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KUCHING, Nov 19: A state of emergency can be declared to delay the Sarawak state election but the federal government must confer with the state on the matter beforehand before it makes such a proposal to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Highlighting this, Minister of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar pointed out that by right, the Federal Cabinet should not decide alone on the question of whether to propose a declaration of emergency under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution in the state.
“A state of emergency when used would mean suspending the right of the people to give a mandate to the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) and renewal of people’s mandate for the state,” he said in a statement today.
However, the Santubong MP also emphasised that the authority over state elections through the dissolution of the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) is in the hands of the Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg and the Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.
“It is also required under the Sarawak Constitution for the state to hold an election within 60 days after the dissolution of the DUN, either the call made by the Chief Minister or when the five-term lapses automatically at the end of the term in June 2021,” he explained.
But to decide on using emergency powers to extend the deadlines of the election as a result of a health crisis, natural disasters or other emergencies, the Santubong MP stressed that all relevant agencies must sit and confer with Abang Johari including Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin or a minister representing the federal cabinet.
“All parties including relevant agencies like the Election Commission (EC), Ministry of Health (MOE), the police and army must discuss with the Chief Minister (before a decision can be agreed upon),” he added.
Wan Junaidi was responding about the Sabah’s Batu Sapi by-election which had been postponed after the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah declared an emergency for the parliamentary constituency.
The Election Commission (EC) previously set Nov 23 for the nomination, Dec 1 for early voting and Dec 5 for polling for the Batu Sapi by-election.
The by-election was called after Batu Sapi MP Datuk Liew Vui Keong died of a lung infection on Oct 2.
“It’s not an easy decision to make for the federal government. It’s a question about the democratic practice on one hand and the role of preserving life and economy on the other.
“For this time, the decision is made in the interest of public health. People’s lives and the economy have been given the priority for now,” he said.
Considering the current Covid-19 situation in Malaysia especially in Sabah, he noted that holding an election would risk another wave of cases like in the previous Sabah state election that had resulted in the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) being imposed.
“The country is losing RM350 million a day in revenue from loss of business and entails taxation.
“After a thorough and serious consideration, the King after due deliberation and advice of the Cabinet agreed to declare emergency in Batu Sapi, because saving lives, well being of the people and the economy of the country are given the priority,” he added.
Following Istana Negara’s announcement yesterday (Nov 18), Muhyiddin also explained that there would not be any curfew or martial law in Batu Sapi.
“The lives of those living in Batu Sapi will not be affected by this emergency declaration, there is no curfew or martial law in Batu Sapi. Government administration, economic and social activities can be carried out subject to new normal rules and practices and the SOPs under the CMCO in effect in Sabah.”
Muhyiddin said that the by-election would take place once the pandemic was over.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health (MoH) recorded a surge of up to 148.4 per cent in Covid-19 cases, with a cumulative figure of 3,842 cases on Oct 10, just two weeks after polling for the Sabah state election.
Daily new Covid-19 cases continued to spike in the following two weeks, registering a hike of up to 193.7% or 11,285 cumulative cases on Oct 24. — DayakDaily