Sarawak leaders back extension

All quiet: GPS flags fluttering in the afternoon breeze as the residents of Kampung Gersik in Petra Jaya, Kuching, observe the SOP. — Bernama

KUCHING: The six-month extension of the Emergency in Sarawak allows the state election to be postponed until the Covid-19 situation improves for the polls to be held safely, says the Chief Minister.

Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s decision to extend the Emergency was in line with the state government’s stand of prioritising the people’s health and upholding the practice of parliamentary democracy.

“We thank the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for his wisdom in ensuring that the state election will only take place when the pandemic is under control in Sarawak and will not jeopardise the people’s safety.

“Nevertheless, a mandate from Sarawakians must be obtained once the situation permits,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Abang Johari said the Emergency, which is scheduled to end on Feb 2 next year, could be lifted earlier by the King after considering the state government’s views, to guarantee that a fresh mandate would be obtained without further delay.

“What is important is for this to be based on scientific data and professional advice so that Sarawakians’ health and safety will not be compromised before the election is held,” he said.

Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) secretary-general Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi said the ruling state coalition welcomed the extension as the state was not ready to face an election while the number of Covid-19 cases remained high.

He said GPS hoped the situation would improve in line with the acceleration of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, with all Malaysian adults expected to receive both doses of the vaccine by October.

“This will enable many restrictions to be eased and the people’s lives to return to normal.

“As such, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may consent to end the Emergency earlier, which will allow Sarawakians to exercise their right to choose and give a mandate to the next state government,” Nanta said in a statement.

In a Federal Gazette released on Friday night, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong proclaimed an Emergency for Sarawak from Aug 2 to Feb 2, 2022, to suspend the state election and prevent a further spread of Covid-19.

The state legislative assembly’s term expired on June 7, but then a nationwide state of emergency was proclaimed.

The lifting of the Emergency on Aug 1 would have required the state election to be held within 60 days from Aug 2.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing said the state government could advise the King to lift the Emergency earlier should the Covid-19 curve be flattened within the next few weeks to pave the way for the polls.

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

“I am quite confident that with a stringent standard operating procedure, we can hold an election without endangering the public’s health,” he said.

Sarawak DAP and PKR also supported the extension of the Emergency in view of the Covid-19 situation.

“In fact, this was my call in Parliament on Monday for a localised Emergency for Sarawak to avoid holding the state election within 60 days from Aug 2,” state DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen said.

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

Sarawak PKR information chief Abun Sui Anyit called on government leaders to set a good example in complying with the SOP.

“We don’t want the Emergency to be wasted without achieving the intended result of bringing Covid-19 under control.

“If the situation permits, the state legislative assembly should sit with strict SOP to debate and approve matters such as assistance for Sarawakians and the state budget,” he said.

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