Covid-19: Strict guidelines must be in place for Sarawak polls, says deputy CM

KUCHING: The Health Ministry and Election Commission must put in place strict guidelines for the next Sarawak state election to be held safely once the Emergency is lifted on August 1, says Tan Sri James Masing (pic).

The Deputy Chief Minister said the authorities must be strict in prohibiting face-to-face campaigning as part of measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 during the polls, which must be held within 60 days of the lifting of the Emergency.

He also called for longer voting hours as well as more election workers and ballot boxes to be used in rural constituencies.

"The ballot boxes should go to the people, not people to the ballot boxes.

"Extend the polling time as this will allow for social distancing when voters cast their votes," he said in a statement on Thursday (June 17).

Masing also said the campaign period between nomination and polling should be kept to a minimum within the limits of election laws.

"When these measures are implemented, a low turnout of voters is to be expected, but in the end, we will have a government which has the mandate of the people.

"Thus we uphold the rule of law by maintaining the practice of parliamentary democracy and at the same time, contain the danger posed by the coronavirus to our people," he said.

On Wednesday (June 16), following a special meeting of the Malay Rulers, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Mustafa Billah Shah expressed his view that Parliament should reconvene as soon as possible so that lawmakers could debate the Emergency and Covid-19 National Recovery Plan.

The Malay Rulers also expressed their opinion that there was no need to extend the Emergency beyond Aug 1.

Masing said the lifting of the Emergency on Aug 1 would put Sarawak in a "political and social conundrum" as herd immunity may not have been achieved by then.

At the same time, he said by law, the state election must be held within two months as the Sarawak Legislative Assembly's term had expired on June 6.

"We have to follow the law. For the state election to be held with the health and safety of our people in mind, we must follow strict health guidelines," he said.

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