Sarawak DCM moots strict SOPs, extended voting for looming state election

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Masing urged the EC to increase the number of its workers and add more ballot boxes to be used in rural constituencies. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Masing urged the EC to increase the number of its workers and add more ballot boxes to be used in rural constituencies. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUCHING, June 17 — Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing today called on the Ministry of Health (MoH) to enforce strict health guidelines for use during the Sarawak state election that must be held within 60 days once the state of Covid-19 Emergency is lifted on August 1.

He said the enforcement agencies such as the Election Commission (EC) and the police must also be very strict in ensuring that face-to-face campaigning is prohibited as one of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to contain the spread of Covid-19 infections.

“Anybody who breaks the laws must be penalised immediately,” Masing, who is also Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president, said in a statement when responding to a decree by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong that the Emergency may be not be extended once it expires on August 1.

Masing also urged the EC to increase the number of its workers and add more ballot boxes to be used in rural constituencies, stating that the “ballot boxes go to the people and not people go to the ballot boxes approach” be used.

“The EC should also extend the polling hours as this will allow for social distancing when voters cast their votes.

He added there should be a minimum time between nomination and polling within the limit of the election.

“When these measures are strictly implemented, the low turnout of voters is expected. The EC must expect it. But in the end, we have the government which has the mandate of our people,” he added.

Masing said the rule of law must maintain the practice of parliamentary democracy, and at the same time, contain the danger posed by the coronavirus.

“We have to follow the State Constitution. That is definite. The constitution says the state election must be held by October,” he added.

He said it appears that by August 1, 2021, the Emergency will be lifted, stating that Malaysia including Sarawak, would not have overcome the pandemic by then.

He added the target of 80 per cent of the state population to be vaccinated by August which the state government hopes to achieve may not be attainable.

“However, the laws say once Emergency is lifted democracy can be practised and Parliament can sit and general election may be held, if is required. This is what the King has decreed.

“To me, the practice of parliamentary democracy at the time of health crisis is not necessarily to be the best for the people who practise it. It is a delicate balance between democracy and the lives of people,” he said.

Masing stressed that the decision-makers in any democratic nation must be intelligent enough to choose between the practice of democracy and the safety of human lives.

“The lifting of the Emergency on August 1 puts Sarawak in a real political and social conundrum. We are not out of the woods yet,” he said, pointing out that the state assembly’s term expired on June 6 this year.

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