Sunday, March 7, 2021

Trouble recruiting election workers among reasons for scrapping Batu Sapi polls

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Difficulty in recruiting election workers is one of five reasons Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said were behind the Cabinet’s recommendation to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to declare a state of emergency in Batu Sapi to prevent a by-election there.

Muhyiddin said as of Nov 6, the Election Commission had only managed to recruit 143 people to carry out election-related work in Batu Sapi, where a by-election had been scheduled on Dec 5.

“The risk of infection among election workers cannot be taken lightly as they deal directly with voters and are exposed to Covid-19,” Muhyiddin said in a special address to explain the reasons behind the emergency declaration in Batu Sapi.

Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah today invoked his powers under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution to declare an emergency in Batu Sapi, effectively cancelling the December polls.

The federal seat has been vacant since the death of its incumbent Liew Vui Keong early last month.

Muhyiddin said public health topped the list of concerns behind the emergency declaration, adding that there was no strict public compliance with SOPs as seen in the recent Sabah election.

Other reasons include the difficulty of controlling cross-border travel by election officers and voters, the risk of infection for elderly voters who form 22.3% of the electorate in Batu Sapi, and the socio-economic impact on the residents of Batu Sapi and the Sandakan district in the event that a fresh wave of Covid-19 cases follows the by-election.

“This will definitely undermine the efforts of the frontliners, most of whom feel exhausted after having worked very hard for so long to contain the pandemic.

“Have mercy on those who are struggling night and day and losing sleep to protect our lives,” the prime minister said.

He assured residents in Batu Sapi that the emergency declaration would have no impact on their daily lives.

“There will be no curfews or military-like rule in Batu Sapi,” he said, adding that all administrative and economic activities will be allowed subject to health SOPs.

“On behalf of the Perikatan Nasional government, I give my word that once the Covid-19 pandemic ends, the Batu Sapi election will be held in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Constitution.

“When the by-election is held, voters may exercise their democratic rights in a safe, peaceful and harmonious situation,” he added.

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