You serious?

Why voting age in Singapore is 21

I REFER to Dr Andy Ho’s column on Thursday, ‘If old enough for NS, why not the vote?’
Dr Ho advocated lowering the age for voting to 18, and urged MPs to raise the issue in Parliament.

He appears to be unaware that this very issue was raised in Parliament during the Committee of Supply debate last year. Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar, who was also then minister for law, gave a detailed explanation, which was reported in The Straits Times on March 3.

In Singapore, we do not have a single threshold age of majority for all purposes. Adulthood is attained through a gradual process, with a progressive increase in rights and responsibilities. For example, one may drive at 18; but must be 21 to qualify to be a Member of Parliament, or to make a will, to renounce citizenship or to enter certain professions, such as the law, public accountancy or engineering; and be 25 to adopt a child.

Voting in elections is a very serious matter. The voting age of 21 means that many voters would have finished national service or even have some working experience. They would then be in a better position to assess the quality of the candidates and to make considered judgments about the national issues at stake in the political debate. It is for these reasons that voting age in Singapore is 21.

S. Radha (Ms)
Head, Corporate Communications
Ministry of Law

Okay, I can agree with the point that people have different levels of maturity at different ages. But let’s see what I did at 18 years old.

  • I had cleared my A-Level General Paper, which tests reasoning and analysis on a micro or macro level.
  • I was trained not just to hold a weapon of destruction, but to lead 27 other 18-year-olds into war. Not a computer war-game mind you, but a full-scale battle involving a hierarchy of officers, warrant officers, specialists and so on.
  • I led teams across vast terrains in Taiwan and Brunei during topographical exercises, often armed just with a compass. Lose your way and your guys are dead meat. Lose your rifle or you live rounds during the mission and all hell breaks loose.

Just a smattering of stuff I did in OCS. Of course, not everyone goes through OCS, but I’d say most guys would go through similarly "serious" experiences in the SAF, whether we liked it or not.

And at 19, I jumped out of helicopters grabbing just one thick rope, survived the 3-day POW course for recce troopers, learnt to ride a bike (which could kill you instantly if you "buanged" the wrong way), conducted safety training exercises, became an instrument of war as a recce officer (figuratively speaking)…blah blah blah. One gets my drift.

I was thinking of writing a personal letter to Ms Radha, but what’s the point? Probably gets filed away with many other upset letter writers.

Look, I have no issue if the Gahmen says that we can’t vote till 21. Also because I live in Bishan, which has never given me an opportunity to vote in the past decade due to repeated walkovers. So I can’t protest if my district keeps suffering endless upgrade programs – some useful, some redundant – that never give us a peaceful estate to stay in.

But please please please, don’t write such letters that will get all the guys (no, girls, you don’t do NS or ICT) rolling their eyes and thinking the Gahmen cannot give proper responses.

It’s basically a rewritten version of an old official response, but it’s positioned in a way that pushes all the wrong buttons in our battered Singaporean male psyche.

You know, sometimes, I send out emails that I regret instantly because of a poor choice of words, either through callousness or carelessness. I’m constantly reminded by myself that I need to re-read and re-check every email for EQ-less sentences.

That is part and parcel of the communications trade (be it in SPH or an MNC). I’m sure the letter above went through several layers of approvals, but obviously, it didn’t come out as we would have hoped it would.

Yes, WE the readers, often hope to see a better answer from the Gahmen, because if there is no shred of hope left in us cynical Singaporeans that there is a better tomorrow, then we are a truly miserable bunch.

This is the dilemma of forum letter writers, especially when they work for the civil service. On one hand, there’s a pressing query from the public that needs to be addressed. On the other hand, you have to make sure your answer fits within the official statements approved by the boss.

More often than not, as observed repeatedly by astute readers, it’s the official statement that appears, and the actual query isn’t answered as well as a result.

So should voting age be lowered to 18, or perhaps, 19?

Frankly, my dear Watson, it doesn’t make a blooming difference in Singapore.

4 Replies to “You serious?”

  1. Hello Mr I. Tan,

    if you have any proposals to amend the voting age, well, I guess I would like to hear from you.

    I’m all years, so to speak.

    Otherwise, the topic of legal age is getting rather…..old : )

    But seriously (as voting is a serious matter), I think we just have to bite the ballot and accept that the legal voting age shall remain 21.

    (I promise this shall be my only punny comment for today……)

Comments are closed.