KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 — Electoral reform group Bersih 2.0 today said that it will mount a legal challenge against the Health Ministry and Election Commission for restricting Covid-19 positive voters from participating in the democratic process as noted in the recently concluded Johor state election.

Following reports on Covid-19 positive voters being barred from voting, Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann stressed that no one could be refrained from casting their votes unless they were of unsound mind, yet to attain the voting age or serving a sentence of imprisonment.

He said it was of utmost importance for a declaration to be made by the court before the next General Election, adding that the restrictions imposed were against the rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

“We view with great concern the direction from the Health Ministry to not to allow Covid-19 positive patients to participate in the Johor state elections. 

“We have consistently said this is a fundamental right of Malaysians to vote in our election as guaranteed under our Federal Constitution.

“No other reasons, including being Covid-19 positive, is a reason for them to be stopped from participating,” he told a virtual press conference on the findings of Bersih 2.0’s Johor state election observation report here.

When asked further how soon the suit would be filed, Fann said legal representatives from Bersih 2.0 and aggrieved parties who were prevented from voting during the state election will take the necessary action in two weeks' time. 

“As an organisation, we ourselves do not have the locus standi to take legal action, so we need those who were hindered or stopped from voting to come forward.

“Our lawyers will be meeting them very soon to discuss the direction of action and to seek their permission and agreement to become litigants. It should take place within one to two weeks,” he was quoted as saying.

Citing observations made during the Johor polls, Fann said there were five such incidents of Covid-19 positive patients being denied entry into polling stations as witnessed by observers.

As an immediate remedial measure, Fann said Bersih 2.0 is proposing that the EC, for future elections, arrange transportation for Covid-19 patients under either home quarantine or from isolation centres to be able to come out and vote safely. 

Based on the rules by the EC and National Security Council (NSC) that were in force for the Johor state election, Covid-19 positive voters are not allowed to leave the place they are undergoing treatment such as hospital, quarantine centre or their house to vote, as they were said to be still infectious.

The rules, however, said voters who are patient under investigation (PUI) and person under surveillance (PUS) could apply for permission from the health district officer monitoring their surveillance order to be allowed out temporarily to go to the polling centre, but noted that such permission is subject to the health district officer’s risk assessment and with such voters having to comply with all standard operating procedures.

Among other things, the rules also required PUI or PUS voters to vote in a special space and to go to the polling centre using their own transport if they are allowed out to vote, and with the permission to go out to vote requiring them to return to quarantine immediately after voting.