Not willing to take risks again

PETALING JAYA: The Cabinet has advised the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to declare an emergency in Batu Sapi after taking into account the consequences of the Sabah state election that resulted in a third wave of Covid-19 infections in the community.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the Cabinet had in a meeting on Nov 13 discussed in detail the possible effects of the Batu Sapi by-election that would have to be held while the Covid-19 pandemic was still spreading in Sabah.

“In making this consideration, the Cabinet took into account the effects of Covid-19 transmissions in Sabah following the Sabah state election held in September, ” he said in a live broadcast yesterday to explain the Cabinet decision to advise the King to declare an emergency in Batu Sapi.

Muhyiddin said that although the Election Commission had set tight standard operating procedure (SOP) for the election, compliance with them was very weak, making the epidemic hard to control.

He said that on nomination day of the Sabah state election on Sept 12, the number of cumulative cases in the state was 808, increasing by 91.5% to 1,547 cases on polling day on Sept 26.

Four weeks later on Oct 24, Sabah had recorded 11,285 cumulative cases, becoming the first state in the country to record more than 10,000 cases.

As of yesterday, Sabah recorded 24,269 cases and 181 deaths.

After meeting with Muhyiddin, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah had agreed to declare a state of emergency in Batu Sapi to cancel the by-election that was scheduled there for Dec 5.

Batu Sapi, part of the Sandakan municipality, is among Covid-19 hot spots in Sabah.

Muhyiddin also said the Election Commission faced constraints in getting election workers as they were concerned about getting infected with the virus while on duty.

He said that as of Nov 6, the commission had only succeeded in appointing 143 election officials, which is only 17.1% of the 837 workers needed for the by-election.

He added that although Sabah was under the conditional movement control order (MCO), the district and state borders travel restrictions could not be imposed on those voting in Batu Sapi as it was their constitutional right to do so.

Muhyiddin assured that the by-election would be held when the pandemic was over.

He said the Cabinet had sought the views of the Attorney General on the best way in terms of legislation and constitution to postpone the by-election to another date.

The Federal Constitution says that any vacancy in Parliament must be filled within 60 days unless Parliament is to be dissolved within two years.

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