Fear over Covid-19 if Sarawak election held after emergency ends

KUALA LUMPUR: A Sarawak MP told the Dewan Rakyat today he would agree to “a localised emergency” in the state after the nationwide emergency ends on Aug 1 as a means of deferring the overdue state election if the move can really save the lives of the people from Covid-19.

Lukanisman Awang Sauni (GPS-Sibuti) said the fear of Covid-19 has become greater in view of the detection of the deadlier Delta variant of the disease in Miri and Sibuti as well as the bitter lesson learned from the Sabah state election last year that saw a drastic rise in Covid-19 cases in the neighbouring state.

He was responding to an intervention by Chong Chieng Jen (PH-Stampin) when raising a point during the five-day special meeting of the Dewan Rakyat which opened today.

Chong had asked him whether he would agree to a localised emergency in Sarawak for about six months as a means of deferring the state election so as to stem the spread of Covid-19 and save as many lives as possible.

The five-year term of the Sarawak Legislative Assembly ended on June 6 but the state was unable to call an election due to the nationwide emergency in force.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan told the Dewan Rakyat today that the government has decided not to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to extend the emergency which is scheduled to end on Aug 1.

Without the emergency in force, the Sarawak Legislative Assembly will dissolve automatically and a state election will have to be held within 60 days.

Lukanisman said that though the rate of Covid-19 vaccination in Sarawak is proceeding well and the state can transit to Phase Three of the four-phase National Recovery Plan, there is no guarantee that the state will not see a rise in the number of cases.

“We do not wish to hold a state election in the near future, although we should hold one, because we want to give priority to the people of Sarawak. The Chief Minister has stated that the vaccination process is to protect the lives of the people of Sarawak,” he said.

Lukanisman spoke after Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had presented a statement on the National Recovery Plan at the special meeting of the Third Session of the 14th Parliament. The Dewan Rakyat will sit for five days, from today to July 29, and on Aug 2.

“We do not arbitrarily open our state to hold a state election. If an election is held, I request the Election Commission (EC) to have in place a thorough standard operating procedure.

“If a localised or selective emergency has to be implemented, I will agree if it is to save lives. I feel we are not ready yet to hold a state election during this period,” he said. – Bernama