Sarawak by-election on the cards, but…

Not all parties look forward to the early polls, considering that the govt has yet to implement the Undi18 and the current pandemic situation

by AZREEN HANI / pic by TMR FILE

SARAWAK state election is on the cards with the end of emergency that was consented by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah on Wednesday.

A federal government gazette dated Nov 3 stated that Al-Sultan Abdullah was satisfied that the need for the Proclamation of Emergency (Sarawak) 2021, which His Majesty declared on July 29, had ended, and an action to revoke the proclamation was required.

“According to Article 21 of the Sarawak State Constitution, when the state assembly is dissolved, a state election has to be held within 60 days of the date of dissolution of the assembly and a meeting of the new assembly has to be convened not later than 120 days from this date,” Assoc Prof Dr Khairil Azmin Mokhtar told Bernama.

This would make Sarawak by-election, the third state polls to be held amid the pandemic, after Sabah in September 2020 and Melaka this month.

Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu VP Dr Annuar Rapaee did not dismiss the possibility of the state election to be held this year, by mid-December at the latest.

“At the latest, I would think, the election will be held in mid-December. But it can be held earlier too,” he reportedly said.

Not all parties look forward to the early polls, though, considering that the government has yet to implement the Undi18 — which allows Malaysians above 18 years of age to vote — as well as the current pandemic situation.

Undi18 and Undi Sarawak group that advocates the lowering of voting age to 18 said that the decision to hold a state election before the implementation of the Undi18 is also a premature decision that ignores the voting rights of Sarawakian youth.

“Dissolving the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly this year will disenfranchise 125,000 to 135,000 Sarawakian youth voters,” the groups said.

On Sept 3, the Kuching High Court compelled the federal government to implement the lowering of the voting age and automatic voter registration by Dec 31, 2021.

The urgency of the decision is to ensure that Sarawakian youth especially will be eligible to vote in the coming state elections.

“The country is still adapting to the Covid-19 recovery plan and the extension of Sarawak’s state emergency coupled with the implementation of Undi18 which is scheduled to start early next year. It is, therefore, crucial for the government to reconsider any decision to have an election this year,” the groups added.

Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii said it is not the best time to hold a state election considering the high intensive care unit occupancy and death rates in Sarawak due to Covid-19.

“I said many times, there is no reason to have an early election unless they are really intending to avoid the Undi18 vote. And because of that, they made a deliberate decision to deprive them of voting in this election,” Yii said on his Twitter post.

Rather than pushing for an early State Election, the Sarawak GPS government should instead focus on ensuring Undi18 and Automatic Voters Registration are fully implemented and administering booster vaccine doses to all vulnerable and high-risk groups in Sarawak,” he added.