Sarawak polls: Risk of Covid-19 can be managed with strict SOP, says Masing

Masing (second right) receives a souvenir from PRS secretary-general Datuk Janang Bungsu. Looking on is PRS deputy president Datuk Joseph Salang (right).

KUCHING, Oct 21: Despite being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, Sarawak needs to decide when to hold its 12th State Election (PRN12) soon.

Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing asserted Sarawak has to hold its election but stringent measures must be in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 as experienced following the recent Sabah state polls.

“Covid-19 is not only infectious. It kills. However, it also creates another problem for this government. By April 2021 our DUN (Sarawak Legislative Assembly) will have attained its five-year term. What it means is that we need to have our state election come April 2021.

“The most we can do is to extend the life of our DUN by another 60 days. But that extension is not long enough for us to escape the threat of Covid-19. What should we do?

“The question then arises, shall we delay the election till June 2021, or shall we call for an election now? If we delay PRN12 till June 2021, that means we may be facing the wrath of an economic meltdown. If we call for an election soon, we will be fighting the dangers posed by Covid-19. We are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea,” said Masing who is also the Deputy Chief Minister at the PRS 16th Anniversary dinner held at a hotel here tonight.

He, however, believed that holding elections while Covid-19 still lingers is not impossible in view of the successful experiences of Singapore, South Korea and recently, New Zealand.

“During this health pandemic of 2020, there were two nations that held their general elections with no deadly consequences: these countries are South Korea, Singapore; and recently New Zealand.

“What did they do to contain the spread of Covid-19? South Korean, Singaporean and New Zealand governments’ SOP (standard operating procedure) needs to be studied very carefully if we are to push ahead with our PRN12 this year.

“Personally, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t think we can avoid holding our PRN12 soon. We may need to apply very stringent measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 when our general election is held.

“Longhouses, kampung and settlements must bar strangers from coming in, nor can they go out. Large gatherings must be disallowed.

“SPR (Election Commission) officers should follow very strict health SOP while carrying out their duties to ensure smooth polling during voting day,” said Masing.

He believed that Sabah’s experience should also be studied to avoid making the same mistakes.

“Whatever options the GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak) government wishes to pursue, we should study the success story of Singapore and South Korea, and critically analyse the disasters of the Sabah State election in September,” said Masing. — DayakDaily