SANDAKAN, May 11 ― A minor commotion broke out outside the Sekolah Kebangsaan Tanjung Papat I voting centre this morning when rival political camps made playful jibes against each other while clamouring for the attention of voters in the ongoing Sandakan parliamentary by-election.
Groups from DAP/Warisan and Umno, the latter mostly clad in bright red clothes competed with each other to walk voters under umbrellas while silently urging them to vote for their candidate by uttering their candidate numbers.
Calls of “Calon nombor lima” and “nombor tiga” were heard, sometimes subtly or sometimes called out loudly, as the supporters rushed to greet voters and shade them from the scorching sun with umbrellas before entering the gates of the centre.
Candidate number five refers to Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) candidate Datuk Linda Tsen’s order in the ballot paper while DAP’s Vivian Wong is listed as the third candidate. Neither were present during the commotion.
The jibing and teasing stemmed from the fact that some of the Warisan supporters were originally from Umno.
The flurry went out for a while, partly in good fun until independent candidate Hamzah Abdullah arrived and told them they were violating election rules.
Hamzah uploaded a Facebook live video of the activity and separated the people while telling them it was an offence to try to influence voters. He also called election observer Datuk Seri Lajim Ukin who was nearby to stop the activity.
“They’re disturbing the voters and trying to campaign for them just outside, less than 50m away. It’s not right, and the EC has to take action,” he said.
Later, the Election Commission (EC) stationed an officer outside the gates to keep order.
“No action has been taken yet but we will be filling a report on this.”
“Right now we are focused on keeping them apart and trying to dissipate any tension between the groups,” said the officer who did not want to be named.
Tanjung Papat I and II are the voting centres for the Sim Sim voting area, which constitutes among the highest Muslim voters in Sandakan.
The turnout has been mediocre so far, with a consistent trickling of people, but little to no queues.
The turnout as of 12 noon is 32 per cent. Sandakan has 39,684 eligible voters in today’s five-cornered election including Wong, Tsen, Hamzah and two other Independents Chia Siew Yung and Sulaiman Abdul Samat.
Voting closes at 5pm today.