INCUMBENT Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii has questioned why the Sarawak state Government is mulling subsidies to encourage Sarawakians to return to the state and vote during the upcoming 15th General Elections (GE15).
Earlier today, Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg reportedly said the matter will be discussed with other state leaders.
Yii, however, said the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) coalition should instead compel the Election Commission (EC) to introduce necessary electoral reforms before the national polls, such as absentee voting for Sabahans and Sarawakians currently not in the two states.
“While I may welcome the move if this promise is fulfilled, real electoral reforms would have more long-term effects rather than (subsidies, which are) merely a short-term gap measure that comes at a financial cost as well to the region,” he said.
In a statement today, the DAP Socialist Youth (DAPSY) leader said this is something he has been pushing for since the beginning: to protect the rights of East Malaysians to vote and facilitate their participation in the democratic process.
The right to vote, he explained, is not just a right for the rich or those that can afford to fly back to vote.
“When the EC meets on Thursday (Oct 20), on top of announcing the election dates itself, it should announce reforms to allow Sarawakians and Sabahans to vote without the need to spend thousands just to travel all the way to exercise their fundamental rights,” he urged.
Yii noted that caretaker law minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Wan Tuanku Jaafar himself said in a reply to his question in Parliament on the issue that the Government may look into absentee voting for East Malaysians who are outside of the two states.
“Imagine if GPS didn’t go along with UMNO’s wishes”
“Imagine if GPS had not gone along with the wishes of UMNO to have an early election,” Yii said. “Such reforms could have been prioritised to be put in place for the benefit of Sarawakians and Sabahans before elections are called.
“All of these reforms and many more could have been done before elections were called to ensure it is safer, fairer and easier for more voters to be part of the electoral process.”
Yii added that this is why last Monday’s (Oct 10) dissolution of Parliament, which was forced onto the people by “selfish politicians in power” as doing so would mean polls will be held amid the monsoon season, will not benefit Sarawak or Sabah.
As per the constitution, snap elections must be held within 60 days of the dissolution of Parliament, meaning GE15 will have to take place by Dec 10, 2022, right smack in the northeast monsoon season and when floods usually take place.
It is estimated that up to 20% of eligible Sabahan and Sarawakian voters are living and working in Peninsular Malaysia.
Yii noted that many Malaysians, including Sabahans and Sarawakians, are compelled to find jobs far from their homes due to unequal economic development among the states.
Electoral reforms like postal voting, he explained, are important to encourage more voter participation, especially for elections held in Sabah and Sarawak.
“They (voters) should not be further burdened financially or put at risk, especially during a pandemic, by having to travel back to their constituencies just to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” he said. – Oct 16, 2022
Main photo credit: Bernama