Abdul Karim speaks to reporters at the press conference. Photo: Mohd Alif Noni

Stick to conducting polls

KUCHING: It is not for the Election Commission (EC) chairman to dictate when Sarawak should call its state election, said Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) vice president Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

“It is the prerogative of the chief minister to call for dissolution of DUN (State Legislative Assembly) and before doing it, the chief minister will definitely take into consideration a lot of matters.

“It is not the business of EC chief to say when is it suitable for Sarawak to have its state polls. He should know that their (EC) role is to oversee and conduct elections and not for him to comment on whether the time is suitable or not.

“Unless he could read the future and tell us when Covid-19 will be cleared or whether it is going to rain or otherwise in Sarawak – that would be easier for us to arrange the state election” he told reporters after a press conference for Sarawak Music Artist Award at Bangunan Baitul Makmur, here.

He was responding to a remark made by EC chief Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh on Tuesday who said it was not the right time for Sarawak to call for its state election due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Abdul Ghani told reporters in Putrajaya he hoped that there would be no election during the period as anything could happen during an election campaign.

“This is a less suitable period (for state polls) to be held when the country is hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. This is the view from us in the EC,” he was quoted as saying.

This came after calls from opposition quarters in Sarawak to not call for the state election following a surge in Covid-19 cases due to the recent Sabah state election.

Sabah dissolved its previous state legislative assembly on July 30 paving the way for state polls on September 26.

Sarawak on the other hand is nearing the end of its state legislature term which will automatically expire in June 2021.

Abdul Karim said the tenure of a State Legislative Assembly (DUN) or a Parliament has its own time span, namely the Parliament could hold on until 2025 but Sarawak DUN only has until April, 2021.

“If the Election Commission says the timeline from November until April next year is too risky to hold the election, then they should amend the constitution on the tenure.

“April 2021 is just five months away as we are currently almost entering November. Somehow we have to call for the election or else DUN will automatically dissolve by itself upon completing the time limit of tenure, which is five years,” he said.

Abdul Karim said other countries such as Singapore, New Zealand and the United States of America (USA) have held their elections despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“USA is going into the election despite having the world’s highest death toll of Covid-19 and here, the EC chairman is telling us that it’s not suitable for Sarawak to call for an election.

“He should remain quiet. When the DUN or Parliament is dissolved, it is his duty to conduct the election. For the moment, he should not play politics,” he said.