we need to try to get youths
more engaged in society - socially, politically and what not, and the
spirit of the bill attends to this need for a change in policy.
'However, from my perspective as a lawyer, one must be very careful
about enacting legislation because there are very serious consequences,
which is why I'm personally against many of the suggestions listed out
in the bill.'
On a lighter note, group member Fauzi Maidin, 25, an accounts
executive, said the experience itself made it all worthwhile.
'On a personal level, I don't agree with the basis, or possible
efficacy of the suggestions proposed. But it's definitely a step in the
right direction that we're all thinking about how to engage more people
in our age group.'
Mr Sek acknowledged that many of the suggestions were just meant to
'be controversial' and to stir debate.
'It's meant to be a debate, right? So we have to have something to
debate,' said the PSC teaching scholar with a laugh.
Material from the session is to be submitted to the Feedback Unit
'I think it's a very good platform to get our young people involved.
We're all very impressed at the initiative, and the competence. It's
definitely a good sign for Singapore's future,' said Mr Joseph Lee, YP
Northwest District Chairman.
'The bill-writing group actually wrote an entire bill with the format
and legalese intact! We hope to spark a similar interest in other youths
out there who may feel that they can't make a difference.'
Copyright @ 2004 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.