KUCHING (Nov 15): Civil society organisations (CSOs) in Sarawak are calling on the Election Commission (EC) to grant Absentee Voter status to Sarawakians residing in Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia and allow them to vote in advance before the coming state polls.
Despite welcoming the EC’s decision to allow all overseas Sarawakians the right to vote via post without excluding those residing in the neighbouring regions of Singapore, Brunei, Kalimantan in Indonesia and South Thailand, the organisations lamented that the EC had refused to extend any form of absentee voting to the many Sarawakian voters currently residing in Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia.
They said that by refusing to make any provision for this group of voters to vote from the state they are living in, the EC has failed to fulfill one of its primary obligations as an election management body which is to ensure credible levels of voter participation in an election.
They added that this would undermine the authority of the election results, representation of the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) and the legitimacy of the next elected state government.
“In the past, Bersih has made our proposals and demands known to the EC with respect to this category of voters. They can be given the right to vote by post, which is easier to achieve by way of a simple gazette pursuant to one fo the provisions in the Postal Voting Regulations.
“Alternatively and perhaps more securely, they can be given the right to vote by way of voting in advance at special polling centres set up in at least one major town in each state.
“They will need to register themselves and apply to be on that special electoral roll, turn up on Advance Polling Day and vote in person. Their vote will then be counted towards their registered constituency in Sarawak,” said the CSOs in a joint statement today.
They said that Bersih Sarawak estimated that there over one million Malaysians living and working in Singapore now, out of which a number of them come from Sarawak and Sabah.
They also estimated that there were about 250,000 Sarawakians living and working in Peninsular Malaysia, in which this number rises when Sabah is included.
“Apart from the prohibitive costs of air fares and land transport to return to vote in their hometowns and villages, Sarawakians in Sabah and Semenanjung Malaysia have to apply for leave from work and risk falling ill due to Covid-19 while travelling through crowded airports, planes and hired seats in four-wheel-drive private cars.
“A recent online straw poll by Bersih Sarawak confirmed that a large majority of Sarawakians are desirous of being given the right to vote in the upcoming state election but from their place of work and domicile in West Malaysia or Sabah.
“Over 250 respondents participated in the poll and 89 per cent of them answered ‘YES’ to the following question: ‘If given the opportunity, do you want to be able to vote for PRN Sarawak by way of Advance Voting/Postal Voting from your state or town’,” the CSOs said.
They also deemed that the state election set to take place before the end of 2021 as ‘disturbing’, adding that the surprise lifting of the Emergency in Sarawak just eight weeks before the implementation of Undi18 and Automatic Voters Registration (AVR) meant that about 666,000 Sarawakians have “deliberately been disenfranchised”.
As such, they called on the EC to do much better than how it is presently performing as simply abdicating its constitutional authority and responsibilities to oversee and manage elections to the Ministry of Health (MOH) is not acceptable.
“Elections are not just about casting votes on polling day. Equally important is that candidates need to be able to reach out to voters to explain their manifesto and policy positions so that voters are able to make informed choices,” they added.
They also called on the EC to avoid a total ban on physical campaigning as what is currently happening in Melaka and instead work closely with MOH to come out with clear election standard operating procedures (SOP) for parties and candidates to campaign safely in compliance with Phase 4 of the National Recovery Plan’s guidelines.
The joint-statement was endorsed by Rise of Social Efforts (Rose), Bersih Sarawak, Persatuan Pemangkin Kesedaran Sosial (Pemangkin), Terabai Kenyalang Heritage Association of Sarawak (TKHAS), SAVE Rivers, Keep Green Movement (KGM) – People. Associate. Development. Education for Penan Sarawak (PADE), Lawyer Kamek for Change (LK4C), Purplelily Social Association Kuching, Persatuan Anak Istimewa Sarawak (Perais), Dayak Think Tank Association Sarawak (DTTAS), UNDI Sarawak, Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) Rimbas, Sadia Rejang, Persatuan Dayak Sarawak (Pedas), Sarawak Association for People’s Aspirations (SAPA), Sabah Sarawak Rights Australia New Zealand (SSRANZ), Ikram Sarawak and Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim) Sarawak.
Published on: https://www.theborneopost.com/2021/11/15/organisations-call-on-ec-to-implement-absentee-voting-for-swakians-residing-in-sabah-peninsula/?amp