BY AI LEEN LIM in London
Sunday 28 April
Wake up at 6 am. This is a day to be kiasu, so I pack both MyKad and passport.
Pack hat for cold, mag for the wait. Pack plastic spoon and wet napkin. Girl’s got to eat if she’s going to queue in the cold.
Get to Belgrave Square at 10 am. A crowd has formed on the pavement and spilled on to the road. Get a queue number—214—and ask the ticket lady three vital questions. First, how long’s the wait? Two and a half hours, she says. How many voters are you expecting today? 1,200. Finally, where’s the nasi lemak? She points to the stairs leading to the basement.
Chat to other voters. They’ve risen at ungodly hours and journeyed on planes, trains and buses to spend five seconds marking X on a ballot paper. From Leeds, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Newcastle, Norfolk and Norway. Norway? “It’s my obligation to vote,” declares the lass from Oslo. “The other choice was Stockholm. London’s cheaper.”
Amidst the hustle and bustle, two near-dramas. British policemen arrive on the scene—cars, flashing blue lights, superbikes—just as BN, Pakatan and Bersih unfurl their banners. Will they be arrested for campaigning at a polling station? Demonstrating without a permit? Being a public nuisance? None of the above. The cops—bless their caring hearts—just want to protect the crowd from cars speeding round the square. You know, health and safety and all that.
Second drama arrives in the form of a giant tour bus that drops off a dozen Malaysians in front of the embassy. Phantom voters? Bussed in from … err Kuala Kangsar, via Heathrow and Malaysia Hall? Again, no. “Kami dari Cardiff, kumpul duit sewa bas datang London undi. Nanti pukul 5.30 kami balik.”
After three hours of chatting and eavesdropping—which is the best baby stroller, how char kway teow portions in Penang have shrunk, the next Swedish House Mafia concert—I finally enter the warm woody rooms of the embassy and exercise my democratic right. Smiley helpful EC people, no suspicious marks on my ballot and a very secure looking postal sack. I head home tired and hungry (the nasi lemak had run out hours before) but proud to have played a tiny part in this historic moment.
The support bands have nailed their gigs. (Trima kasiiiiih London! Are you enjoys?) Now over to the headlining act: Malaysia 5 May.
Wednesday 24 April
Yay! Read the magic words: Permohonan anda diluluskan. Feel like the relieved winner of a RM50 lottery. Just like when my passport is renewed within the same day or I receive a tax refund. Is this proof of my naturally perky persona (family and friends snigger here) or an indictment of the Malaysian civil service?
More election videos, scare-mongering, op-eds, ceramahs and statistics. Suffer information overload and voter dilemma. Can’t vote for the party of the racist guy; can’t trust the party which has taken in the guy nabbed in Australia carrying millions in a bag. Slicing through the confusion, a surreal video of MCA people singing Love is in the Air. What’s love got to do, got to do, with it?
See you on 28 April at Belgrave Square. By the makcik nasi lemak.
Saturday 20 April
The suspense is killing me. I’ve not gripped the edge of my seat so hard since I watched Argo. It’s 8 days till overseas polling day and I haven’t seen the magic words telling me I’m successfully registered as a postal voter. No syabas, no lulus, no nasi lemak Knightsbridge, baby. Just: ‘sedang diproses’.
Meanwhile, Tun M comes to London for Thatcher’s funeral and gets seated next to Netanyahu. Nice to have a break from the scare-mongering.
Husband tells me his friend in Mauritius reads this blog. You have a Malaysian friend in Mauritius? I ask. And we haven’t we visited this friend because …?
After all the kerfuffle, my mother is not voting after all. She’ll be on a cruise—“booked long time ago”—with her two sisters. Can’t blame the golden gals for living it up; the average age between them is 83.
So, 28 April is the big day for overseas voters. There’ll be over 1,000 Malaysians in Knightsbridge. Hope that includes me.
Saturday 13 April
So, 5 May is the big day. “Alamak! Same day as Andrea Bocelli concert,” remarks a friend. Meanwhile I’m still in limbo.
My daily morning ritual—tea, The Times, crossword—now includes checking the Election Commission’s link to see if I’m registered as a postal voter yet. It’s been over two months since I sent in my form. But the response as of yesterday was still: “Tiada rekod permohonan atau permohonan belum didaftarkan.”
Yet the EC bossman complained on 4 April that so few—only 6,300—overseas Malaysians have registered to vote from abroad. Did he mean to say: So few Malaysians have been registered by my staff in my department? If they can only process 6,000 applications in two months, what are the chances they’ll get through a million forms over the next two weeks?
Also puzzled that he quotes 6,300 like it’s the final count, when his department says we have to wait till 19 April to hear if we’re approved as postal voters. Dude, if you know I’m one of the 6,300, just tell me already. Otherwise I have a 10,000-km flight to organise. Don’t worry, MAS will make money from it.
This morning I get not one, not two but THREE emails from the EC. Yay, I think, my rants have been heard. But all they say is: Permohonan anda telah diterima dan sedang diproses. But they already told me this in January, when I first sent in my form. Are they trying to reassure me that nothing’s happened since then?
Get teary watching news coverage of Margaret Thatcher’s passing. Wonder if I’ll feel the same way about former Malaysian PMs.