Bersih 2.0: Don’t use revised Sabah Covid-19 travel SOP to gain political mileage for Budget 2021 vote

Bersih 2.0 said the government should hold a hybrid Parliament sitting — conducted both online and at location — to allow MPs who needed to be quarantined to debate and vote virtually.  ― Bernama pic
Bersih 2.0 said the government should hold a hybrid Parliament sitting — conducted both online and at location — to allow MPs who needed to be quarantined to debate and vote virtually. ― Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) today questioned the government’s decision to allow travellers from Sabah to enter the peninsula without undergoing mandatory quarantine for 14 days, if they test negative for Covid-19.

Bersih 2.0 said the decision announced yesterday — a reversal of the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) ruling just four days before — is suspicious, as it was seemingly made to allow Members of Parliament (MPs) travelling from Sabah to vote in favour of Budget 2021 in the Dewan Rakyat tomorrow.

“If this standard operating procedure (SOP) is altered simply to allow elected representatives, namely MPs such as Dr Jeffrey Kitingan and Datuk Bung Moktar to vote with the hope of approving the 2021 Budget, this action clearly shows an abuse of power by the government regardless of public health and safety,” said the Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee in a statement today.

Yesterday, Parliament was in an uproar after it was noted that Kitingan, the Keningau MP, had attended the sitting there, although he was supposed to be under a 14-day quarantine following his entry into the peninsula, after attending the Sabah state assembly on November 12.

“This response is clearly irresponsible if the government is willing to lower the level of public health safeguard solely for political expediency,” said Bersih 2.0.

Bersih 2.0 said the government should instead hold a hybrid Parliament sitting — conducted both online and at location — to allow MPs who needed to be quarantined to debate and vote virtually. 

The civil society said that it had brought up this suggestion earlier in May, after a similar occurrence in the UK Parliament in April, where up to 120 MPs were allowed to join in sittings virtually through the video conferencing platform, Zoom.

“Unfortunately, the government failed to take up the proposal and it now seems that the SOPs that were supposed to prevent the spread of pandemic outbreaks, have been altered for their own political interests.

“Bersih 2.0 urges the government not to arbitrarily change the SOPs solely because there are MPs from their bloc who violated the rules. This clearly shows an abuse of power and the Ministry of Health Malaysia should take legal actions against those politicians who violated the directive without fear or favour,” said Bersih 2.0.

Previously, reports of MPs breaching quarantine orders to attend Dewan Rakyat sittings occurred amid the Sabah state elections in September, following which Covid-19 cases nationwide surged from single digits to the thousands.

To curb this rise in cases, the MoH had decided that all those coming to the peninsula from the Borneon state should undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine. This was reinforced by Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on November 20.

However, yesterday, the Minister of Health Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba announced that the National Security Council (NSC) had decided that the mandatory 14-day quarantine was no longer required, after seeing that the number of Covid-19 cases in Sabah had dropped in the last few weeks.

Instead, travellers are now required to do a swab test three days before departing from the state.

Yesterday, Sabah recorded 232 new Covid-19 cases, and three related deaths.

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