CM seeking experts’ counsel, including health authorities, on when to hold state election

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Abang Johari speaking at the press conference. – Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING (Oct 23): Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg today said he was seeking the advice of experts, including health authorities, on when the state election can be held as he is concerned with the safety of Sarawakians amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

He told a press conference that he had not decided on when the polls should be held but pointed out that the state could not avoid the election as the term of the current State Legislative Assembly would soon expire.

“We in Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) are evaluating both (election and Covid-19). Our term actually expires in April 2021. But then we have another 120 days from automatic dissolution. That means June.

“For us we have to look at both sides because we cannot predict if our Covid-19 will stay (at) single digits, and we are subject to advice by the Health Ministry, (on) whether we should go (for election) or not.

“I’m also concerned about the health of the people. On the other hand you cannot govern and implement Covid-19 measures (to help the people) if you don’t have the mandate,” said Abang Johari.

He said this was a complex situation where he had to weigh between the safety of the people and the need for the government to have the mandate to manage the pandemic, the state’s administration and its economy in the midst of the pandemic.

“I’m subject to advice from the experts (on deciding the election date), especially from Health (Ministry). I mean we are not crazy for power.

“What is important is you must have a government that has the mandate not only to manage Covid, (but also) to manage the country and economy, which is important,” he said.

While he said that the reason for the polls in Sabah recently was different from Sarawak, he stressed that he did not want Sarawak to also see a surge in cases like what happened in Sabah after its snap polls.

Sabah had held a snap election at the end of last month due to a tussle for the leadership of the state. It led to the state becoming the biggest contributor of Covid-19 cases to the country recently.

“Sabah’s case is different. I don’t want to be like Sabah because the health of the people is also important. But at the same time you also need the mandate,” he said.

Abang Johari had set tongues wagging when he told the Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) Convention in Sibu recently to be prepared for the polls “at any time”.

There have been speculations that the polls could be held before the end of the year.

However certain quarters have urged the chief minister not to rush into calling the state election due to escalating numbers of Covid-19 cases in the country.