EC urged to allow postal voting for out-of-state Sarawakians and Sabahans

Ann Teo

KUCHING, Aug 7: Rise of Social Efforts (Rose) is urging the Election Commission (EC) to allow postal voting for Sarawakians and Sabahans living outside both states.

Its spokesperson Ann Teo advocated for reforms in the electoral system to allow postal voting.

“We (also) urge that the EC extends this right (posting voting) to all other overseas Malaysians and specifically Sarawakians (who will have a state election due by June 2021) and Sabahans (who will be facing a snap state election) who are residing or working in our neighbouring Asean regions Brunei, Singapore, South Thailand and Kalimantan, Indonesia.

“Bersih 2.0 and Global Bersih along with many other election reform advocacy groups like Engage and Rose have made numerous calls for Absentee Voting provisions to be reformed.

“In July 2019, the Election Commission had also announced their Reform Action Plan under which six policy committees had been formed as part of their Reform Plan, to work on various aspects of improving the process of elections.

“We note that the Committee on Absentee Voters (Jawatankuasa Pengundi Tidak Hadir) took cognizance of these calls to enfranchise East Malaysian voters living/working away from their home state in Peninsular Malaysia by enabling them to vote ‘out-of-region’ by reforming the Absentee Voting and Postal Vote process,” Teo revealed in a press statement today.

She added that Bersih Sarawak notes with great disappointment that the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Dept responsible for law has ruled out the possibility of giving Sarawakians residing outside the state the right to cast their vote by postal ballot. He apparently said this in response to a question asked in Parliament by Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii.

“The minister said that for voters living outside of Sarawak, there is no provision under the law to enable voters (like) them to utilise postal ballots.

“In fact we are of the view that if the Election Commission is ready to extend this method to cover for Sarawakians (and Sabahans) who live, study or work outside the state in other parts of Malaysia and whose voting addresses are still in their home state, it is a matter of a simple notification by way of gazette.

“Regulation 3 (1)(e) of the Elections (Postal Voting) Regulations 2003 provides that any person who has registered as an elector under the Elections (Registration of Electors ) Regulations 2002 and is “a member of any category of persons designated as postal voters by the Election Commission from time to time by notification in the Gazette” shall on receipt of a postal ballot paper, be entitled to vote as a postal voter at an election in accordance with these Regulations.

“This was what was done before the last General Elections to extend postal voting to staff from nine agencies including Fire and Rescue Department, Prisons Department, Maritime Enforcement Agency, Police Reserve Volunteers, Immigration Department, Health Department, National Registration Department, Civil Defence Force, and National Disaster Management Agency who are on duty on polling day,” Teo disclosed.

She opined that the current Covid-19 pandemic has presented more barriers to the above category of Sabahans and Sarawakians to travel home to vote.

“Other than the health risks posed to those who travel by flight and public transportation, the much lesser frequency and costs of flights across the South China Sea will be an added burden not to mention the loss of income or jobs for certain job classes or industries.

“Under these circumstances a large chunk of Sarawakians and Sabahans will be excluded from exercising their democratic rights to choose their ‘wakil rakyat’ (elected representative) and indeed to determine the future of their home state if the right to vote including the option to vote via postal ballot is not extended to them,” Teo emphasised. — DayakDaily