Election Commission liable for lawsuits if Covid-19 patients can’t vote in Sabah polls, says Bersih 2.0

Electoral reform watchdog Bersih 2.0 insisted that voting is a constitutional right and cannot be denied, even during a pandemic. — Bernama pic
Electoral reform watchdog Bersih 2.0 insisted that voting is a constitutional right and cannot be denied, even during a pandemic. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 23 — Bersih 2.0 today cautioned the Election Commission (EC) that it could face lawsuits if it refused to let voters infected with Covid-19 cast their ballots in the Sabah poll this Saturday.

The electoral reform watchdog insisted that voting is a constitutional right and cannot be denied, even during a pandemic.

“The EC is duty-bound to facilitate the casting of votes but those who are found to be Covid-19 positive during this Sabah state election by making special arrangements for these patients to vote from the safety of hospital wards with the assistance of trained medical staff. 

“This would be in compliance with the Guidelines for Prevention of Covid-19 During Elections (1), issued by the EC where it states that Covid-19 positive patients are not allowed to leave the hospital to cast their votes,” it said in a statement.

Bersih 2.0 was responding to news reports of the confusing criteria on who can and cannot vote in the Sabah election on September 26. 

Sabah has several Covid-19 clusters.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob had announced earlier this week that symptomatic people infected with the virus and those under observation in hospitals will not be allowed to travel to the voting centres to cast their ballots. 

He said it was too risky as they could spread the virus further.

However, he said asymptomatic patients and quarantined individuals are allowed to vote at a special voting booth.

Ismail said it was too risky to allow them to go out as they could cause mass infections.

“Bersih 2.0 is appalled with the statement by Ismail that those who are confirmed Covid-19 positive would not be allowed to vote in the Sabah state election this coming Saturday while others who have symptoms like fever and coughing and those quarantined will be allowed to vote.

“A citizen’s right to vote is enshrined in the Federal Constitution and no one can arbitrarily take that right away, not even a government minister or a special cabinet,” the group said.

Bersih 2.0 cited Article 119(1) of the Federal Constitution, which states “every citizen is entitled to vote in that constituency in any election to the House of Representatives or the Legislative Assembly unless he is disqualified under Clause (3) or under any law relating to offences committed in connection with elections.”

Clause (3) disqualifies those who are of unsound mind and those serving imprisonment of more than 12 months.

Around one million voters are expected to turn up this weekend to vote in the Sabah elections to select 73 members to the Sabah State Legislative Assembly.

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