Electoral reforms for safer voting needed

Dr Kelvin Yii

KUCHING: Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii has urged the Election Commission (EC) to implement electoral reforms in order to provide a safer voting process before considering the next election is held. 

He said the EC had not only failed to implement Undi18 and the automatic voter registration (AVR) at the promised timeframe, but also failed to implement necessary reforms to ensure a safer ‘pandemic voting process’ especially in view of the upcoming Sarawak 12th State Election.

“This is in view of the Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg’s intention to seek an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to discuss the timing of dissolution of the State Legislative Assembly (DUN), which is due to automatically dissolve on June 6.

“While it is also stated that having a state election soon was not a priority, it is important that such discussions consider the importance of having the right electoral reforms and safeguards in place to protect the people even before deciding on a date and time for the election,” he said in a Facebook post today (May 17).

He said the EC, who had more than a year to prepare since the start of the pandemic, had clearly failed to take proactive steps and reforms to ensure a safe voting even with full knowledge that the Sarawak election was due this year.

“The EC should have looked into certain adjustments and procedural reforms, especially in implementing the necessary safety standard operating procedures (SOPs), including absentee voting or extending postal voting to either vulnerable populations or those working or studying outside their home states, especially in Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.

Dr Yii pointed out that postal voting would make it easier for voters residing in other states to vote, instead of having to return home and causing a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases, as what had happened in Sabah.

“I strongly believe that in view of the pandemic, it is EC’s duty to make it as convenient and as safe as possible for voters to cast their votes.  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,” he said.

Dr Yii stressed that such reforms were important not just for the pandemic, but also to encourage more voter participation including young people, especially for elections held in Sabah and Sarawak.

He said it was estimated that up to 20 percent of eligible Sabahan and Sarawakian voters were living and working in Peninsular Malaysia and citizens from the Peninsular are doing likewise in Sabah and Sarawak.

“Therefore, I am calling on the EC to expedite the necessary reforms to ensure a safer election process and implement it even before the upcoming state election.

“A failure to do so will mean that it has failed not only to prioritise the safety and protection of the people during a pandemic, but also failed to uphold the fundamental democratic principal to by removing any obstacle for people to come out to vote,” he said.

Dr Yii added that priority should be given to control the pandemic and uplift the people’s economy, and not having an election first.

“Fact of the matter is having a conventional general election this year will be disastrous.

“As such, we should not be looking at an election until most of the population is immunised, and the required electoral reforms implemented to give some form of protection during the voting process, especially for the high-risk groups,” said the MP.