Sarawak Polls Only After The Emergency


 


The 12th Sarawak State Election was due this year but a localised emergency was declared in August to stop the polls due to the raging Covid-19 pandemic.
The six-month emergency was declared for the period from Aug 2 to Feb 2 next year, but Sarawak leaders had said then that if the health situation improves, there is nothing to stop the state election from taking place within this period.
This will require the emergency to be lifted.
However, the date of the election is still clouded in uncertainty, although it is almost certain that D-Day is between now and 60 days after Feb 22 next year. I suppose that is the safest speculative ‘date’, since it is impossible to nail a definite one.
As it stands now, no one really knows what the exact election date is, not even Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg. And he is the one with the power to call for fresh polls.
Last month, talk in Kuching was that Abang Johari was keen to call for elections before the year is over, meaning a likely December date.
He is believed to have informed leaders of his Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) coalition partners of his intention and wanted their honest, professional feedback.
But in politics, nothing is certain, and so too, election dates.
This month, the chief minister could have changed his mind after receiving “words of caution” from allies against staging the election this year.
It is believed that Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has advised Abang Jo to re-think his intention and would surely be discussing the election date with the chief minister when he makes an official visit to Sarawak on Oct 22.

Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg
However, not all GPS leaders are against holding the election in December as long as the health situation allows it.
SUPP president Dr Sim Kui Hian opined that it would be best to observe what happens during the Malacca state election, which must be held by Dec 3.
“We can learn a thing or two from Malacca surely, even if it is only a small state. To hold an election, like the one in Sabah in September last year, would be a disaster we would want to avoid”, he told Malaysiakini.
Sim who is Sarawak’s local government and housing minister, also noted that all the states will likely be moving into Phase Four of the National Recovery Plan next month.
“One thing is very clear to GPS in deciding on the election date. The health, security and lives of Sarawakians remain our top priorities.
“Abang Jo has stressed that and he will call for elections only when it is very safe to do so. We will never risk the lives of our people for elections.
“At a time like this, politics is not important. Political expediency should be put on the back-burner. Lives of our families, loved ones, neighbours and our fellow Sarawakians are paramount”, Sim stressed.
“Honestly, I will be in no mood to contest an election if my fellow Sarawakians are fighting for their lives in the ICU or dying around me. No one would,” added Sim, a medical doctor.
On why the chief minister was inclined to call for elections soon, PBB veteran Peter Minos said “it could be that Abang Jo and GPS do not like to rule Sarawak on ‘borrowed’ mandate, since the State Legislative Assembly period expired last June.
“Or it could be that the CM strongly feels that Sarawakians genuinely and really want an early election, now that more than 88 percent of Sarawakians have been vaccinated and that Covid-19 cases have gradually reduced,” Minos told the New Sarawak Tribune this week.
What about the opposition? What do they think of Abang Jo’s purported intention to call for the state election this year?

PBB veteran Peter Minos
Batu Lintang assemblyperson See Chee How is not in favour of polls this year, stating that “there must be justice for the Undi18 which comprise 665,723 new voters (young and old, due to automatic registration).
“They must be allowed to vote in the coming election, but their inclusion in the electoral roll will only take effect after Jan 1, 2022.
“Due to the emergency that has been declared over Sarawak (up to Feb 1, 2022), to rush the state election this November or December will be seen as a deliberate act to avoid the Undi18 voters,” See said.
Meanwhile, Priscilla Lau of Parti Bumi Kenyalang (PBK) isn’t too bothered about the timing of the election.
“We are ready for the polls any time it is called. We have more than 70 candidates now and may even contest all the 82 seats, including the Malay constituencies.
“Although this will be the party’s electoral debut, we are confident of putting up a good fight”, added the PBK secretary-general.
Lau is correct. The election date is not something to worry about. The current term has already expired, four months ago.
The 12th Sarawak election should be held as soon as the health crisis is over and poses no risk to the lives of our voters.
I expect it to be held after the emergency order ends on Feb 2 next year and see no necessity for it to be extended. - Mkini



FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.


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