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Sunday May 5, 2013

GE13: EC hopes for fine weather in interior

KUCHING: The boxes containing ballots from polling centres in the interior of Sarawak have to be flown out to the parliamentary constituencies’ respective returning officers (ROs) by 2pm today.

This is because the volatile swing in weather conditions in the interior of Lawas, Baram and Belaga could hamper air transportation resulting in delays of the polling results.

With the weather pattern often cloudy and with rain in the mid-afternoon, some polling stations in these three constituencies could close as early as 10.30am. After which, counting would begin after noon and the agents and the ballots must be flown out from the area by 2pm.

While voters head to the polls to exercise their democratic rights, state Election Commission director Datuk Takun Sunggah will be keeping his fingers crossed and constantly checking on weather updates over the areas needing helicopter transport.

“Well, we have engaged helicopters for polling stations in Mambong, Batang Lupar, Sri Aman, Betong, Tanjong Manis, Selangau, Hulu Rajang, Lawas, Kapit and Baram. We are hoping that the weather sides with us because if it doesn’t, there is a chance of the results being delayed and we don’t want that to happen,” he told The Star yesterday.

Recalling past elections, he said the area to watch out for was definitely Lawas, Baram and Hulu Rajang.

“Especially for Baram, there’s always a likelihood of low clouds and this affects visibility so we are hoping for clear skies so our agents can get out safely with the results.”

Takun explained that up to six helicopters had been allocated for Baram alone besides two fixed-wing aircraft.

He said the helicopters would transport the agents to the constituency’s air base where they would board the plane to get to the main polling stations to submit the Form 14 to the ROs.

He said once the form had been submitted, then the ROs would tally the votes and the official results would be made known.

“As such, I have requested the Meteorological Department to keep us constantly updated on the weather conditions and we have to pray that there will be clear skies. If there’s one thing we can’t control, it’s the weather.”

A check with the Sarawak Meteo- rological Department website predicts isolated rain over coastal areas in the morning whereas there will be scattered thunderstorm in the afternoon and isolated rainfall at night.

Takun said while the EC had no control over candidates coming in to vote with an entourage, he advised that it would be best to keep the numbers small.

He understood that the entourage wanted to show their support for their candidates but security was a priority.

He called on voters to cast their votes as early as possible.

If they are still unsure about where their polling stations are, he advised them to check through SMS and also pay attention to the time of polling at their respective stations.

“Don’t forget your identification cards and that your index fingers will be marked with indelible ink. If you object to that, then ballots will not be issued.”

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