Emergency extension in Sarawak necessary to prevent Covid-19 spike, say state leaders

KUCHING: The extension of the Emergency in Sarawak to further postpone the state election is necessary to prevent a surge in Covid-19, but the polls should be held once it is safe to do so, say Sarawak leaders.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing said the proclamation of Emergency for Sarawak by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was based on advice from the Health Ministry, Election Commission and other agencies due to the possible spiking of Covid-19.

"However, should we flatten the Covid-19 curve within the next few weeks, we can advise the King to lift the Emergency and the state election can take place in Sarawak," he said on Saturday (July 31).

Masing said this was because the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) state government needed to get a fresh mandate from the people to administer the state for the next five years.

"Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg needs to get his own mandate to be the Chief Minister, the sooner the better, but without endangering the health of Sarawakians.

"I am quite confident that with stringent standard operating procedures (SOP), we can hold an election without endangering the public's health," he said, adding that the Covid-19 spike which followed the Sabah state election last year was a lesson learnt in this regard.

GPS secretary-general Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi also said the move was needed to protect public health and lives as the state was not ready to face an election while the number of Covid-19 cases remained high.

"The GPS has full confidence in the wisdom of the King and Sarawak Governor in this matter," he said.

State Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian welcomed the localised Emergency for Sarawak for a further six months, thanking the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Sarawak Governor for their consultation with the state and federal governments on the matter.

"Covid-19 has been an unprecedented challenge for everyone in Sarawak and all over the world.

"As soon as it is safe, we should go back to the people for the mandate," he said.

Sarawak DAP also supports the extension of the Emergency, its chairman Chong Chieng Jen said.

"In fact, this was my call in Parliament on Monday (July 26) for a localised Emergency for Sarawak to avoid holding the state election within 60 days from Aug 2," he said.

He added that with the extension of the Emergency, the government must implement further measures to help businesses and the people.

In a Federal Gazette released on Friday night (July 30), the Yang di-Pertuan Agong proclaimed an Emergency for Sarawak from Aug 2 to Feb 2, 2022, and that the state election would be suspended to prevent a further spread of the pandemic.

The state legislative assembly's term was due to expire on June 7 but this was suspended due to the nationwide state of emergency, which is scheduled to be lifted on Sunday (Aug 1).

The lifting of the Emergency would have required the state election to be held within 60 days of Aug 2.

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