EC urged to implement reforms to ensure safer Sarawak state poll during Covid-19

DAP’s Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii noted that Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg is seeking an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the dissolution of the Sarawak State Assembly to pave the way for the state election to be held. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
DAP’s Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii noted that Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg is seeking an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the dissolution of the Sarawak State Assembly to pave the way for the state election to be held. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

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KUCHING, May 17 — An Opposition MP today urged the Election Commission (EC) to come up with the necessary reforms to ensure a safer election process and implement it even before the upcoming Sarawak state election.

DAP’s Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii noted that Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg is seeking an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the dissolution of the Sarawak State Assembly to pave the way for the state election to be held.

“However currently we are in a nation-wide state of Covid-19 emergency until August 1 where elections, Parliament and State Assemblies have been suspended,” Yii said in a statement.

He added it is important to have the right electoral reforms and safeguards in place to protect the people even before deciding on a date and time for the election.

Yii said he has been consistent with the stand that Sarawak should not be having an election during this period and priority should be given to control the pandemic and uplift the people’s economy.

“Fact of the matter is, having a conventional general election this year would be disastrous,” he stressed.

He said he has his doubts that the target of vaccinating 80 per cent of the state’s population can be achieved by August due to low rate of registration, low vaccine supply and up to 20 per cent of the population are below 18 years old who are currently contraindicated to take the vaccine.

“Either way, we should not be looking at an election until most of the population is immunised, and the required electoral reforms implemented to give some form of protection during the voting process especially for the high-risk groups,” he said.

He said the EC that has more than a year to prepare since the start of the pandemic clearly failed to take pro-active steps and reforms to ensure a “safe pandemic voting process” even with full knowledge that the Sarawak state elections is due this year.

“The EC should have looked into certain adjustments and procedural reforms, especially in implementing the necessary safety SOPs, including absentee voting or extending postal voting to either vulnerable populations or those working or studying outside their home states, especially in Sabah and Sarawak.

“Absentee or postal voting will make it easier for voters residing in other states to vote, instead of them having to return home and causing a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases, as what has happened in Sabah,” he said.

He strongly believed that in view of the pandemic, it is the EC’s duty to make it as convenient and safe as possible for voters to cast their votes, adding that any inconveniences imposed on voters either directly or indirectly through unnecessary regulations or non — availability of facilities can be construed as a suppression of the fundamental rights of a voter.

“Such reforms are important not just for the pandemic, but also to encourage more voter participation including young people, especially for elections held in Sabah and Sarawak,” he added.

He added it is estimated that up to 20 per cent of eligible Sabahan and Sarawakian voters are living and working in Peninsular Malaysia and a good number of citizens from the peninsula are doing likewise in Sabah and Sarawak. 

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