Barring Covid positive voters sets bad precedent, health group says

by TMR / pic by BERNAMA

THE Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy expressed concern over allegations that Covid-19 positive individuals were barred from being able to cast their vote due to their health status.

Its CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said it is not likely that this denial of voter’s rights would have affected the final outcome and results of the state elections, but it sets a negative precedent and the possibility of abuse.

“Even amid a global pandemic, the right to vote is sacrosanct and is fundamental to a modern democracy such as Malaysia.

“I am surprised that the Election Commission (EC) allegedly permitted for circumstances which resulted in voters being deprived of their vote, including denial of entry to polling centres, and in one case, a voter’s ballot paper was allegedly disqualified by an election officer on the basis that a person who is positive cannot vote,” he said in a statement yesterday.

“The Johor health department confirmed in a March 11 media statement that voters who are Covid-19 positive were prohibited from leaving their place of treatment or quarantine for the purposes of voting. Was it legal and constitutional to issue such a directive as this would interfere with a person’s right to vote?” he asked.

He noted that as of Saturday, 99.7% of the adult population in Johor had already received at least two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.

“The Federal Constitution describes very clearly the circumstances in which a person may be deprived of the right to vote.

“Article 119 (3)(a) states that a person can be disqualified from being a voter if he or she is a detainee of unsound mind or serving a prison sentence. It does not disqualify a person with an infectious disease such as dengue, syphilis, viral hepatitis, Covid-19 or any other disease, from being able to vote,” Azrul added.

“The Election Offences Act makes it an offence for election officers to refuse or prevent a person from voting at the polling station if the person is entitled to vote. It is, therefore, disappointing that EC, whose task is to safeguard the electoral process, allegedly accommodated procedures which arguably could interfere with a voter’s ability to vote,” said Azrul.

“Being positive should not deprive citizens of their right to participate in the democratic process,” he stressed.

Citing South Korean as an example, Azrul said the government’s response was not to deny voters who are Covid-19 positive, but to facilitate the voting process to accommodate their voice.

“The voting centres in Johor were already set up to safely accommodate persons under investigation and persons under surveillance with personnel in personal protection equipment gear and separate voting booths.

“Why were positive voters not permitted to simply utilise those existing facilities?” Azrul asked.