Monday, September 20, 2021

People can go to the supermarket, why not the polls, says Sarawak minister

But Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah says this is contingent on an improved voting mechanism and strict SOPs.

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Sarawak Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu vice-president Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah today said he believed a general election could be held this year, even amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“If people can go to the supermarket, dine in, and drive around with SOPs such as monitoring and checking temperatures, then why not hold an election?” he said at a press conference in Kuching when asked whether snap polls should be called.

However, he said this would only be doable if the Election Commission (EC) introduces an improved voting mechanism and SOPs to ensure the public’s safety.

“Everything rests on the EC,” he said, adding that such guidelines should be laid out as soon as possible.

He said if there are any concerns about staff who have yet to be vaccinated, for example, these should be brought up to the government.

Stressing that he was not calling for a premature election to be held at once, he said an election was nonetheless necessary to ensure the mandate of the people.

“It is not good to postpone elections,” he added. “When there is a dissolution, my own personal observation is, our role as state assemblymen is no longer valid because our tenure has ended.”

Karim, who is state tourism, arts and culture minister, also said that state polls must be held within 60 days once the emergency period ends on Aug 1.

However, he said he believed it unlikely that a state election would be held in August itself.

“My guess is, it will not be in August because when there is a dissolution, the speaker will have to inform the EC that the state assembly has been dissolved.

“They will have to meet with the EC to decide on the date for the polls,” he said, adding that preparations for an election could take more than a month.

He also urged the EC to take proactive measures to facilitate voter turnout during the pandemic.

“The EC must already be well informed as to whether they have enough personnel on the ground to facilitate the polls,” he said.

“Sarawak is a big state, so they will have to get feedback from all the returning district officers. It will take some time to get everything prepared, and it can’t be done within a month.

“So the high likelihood in the event that the election will be held is that it will be in September. And even in September, it cannot be early September. It will have to be later in the month. That is my own personal view.”

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