A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.

— Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the US

Whether you like it or not, Sarawak will call its state election in the near future.

Of course, the people would say that holding the state election now would be irresponsible — the state government would fail to learn from the fallout due to recent Sabah polls.

But the fact remains — by hook or by crook, we have to do it. It is what it is.

The spike in Covid-19 cases which injected renewed fears among the people has been correctly attributed to the Sabah polls.

But also, guess who didn’t really need to hold its state election? Sabah.

Sabah was only two years into its term, and to justify then chief minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal’s decision to dissolve the state assembly due to threats of a backdoor government by Tan Sri Musa Aman’s faction would be naïve.

Had Shafie not lost the support from his own group of assemblymen, he wouldn’t be in that position to begin with.

Had he stepped down graciously after knowing that he no longer commanded the majority of the assembly, Malaysia could’ve avoided a third wave of Covid-19.

He never had to dissolve the state assembly and call for a state election. Four other states had a change of government after the 14th general election — Johor, Melaka, Perak and Kedah. Did their menteri besar or chief minister call for a state election?

Sabah too had a change of government just after GE14, but nobody wants to talk about that. Surely not Warisan and their cahoots.

If you are able to wrap your head around it — like really think hard, Warisan was never the elected state government to begin with, despite their calls to kembalikan mandat rakyat (return the mandate of the people).

The legitimate Sabah state government was Barisan Nasional (BN) Sabah, at least until a slew of defections were engineered by the losing side then, leading to a constitutional crisis mere days after GE14.

And to think that Warisan viewed holding the state election as a masterstroke — of course also echoed by academicians and pundits — in hindsight, to put it simply, it did not age well.
Warisan ultimately lost the Sabah state election, which made no difference had an election not been called at all.

But that is beside the point.

Sarawak on the other hand has to call its state election as its Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) term is set to expire by mid-2021.

So, from now onwards until mid-next year, the state legislature must be dissolved to pave the way for the state election. Traditionally, Sarawak would call its election earlier than the date of the DUN expiry.

In 2016, then chief minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem dissolved the assembly on April 11, two months prior to the automatic dissolution of the DUN in June.

In 2011, his predecessor Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud called for the election on March 21, four months before the expiry of the assembly in July.

Contrary to popular belief and views held by some quarters, there is no such thing as postponing the election.

Although it has never been officially suggested, there are assertions that such would be possible under the present circumstances.

I think the answer by former Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker and veteran lawyer Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar summed it up best.

“The DUN, if not dissolved by the chief minister, will be dissolved automatically one way or the other. Both the chief minister and the governor have no power to postpone the state polls when the term expires.

“Such has been set in the Constitution unless a state of emergency were to be declared under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong,” he said.

And before you ask whether the Covid-19 pandemic constitutes an emergency, according to the Santubong MP, such does not warrant an invocation of Article 150.

Put it this way, Sarawak will have its state election when it is called. While it may not be ideal given the circumstances, such was spelt out in the Constitution.

Of course, if we are willing to give up the concept of an election altogether amid the Covid-19 pandemic, then Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) should be returned as the state government unopposed.

But then again, that wouldn’t be democratic, ethical nor lawful; so, it needs to go back to the people.