Implement Electoral Reforms for safe election before calling for State Elections

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Press statement by YB Kelvin Yii:

The Federal & State Government must make sure that the necessary electoral reforms to ensure a safer election process are implement first on top of high 80% vaccination rate in Sarawak before considering calling for the next State Elections amid the current Covid-19 pandemic.

A localised emergency must be declared in Sarawak until all those reforms are being finalised amd the Covid-19 situation in Sarawak is better controlled.

This is in view of the recent announcement of ppssible revocation of the Emergency, which will result in Sarawak constitutionally needing to hold an election within 60 days of the revocation.

Having a conventional election this year would be disastrous.

We are still reeling from the health fallout from the recently concluded Sabah state elections, which sparked the third wave all around the country. That should have served as a strong reminder that the necessary reforms must be in place to ensure that all Sarawakians can exercise their democratic right to vote in a safer environment.

The presence of Variants of Concern(VOC) like the Delta variant which is more infectious and deadly must be taken into account and properly monitored before considering an election

Even as we push to accelerate our vaccination drive to to achieve the targeted 80% vaccination within Sarawak by August 2021, we must also not forget to protect the rights of our fellow Sarawakians living outside Sarawak who also have every right to exercise their democratic rights to vote.

Even if an election is called when 80% of our population in Sarawak is vaccinated, the 14 day quarantine requirement for those travelling into Sarawak should still be in place as other States may not have achieved the required herd immunity by then. This will hinder Sarawakians living outside of Sarawak from coming back to exercise their right to vote.

That is why, the Election Commission must make the necessary adjustments and procedural reforms including implementing the necessary SOPs including absentee voting or extending postal voting to those working or studying outside the States especially in Sabah & Sarawak.

Absentee or postal voting would make it easier for voters residing in other states to vote instead of them having to return home and causing a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases, as what happened in Sabah.

This will require the EC gazette out- of-region voters as advance voters eligible for postal voting under Regulation 3(1)(e) of the Elections (Advance Voting) Regulations 2012 to implement such a process.

I strongly believe that in view of the pandemic, it is the EC’s duty to make it as convenient and safe as possible for voters to cast their votes. This includes safety and security measure to make sure any postal or absent voting process or facilities must be tamper-proof, transparent, fair and convenient for eligible voters so that it will instil public confidence on the system itself.

Any inconveniences imposed on voters either directly or indirectly through unnecessary regulations or non – availability of facilities can be construed as a suppression of the fundamental rights of a voter.

Such reforms are important not just for the pandemic, but also to encourage more voter participation especially for elections held in Sabah & Sarawak. Many Malaysians, including Sabahans and Sarawakians, are compelled to find jobs far from their homes due to unequal economic development among the states.

They should not be further burdened financially or put at risk during this Covid-19 pandemic by having to travel back to their constituencies just to exercise their fundamental right to vote.
It is estimated that up to 20% of eligible Sarawakian voters are living and working outside of Sarawak.

That is why it is in my view, the Sarawak State Elections should not be called until all these necessary electoral reforms are implemented to protect the safety and health of all Sarawakians as well as their right to vote regardless of their location.

Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen
MP Bandar Kuching