Sarawak polls in August if pandemic eases up

Reaching out: Abang Johari (left) chatting with flood victim Nurul Iman Abdullah, 39, at the Kampung Segedup relief centre in Kuching. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

KUCHING: The Sarawak elections due on Aug 5 will proceed if the Covid-19 situation in the state improves and the Emergency is lifted before Aug 1, says the Chief Minister.

Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the state had to comply with the nationwide Emergency proclaimed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution.

“If the King is convinced that there has been a lot of improvement, he can issue another proclamation.

“Let’s say Sarawak is improving and the numbers go down, he can proclaim that maybe Sarawak is okay now, so (in) a part of Malaysia (the Emergency) can be lifted, ” he told reporters after visiting flood victims at a relief centre at Kampung Segedup here yesterday.

Abang Johari said Sarawak was now reporting three-digit daily figures because of the Pasai cluster, which stemmed from a funeral at Pasai Siong in Sibu on Dec 29-31.

“We are doing a lot of swabbing (for the cluster), so naturally the numbers will go up.

“If we can contain that and the figure comes down, then it’s up to them to see our situation, ” he said, adding that if the Emergency is lifted in Sarawak earlier, the state elections will be held.

Under the state constitution, an election must be held within 60 days of the dissolution of the state legislative assembly. The legislature’s current term ends on June 6.

Meanwhile, civil society organisation Rise of Sarawak Efforts (ROSE) called on the Election Commission to use the emergency period to come up with reforms that can be implemented for the state polls.

Its president Ann Teo said this included fine-tuning postal and advanced voting methods to allow better participation by Sarawak voters living, working or studying outside the state.

“The EC should also carry out intentional and effective public education of how new and reformed measures operate to enable voters to vote safely.

“This will greatly increase public trust in the new systems and boost voter participation in the state election while protecting the public from health risks, ” she said.

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