Postal voting for Sabahans residing in Sarawak and Peninsula is a must

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Graphic: Wikipedia

Sabah Bersih 2.0 refers to the announcement of the dissolution of the 15th Sabah State Assembly by Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal, paving the way for the 16th state election.

The political upheaval on 29 July 2020 rocked by the alleged buying of state assembly members is seen to have put the state government in a precarious position. The chief minister then saw it fit to advise the Governor for a dissolution.

On 30 July 2020, the Election Commission issued a statement confirming it has been officially notified by the Sabah State Assembly regarding the dissolution of the state assembly, according to Election Commission secretary, Ikmalrudin Ishak. He said according to Article 21 (4) of the Sabah State Constitution, the state election has to be held within 60 days of the date of dissolution.

Sabah Bersih 2.0 would like to appeal to the Election Commission to allow postal voting for Sabahans working in Sarawak and West Malaysia to cast their votes. Covid-19 still poses a serious threat and risk to the public health. Moreover, flight prices are expensive, and not all eligible Sabahans can afford the ticket home to cast their votes.

We implore the Election Commission to consider the following five points:

  • The Covid-19 pandemic added extra burden for Sabahans who would like to carry out their voting duties, from three perspectives: loss of incomes due to movement control order and recession, increase in transport costs and the health risk due to the long journey (by flight and other public transport). The risk of being quarantined for 14 days if other passengers are infected with the virus will deter more Sabahans from going home to vote
  • The right to vote, as the right of every Sabahan as a Malaysian citizen, empowers us to determine the fate of our own state and the the nation as a whole. The inability to carry out this responsibility is a direct assault on our rights enshrined in the Malaysian Agreement 1963, which promised a democratic federation
  • Too many Sabahans, especially the youths, have left their hometowns in Sabah due to the underdevelopment in the state compared to other states as opportunities for employment, education and other amenities are severely lacking
  • All this while, even in the absence of the epidemic, the difficulties and cost of returning to Sabah to vote have forced many Sabahans, especially those without any financial means and a failure to request for leave from work, not to return home to vote and to forgo their democratic right to determine the future of our nation. This is as though Sabahans are divided into two classes, the ones who are able to vote and the ones who are not
  • Failing to overcome these obstacles that prevent Sabahans from voting showed that Kuala Lumpur has structurally sidelined and neglected the welfare of Sabahans since 1963. Even though the parliamentary select committee led by Maximus Johnity Ongkili had called for, as early as 2012, postal votes for Sabahans, Sarawakians and West Malaysians who are away from their own region, this has not been implemented after two general elections – while Malaysians residing overseas have been able to use postal votes since 2018, even if they were oceans away from home. Sabahans cannot do so as if the South China Sea is wider than the Pacific Ocean. The failure to ensure the same right for Sabahans as most West Malaysians who do not have to fly home to vote showed that the previous Election Commission placed Sabah amongst its lowest priorities
READ MORE:  It's still early days yet for Sabah elections

Enough is enough! Sabahans in Sarawak and West Malaysia do not want to be administratively disenfranchised anymore, not after 57 years of Malaysia, not when Covid-19 is hurting more hardworking Sabahans while shameless politicians are raking in millions by pawning their electoral mandates.

We invite members of the Sabah public, of all political, socioeconomic, age and gender backgrounds, to sign the petition addressed to the Election Commission here.

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