NGO disagrees with emergency as way of suspending polls

ROSE

KUCHING: Rise of Social Efforts (ROSE) has expressed its disagreement on the declaration of a state of emergency as a way of suspending elections.

“Elections are the way that democracies choose the government of the day. Other countries have shown that it is possible to conduct safe elections in this time of pandemic,” said its president Ann Teo when contacted by New Sarawak Tribune.

She said their concerns were that if there were no parliamentary or State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sittings, there would be no oversight or scrutiny on the executive or federal government as well as the state government by lawmakers, MPs, or assemblypersons respectively for the next six months or more.

“There is absolutely no reason for this as the DUN and Parliament have been convened and sat last year despite the pandemic.

“There would thus be a concentration of powers on the executive without any oversight by legislature. This effectively means there would be no progress regarding electoral reforms or parliamentary reforms.”

Noting that general, state, and by-elections cannot be held during this period, she said the state of emergency had taken away from the hands of the Head of State the prerogative to dissolve the Sarawak DUN, which term expires in June this year.

“The Election Commission (EC) can of course declare the State Election to be held within 60 days and this course I believe the EC may take,” she opined.

Teo said elections could be held before or by Aug 5 provided that the campaign period was allowed during the state of emergency.

“This is not impossible if election campaigns are allowed to be conducted digitally/virtually as well as via the airwaves through radio and television with equal air time given to all leaders of political parties contesting.”

She said the EC should use the emergency period to come up with much-needed reforms so as to be ready to hit the ground running once the state of emergency was lifted on Aug 1, if not earlier.

“This is important because the caretaker government cannot be caretakers forever for our state, and we Sarawakians, by that time, will need to choose the new state government.”

She said postal vote or advance/remote voting reforms could be fine-tuned and implemented to allow for better participation of Sarawakian voters living, working, or studying outside the state.

However, she stressed that this should not come before the EC conducts intentional and effective public education of these new and reformed measures to keep voters voting safely, as well as dissemination of all necessary information. 

“This will greatly increase voter participation in the coming state election as well as increase trust in the new systems.”