Logistical woes a worry for Sarawak if state holds polls

MIRI: The difficulty in campaigning and transporting voters due to Covid-19 restrictions will be a major concern if the Sarawak state election is held soon, based on the recently-concluded Sabah polls, say state politicians.

Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) leaders believe that logistical difficulties in Sarawak were similar to the situation in Sabah.

PBB’s Mulu assemblyman Datuk Gerawat Gala said more vans, 4WD vehicles and boats would have to be used, not just during the election campaign but on polling day.

“The new norms arising from Covid-19 will be a new challenge for Sarawak in the coming state polls,” said Gerawat.

Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau said voter transportation to polling stations should be properly planned.

“Many rural folk in remote longhouses need a means of transport to go to polling stations as they do not have vehicles. Due to the limit on passenger capacity, we will have to prepare more vehicles,” he said.

PBB is the backbone party of the ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) coalition, along with Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP).

The 12th state election is due before September 2021.

But there has been talk it could be called later this year.Meanwhile, SUPP Youth chief Michael Tiang said he was “surprised and disappointed” that the Covid-19 standard operating procedure (SOP) was not strictly enforced during the Sabah election campaign.

“We saw politicians and the public mingling in gatherings with zero social distancing. Some gatherings were attended by more than 250 people as allowed under the SOP.

“I hope the SOP for public gatherings will be strictly enforced for the coming Sarawak election.

“No one should enjoy any privileges under the SOP, be it a candidate or any state leader,” he added.

State PKR vice-chairman and Miri MP Dr Teo Yu Keng also believe that logistical woes as in Sabah would also happen in Sarawak, especially in the rural areas.

“Our campaign teams will have to split into small groups because of Covid-19 fears. We cannot go in big groups into villages and we have to observe social distancing.

“We also cannot cram into vehicles,” he said, adding that according to the SOP, only four people could be in a car and five to six were allowed in a 4WD vehicle.

Dr Teo said this meant voters could not be brought en masse to polling stations and more vehicles would be needed for transport.

“At polling stations, there will be long queues due to social distancing requirements. The process to cast votes will be slower due to the limit on the number of voters in the polling station at any one time.”Sarawak DAP senior leader Chiew Chiu Sing said urban polling districts might see a lower turnout if Covid-19 fears continued.

“Some urban folk may be afraid to go to polling stations if there are big crowds and infections are still a worry,” he said.

“Campaigning will not be as grand as before. Limits on crowd size will be the new norm and house-to-house campaigning will have to be stepped up.”

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Covid-19 , Sarawak , elections


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