Malaysia GE: Hours before polls closed, voters still streamed through Causeway to vote

People boarding a bus to Johor Baru at the Woodlands Checkpoint on May 9, 2018. Malaysians working in Singapore were still streaming back to Malaysia just hours before polls closed.
People boarding a bus to Johor Baru at the Woodlands Checkpoint on May 9, 2018. Malaysians working in Singapore were still streaming back to Malaysia just hours before polls closed. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - A mere three hours before polls closed at 5pm on Wednesday (May 9) for Malaysia's general election, Malaysians working in Singapore were still streaming through the Woodlands Checkpoint to return home to cast their votes.

Fortunately, traffic was smooth, which was a boon for voters rushing against time, for example, Ms Muthamah, whose name has only one word.

 

The 49-year-old cleaner, who has been working here for five years, reached the checkpoint at about 1.30pm and was preparing to take a three-hour bus ride up to Melaka.

Ms Muthamah said she expected to arrive just in time before the polling station was closed.

She did not have leave to apply for, but her employer in Singapore decided to give her a half-day off to return home to vote.

She said it was important for her to make her feelings known with her vote, noting how she could not find a job in her home country.

"Voting is a must," said Ms Muthamah in fluent Mandarin. She was coy about which party she was going to vote for but expressed support for opposition leader and former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Many other Malaysians had already made their way back on Tuesday night. Causeway traffic and immigration queues were reported to be smooth-flowing despite the large number of commuters.

 
 
 

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said in a Facebook post on Tuesday night that there were no issues with Singapore's immigration clearance systems, dispelling rumours of a standstill that were circulating on social media.

Throughout the day, commuters kept one another updated via Facebook on traffic conditions at the Causeway, and encouraged others to make the trip.

The Straits Times spoke to several Malaysians at the Woodlands Checkpoint on Wednesday who said going back on Polling Day itself was not an issue, because their home is in Johor, such as restaurant waitress Shirley Leong, who took only a half-day off work.

Ms Leong, 38, who has lived in Singapore for 20 years, was originally from Kuala Lumpur but is a registered voter in Johor Baru.

Others such as administrative staff Ang Koi Ping, 42, were still running errands before making their way home to vote.

Madam Ang, who lives in Woodlands, took her children home from school before heading over to Johor Baru at 2pm.

But for others, such as travel agent Jesse Chen, going back early was critical.

Ms Chen, 26, took two days' leave because a trip home to Perak involved an eight-hour bus journey. She left Singapore after work on Tuesday at around 6.30pm.

After a day there, she will make the long return trip back to Singapore and her job at Chan Brothers.

Asked why she was prepared to do it, she said she was returning home to "save her country".