Polls dates subject to court decision

EC sets July 4 for Pujut by-election but keeps an eye on DAP’s court appeal against Dr Ting’s disqualification

KUCHING: The nomination and polling dates for the Pujut by-election have been fixed on June 20 and July 4 respectively.

Election Commission (EC) chairman Mohd Hashim Abdullah, who announced this, also revealed that a special meeting held yesterday also decided that there would be no early voting.

The seat fell vacant after Pujut assemblyman Dr Ting Tiong Choon lost his seat in the assembly in a 70-10 vote in favour of a ministerial motion to disqualify him for having once acquired Australian citizenship although he subsequently renounced it.

However, Mohd Hashim said EC would abide by any decision of the court following the move by DAP to challenge the disqualification of Dr Ting.

“We are just carrying out our duty. If the court says (Dr Ting) can retain the seat, we will let him do so,” Mohd Hashim told a press conference at its headquarters in Putrajaya yesterday.

He said the EC has to hold the by-election as it was notified of the vacant seat by Sarawak Legislative Assembly Speaker Datuk Amar Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar on May 16, adding that a by-election must be held within 60 days of a seat falling vacant.

For this by-election, he said the 2016 electoral rolls updated as of May 11 would be used.

“The rolls contain the names of 20,078 electors, comprising 20,070 ordinary electors and eight absentee electors who are abroad,” he said.

He also said the closing date for postal ballot papers application for domestic and overseas voters is on June 20 and June 22, respectively.

The EC has also agreed to propose Miri City Council acting secretary Morshidi Fredrick as by-election managing officer. He will be assisted by three officers.

Five schools would be used as polling centres with 44 polling streams in the by-election.

A total of 483 election workers would be appointed to conduct the by-election, and the budget allocated by EC is estimated at RM838,536.

Earlier, Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg told the media after receiving various courtesy calls at his office in the DUN that Barisan Nasional would only go for nothing less than a win in the by-election.

He said the BN would be ready to face the by-election and to wrest back the seat from the DAP.

“Of course, when we go in (for the by-election) we must menang (win). If you know you are going to lose, what for you put your candidate there?

“We will convene a meeting to decide the candidate but not now because I am concentrating on the DUN sitting. Now, we don’t think about the by-election yet. Perhaps, after Gawai Dayak,” he said.

When asked whether the candidate will be either from SUPP or UPP, the chief minister replied, “We will decide during the BN meeting as it is still long way to go”.

When contacted, UPP secretary-general George Lo said his party would have a better chance of winning the Pujut seat than any candidate from any other parties.

“This is because a lot of the groundwork has already been laid by UPP in the last state election. UPP has the momentum and will be able to mobilise the same election machinery rapidly within Pujut constituency,” he said.

Lo added that if BN were fully united, UPP would be able to wrest the seat back for BN in the by-election.

“We trust in the wisdom of the chief minister to choose the candidate best able to deliver the seat for BN,” said Lo.

SUPP president president Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian kept mum about whether the party is interested in the by-election.

“There is no need for me to comment today (yesterday). I’ll speak about this in Miri tomorrow (today) at the celebration of the Miri City Day,” said the Local Government and Housing Minister when met by reporters here.

Dr Sim said SUPP had been preparing for the 14th general elections (GE14) and would have no issue with candidacy, even for the July 4 by-election.

Dr Sim insisted that he could not reveal any more than he did. “There is still a long time to go until the nomination on June 20.”

It is learned that he had a meeting with Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg before speaking to the press.

Asked if the meeting touched on candidacy for Pujut, Dr Sim quipped: “I met the chief minister every day to discuss matters otherwise why would I be in the state cabinet.”

When pressed whether SUPP would fight for the candidacy for the Pujut by-election, he said: “It (Pujut) is a seat that belongs to BN and was given to SUPP.”

He said the candidate BN nominates must be the most winnable one when prompted for reaction on the possibility of BN fielding a direct candidate in the forthcoming by-election.

“The candidate must be more winnable than the candidate SUPP has. It doesn’t mean that you can win with money. People can judge for themselves and decide who can serve and deliver,” added Dr Sim.

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