KUCHING: Civil society groups in Sarawak are calling on the Election Commission (EC) to come up with standard operating procedures (SOP) for the next state election to be held safely once the state legislative assembly is dissolved.
This comes after the state government said it was leaving it to the wisdom of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to decide on an appropriate date for the dissolution in accordance with the King's powers during the Emergency period from Jan 11 to Aug 1.
In a virtual audience with state leaders on Tuesday (May 25), Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah advised the state government to continue functioning as usual after the state legislature's expiry on June 6 with powers vested under the Emergency (Essential Orders) Ordinance 2021, in view of the worrying Covid-19 situation.
Rise of Sarawak Efforts president Ann Teo said the King's advice was not unexpected as Sarawak's Covid-19 numbers were among the highest in the country.
"This can include planning and adopting robust absentee voting mechanisms to reduce voter movement, such as postal voting and advance voting.
"Other things to make voting safer include holding campaigns online, with equal time to be given to each political party to speak on state or national television and radio," she said on Wednesday (May 26).
Teo also expressed concern over the concentration of power in the executive during the Emergency as the state legislature's sittings were suspended.
"If the present government continues to be in power until such a time as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong says that the state assembly is dissolved, we are looking at an extended term of government without accountability as there is no legislative sitting," she said.
Simon Siah from Lawyer Kamek for Change concurred that the EC must come up with extensive SOP for the election, such as no house-to-house campaigning or public ceramah, putting in place postal voting for Sarawakians staying in Peninsular Malaysia or Sabah, and staggering voting hours.
"In my opinion, the democratic process must continue with proper SOP put in place.
"This has been done in other countries such as Singapore, the United States and Britain," he said.
Siah also cautioned that prolonging the Emergency would give the ruling coalition "unfettered powers" over the state.
"We are currently unable to project what the situation will be in the next few months or even years.
"The Emergency can be extended using the convenient reason that cases are still high," he said, adding that more robust measures were needed to counter the spread of Covid-19.
as per report in theStar 26th May 2021