The telltale signs heralding the arrival of the Sarawak polls

A file photo of the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly building.

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By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, Oct 13: Will the long-overdue Sarawak Election be held in November?  

Rumours have been rife that the Sarawak polls will be held in November, especially after the dissolution of the Malacca State Legislative Assembly which was declared last Tuesday (Oct 5). 

The Malacca state administration had fallen last Monday (Oct 4) after Chief Minister Sulaiman Md Ali, who is from Umno, lost his majority after four assemblymen led by Idris Haron (also an Umno member) defected to Pakatan Harapan (PH).  

Since last Tuesday, there have been speculation that Sarawak Election will be held concurrently with the Malacca state election. 

Unlike Sarawak, as there is no Emergency in place in Malacca, the state will have to hold its election within 60 days after the dissolution of its DUN, as stipulated by the Constitution.  

For those speculating concurrent elections in Sarawak and Malacca, the logic is simple: If Malacca can hold its election within 60 days, why can’t Sarawak when its Sarawak Legislative Assembly (Sarawak DUN) has expired as early as June 6, 2021? 

The rumours were further fuelled by the fact that Chief Minister Abang Johari Tun Openg had announced the Sarawak Budget 2022 yesterday. 

This to many, is another telltale sign of the coming of the Sarawak Election, and that it was Abang Johari’s first move to pave the way for the elections.  

Meanwhile, Sarawak’s vaccination rate among adults has reached more than 90 per cent, with many Sarawakians acknowledging the fact that Covid-19 is here to stay. 

Interstate and inter-district travel are now permitted, and many believe that the Covid-19 pandemic is no longer a factor to hold back the Sarawak Election.   

Amidst rumours, DayakDaily contacted Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) Vice President Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, hoping that he may shed some light on how much truth the rumours carry.  

For the Sarawak polls to be held, he went back to the fundamentals, stating clearly that the Sarawak DUN has to be dissolved first.  

“If it (the Sarawak Election) were to be held, it will be before the end of this year, either at the end of the November or December. The way I see it, the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (Sarawak DUN) has to be dissolved first. Then it will take one to two months for the election to be held. It is possible,” Abdul Karim told DayakDaily.

The dissolution of Sarawak DUN is the prerogative of Abang Johari, upon consultation with Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sarawak Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Sarawak’s situation, however, is compounded by the Emergency declared by the King in June. A very distinctive effect is that Sarawak DUN, which expired on June 6, 2021, has been given an extended lifespan to Feb 1, 2022, the day the proclaimed Emergency ends.

Abdul Karim, who is also Tourism, Arts and Culture as well as Youth and Sports Minister said for the Sarawak polls to be held earlier than Feb 1, 2022, apart from the dissolution of the Sarawak DUN, the Emergency will have to be lifted first. 

This, he said, would require much more to transpire before it can be done. First of all, Abang Johari has to consult the Governor, for the latter to discuss with the King.

Before the Governor and the King make the decision, they will have to be convinced by the relevant authorities that the Covid-19 situation in Sarawak has improved and it is safe enough for the Emergency to be lifted as the initial cause for the royal decree was to minimise the damage brought forth by the pandemic.

“The condition must be that the management of Covid-19 is stable. Once the King agrees and lifts the Emergency, the Governor will accept the dissolution of the Sarawak DUN and the chief minister will announce its dissolution. Upon dissolution, the Speaker (Datuk Amar Mood Asfia Awan Nassar) will write to inform the Election Commission, which will hold a meeting to determine the dates of nomination and polling.

“It is safe to say (that the Sarawak Election can be held) either by the end of November or December, if it is to be held this year. Or it could also be held next year, depending on the King, and the Covid-19 situation in Sarawak,” said Abdul Karim.

From Abdul Karim’s explanation, we may derive that for the Sarawak Election to be held, there must be an obvious telltale sign — the lifting of the Emergency. 

Without this step, nothing can take place, regardless of how many telltale signs there are.

“Rumours will always be there. Let them be. Whenever there are rumours as such, people get excited. We like that,” said Abdul Karim. — DayakDaily