The Yang Di Pertuan Agung has last night proclaimed that a grave emergency exists in Sarawak and this proclaimation shall extend throughout the whole state from 2nd August 2021 to 2nd Feb 2022. As widely expected and with a stroke of a pen the Dewan Undangan Negeri is given another lease of life until Feb next year and the state elections has been postponed yet again.
1. This begs the question of whether we are entrenching the precedent of postponing elections by proclaimation of an emergency? If so, it certainly sets a bad precedent; it means that our political leaders including our country’s important institution ie. our election management body, SPR, cannot see or envisage conducting a safe election during the Covid pandemic era.
2. They have failed to use the period of the national emergency (7 months) to adapt and innovate towards ensuring safe elections for future disasters and crisis and we hope they do not waste another 6 months of this Sarawak emergency. They can use this 6 months to show that they are progressive, independent and world class by setting out their plans.
After all, the current instability of the Federal government does mean they have to be prepared for a General Election anytime after the 1st August 2021. At such times of public health crisis and pandemic, we the rakyat needs a people-oriented, accountable, transparent and prepared government (be it national or state) and our rights to choose our government at regular intervals via safe and inclusive elections should be protected and guaranteed. UNLESS AND UNTIL the mechanisms for safe elections for Sarawak are put in place NOW, elections at any time now or 6 months down the road is going to be risky. The sooner we wake up to the fact that Covid 19 virus is likely to become endemic and full vaccinations (2 doses) will not completely protect us from getting infected with the virus, the better. If does become endemic it will no longer be good enough for decision-makers to say “we will have our elections when we reach herd-immunity”.
3.Despite many lessons that it could have learnt from the 128 countries who conducted their elections between the period of 21.02.2020 to 21.07.2021 it has not revealed their plans for making elections safe and inclusive, in particular the measures and methods to counter travel and movement restrictions so as to encourage voter turnout and participation. Specifically, we are referring to Special Voting Arrangements that enables voters to cast their vote without turning up in person at the Polling Station on Polling Day. They include postal voting, advance voting, mobile voting, proxy voting and even electronic voting. There are also many ways to enable safe campaigning to take place.
Statement by Persatuan Pemangkin Daya Masyarakat. (ROSE)
31st July 2021