MP slams Election Commission for failure to implement Undi18, ensure safer voting during pandemic

Dr Kelvin Yii

KUCHING, May 17: Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii has lashed out at the Election Commission (EC) for failing to implement Undi18 and automatic voter registration within the promised timeframe, as well as implement necessary reforms to ensure a safer “pandemic voting process” especially in view of the upcoming Sarawak State Election.

He took note of Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s intention to seek an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to discuss the timing for the dissolution of the State Legislative Assembly, which is due to automatically dissolve on June 6.

“However, we are currently in a nationwide state of emergency until August 1 where elections, Parliament and State Assemblies have been suspended.

“While it is also stated that having a State election soon was not a priority, but it is important that such discussions consider the importance of having the right electoral reforms and safeguards in place to protect the people even before deciding on a date and time for the election,” he said in a statement today.

Apart from describing the idea of having a conventional general election amidst the Covid-19 pandemic this year as disastrous, Dr Yii expressed doubts on the State’s target to vaccinate 80 per cent of its population due to the low rate of registration, low vaccine supply as well as up to 20 per cent of the population being below 18-years-old and who are currently contraindicated in taking the vaccine.

“Either way, we should not be looking at an election until most of the population is immunised, and the required electoral reforms implemented to give some form of protection during the voting process especially for the high-risk groups.

“That is why the EC, who had more than a year to prepare since the start of the pandemic, has clearly failed to take proactive steps and reforms to ensure a safe pandemic voting process even with full knowledge that the Sarawak State Election was due this year,” he stressed.

Dr Yii also said the EC should have looked into certain adjustments and procedural reforms, especially in implementing the necessary safety standard operating procedures (SOPs), including absentee voting or extending postal voting to either vulnerable populations or those working or studying outside their home states, especially for Sabah and Sarawak.

“Absentee or postal voting will make it easier for voters residing in other states to vote, instead of them having to return home and causing a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases, as what has happened in Sabah.

“I strongly believe that in view of the pandemic, it is the EC’s duty to make it as convenient and safe as possible for voters to cast their votes. Any inconveniences imposed on voters either directly or indirectly through unnecessary regulations or non–availability of facilities can be construed as a suppression of the fundamental rights of a voter,” he added.

Dr Yii asserted that such reforms are important not just during the pandemic, but also to encourage more voter participation including young people, especially for elections held in Sabah and Sarawak.

“Many Malaysians, including Sabahans and Sarawakians, are compelled to find jobs far from their homes due to unequal economic development among the states.

“It is estimated that up to 20 per cent of eligible Sabahan and Sarawakian voters are living and working in Peninsular Malaysia and a good number of citizens from the peninsula are doing likewise in Sabah and Sarawak.

“Therefore, I am calling on the EC to expedite the necessary reforms to ensure a safer election process and implement it even before the upcoming Sarawak State Election. A failure to do so would mean that they have failed not only to prioritise the safety and protection of the people during a pandemic, but also failed to uphold the fundamental democratic principle to remove any obstacle for people to come out to vote,” he emphasised. — DayakDaily