Saturday, December 4

Let’s have Sarawak polls after February 2022, say most respondents of survey


The current term of the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly should have expired in the middle of this year but was extended due to the Emergency.

KUCHING (Oct 15): The majority of respondents of a survey conducted online by The Borneo Post want the 12th Sarawak state election to be held after the Covid-19 Emergency is lifted on February 2, next year.

A total of 510 people or 70.2 per cent of 726 respondents felt that the polls can wait until after the Emergency is over; followed by 64 people or 8.8 per cent who picked this December, 40 people (5.5 percent) for November and 33 (4.5 per cent) for January 2022.

The survey, which ended this morning, had asked the public when the state polls should be held.

It was open for 48 hours and had a total of 730 respondents, aged from 18 to 80 years, with 98 per cent of them claiming to be Sarawakians and almost an equal number saying they are registered voters.

The survey was carried out amid growing speculations of an election soon – possibly even next month.

To the multiple choice question of why the respondents believe the polls should only be held after the Emergency, 447 or 72.6 per cent out of 657 replies said they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 but they were not confident that they will be safe from infection.

However, there were 483 responses among those who believe the polls should be held earlier than February 2, 2022, with 46.8 per cent of them saying they have confidence that the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) would keep them safe and 27.1 per cent of them saying that it is because they were fully vaccinated.

Covid-19 was the obvious reason why the people were hesitant about having the polls soon, with one respondent saying: “We are still in the midst of pandemic, the variant delta (sic) is dangerous, should people come to do their voting, people are exposed to the virus, wait until all is safe.”

Another respondent expressed concern that the surge in infections during the Sabah snap election last year could recur in Sarawak.

“I am fully vaccinated but our rural communities are not covered well enough by the vaccinations and do not have the health facilities to deal with any outbreaks. I am not confident SOPs can be managed. It would be irresponsible to hold it now while Delta cases are on the rise, and while Sarawak is leading cases in Malaysia,” a respondent said.

However, others do not see the need to delay the polls any further, with one respondent saying: “If the state is safe enough to let foreign tourists in, SOPs should be in place to conduct elections.”

There were also several comments about the need for the government to seek a fresh mandate for the people, adding that the polls was a democratic process and when it should be held should be left to the ruling parties.

“The mandate should be returned to the people as soon as possible. Currently, covid19 crisis in the state are recovering with vaccine help reducing the severity,” said a respondent.

Another respondent said: “Because the constitutional, democratic rights of voting should not be so easily infringed by mere ‘emergency’. Other countries have conducted their election during pandemic too.”

The 12th state election was supposed to be called following the expiry of the term of the current Dewan Undangan Negeri on June 6 this year.

However, the Emergency Proclamation by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in January had stopped elections from being held, and therefore, the term of the legislative assembly was extended.

The nationwide Emergency, to curb the spread of Covid-19, was lifted in August but the King decreed that the Emergency be extended further in Sarawak until Feb 2, 2022, as the number of Covid-19 cases was soaring in the state.

The King can, however, decide to lift the Emergency earlier after taking into consideration the views of the state government.

Talk of a state election soon had gained momentum after the whole of Sarawak entered Phase 3 of the Covid-19 National Recovery Plan on Oct 1, followed by the lifting of inter-district travel restrictions a few days later.

On Oct 7, Parti Sarawak Bersatu president Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh claimed in a statement that “trusted sources” had told him that there were those within Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) who planned to hold the state election soon amid Covid-19.

He claimed that people in the state’s ruling coalition were concerned that the High Court decision to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 years old with effect from Dec 31, 2021, might not work to the government’s advantage.

The GPS Backbenchers’ Club swiftly rebutted Wong, asserting that the GPS government welcomed the participation of youths in the democratic process.

“We view that youths, when given the opportunity, can evaluate for themselves the quality of service rendered by the current state government, especially following the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of saving lives and ensuring livelihoods,” it said.

The dissolution of the Melaka State Assembly on Oct 5 had also fueled speculations that Sarawak could hold its polls soon as it appears Melaka’s snap election will happen in spite of Covid-19 fears.