Current Covid-19 situation or impending elections? S'wak govt still to decide

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg announcing an extension to the Sarawakku Sayang special aid package. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

KUCHING: The Sarawak government is still weighing between the current Covid-19 situation and the need for a fresh mandate in considering when to call the next state election.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said although Sarawak was now reporting new cases in single digits, it could not be predicted whether the situation would be better or worse in the coming months.

Against this is the fact that the state legislative assembly's current term expires in June next year.

"For us, we have to look at both sides. We are subjected to advice from the Health Ministry whether we should go (for elections) or not. I am also concerned about the health of the people.

"On the other hand, you cannot govern and take measures against Covid-19 if you don't have a mandate.

"So this is a very difficult, complex situation. We have to consider every factor, then we decide," Abang Johari told reporters after announcing an extension of the Sarawakku Sayang special aid package here on Friday (Oct 23).

NGOs and opposition leaders have called for the Sarawak election not to be held during the current Covid-19 surge in the country, which has largely been blamed on the recent Sabah polls.

Asked whether the elections would not be held this year, Abang Johari reiterated that the decision was subject to advice from health experts.

"We are not crazy for power. What is important is to have a government that has the mandate not only to manage Covid-19, but also the state.

"We are still weighing it, but it is yet to be decided," he said.

He added that once the election was called, it was the role of the Election Commission (EC) to put in place the standard operating procedures (SOP) for conducting it safely.

"We leave it to the EC to set the SOP and we follow the SOP. I do not want to be like Sabah, because the health of the people is important," he said.

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