Polls ok but under strict SOPs

Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah

KUCHING: Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) vice-president Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah says with the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) expiring in June, democracy and the state constitution have to be respected, with polls needed to be held under strict standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“I saw Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP) chairman Chong Chieng Jen’s remarks that we should not even think about holding an early election. Well, we do understand that we are facing a pandemic.

“And I do know that initially we were supposed to have the election last year but because of the sudden spike of Covid-19 cases and Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg has been sensitive with the feeling on the ground, which is why it was postponed,” he said in a Facebook post today.

He said with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong declaring emergency until Aug 1, no election could be held.

“But, under Section 13(b) of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021, it mentioned that election can be held earlier if the Yang di-Pertuan Agong feels appropriate.

“This is where they give leeway, that election can be held much earlier but this is subject to when the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is satisfied that the Covid-19 situation is already being addressed.

“So, if something like this has to be done, whether in a constituency or in a state for an election to be held, the King will have to lift the emergency in that particular constituency or state that is going to call for the election.”

Abdul Karim said it was also for the particular state or constituency itself to make an appeal or request for election to be held before Aug 1, and they had to come up with a very good reason.

“We cannot say that just because of Covid-19, we must not call for election. We have seen so many elections being held all over the world, what is more important is when we conduct the election, there must be necessary SOPs in place.

“The voters, the people, the campaigners, the parties that are involved, the Election Commission (EC) must be in the know and must ensure that all SOPs are adhered to such as physical distancing.”

He said with SOP compliance, plus the state ability to bring down the Covid-19 numbers to a minimal, it was okay to hold an election.

“The election is a must; it is a requirement under the Constitution. After five years, the mandate is given to the people to choose who should be leading the government.

“Therefore, I do not think it is fair to the people to have the length of the tenure that they have held be lengthened to 10 years. Of course the party which is in power would be very happy if we don’t have to have an election for 10 years.

“But this is how democracy works, after a five-year term the mandate must be given back to the people. We cannot hold on to our present posts any longer than that or perhaps it is Chong who wants it that way?”