Emergency declaration defers Batu Sapi by-election – but other polls loom

Graphic: Wikipedia

This pandemic is not going away soon, so why is it so difficult for politicians, for once, to put the lives of the people first before their own interests, Jem writes. 

So it has come to pass – a state of emergency has been declared in the Batu Sapi parliamentary constituency, effectively postponing the 5 December by-election. 

The seat felt vacant with the passing of Warisan MP Liew Vui Keong on 2 October.

If only the parties that were still undecided had conceded the by-election much earlier, there would have been no need for a state of emergency in Batu Sapi now, would there? 

Why was it such a hard decision to make? Enquiring minds want to know! We will now never know the answer to that question. 

The prime minister has also admitted that the Sabah state election in September led to a rise in Covid-19 infections. 

Did the then-Warisan government have any choice in the matter? All thinking Sabahans know the election should never have been held. The election came about because of certain Sabah politicians – possibly instigated by other politicians – who contributed, directly or indirectly, to the massive rise in Covid-19 cases in the state. 

The prime minister also said that although the Election Commission had set tight health protocols for the Sabah state election, compliance was weak. 

Who was to blame for this? Politicians from the peninsula were all over the place in the two weeks ahead of the election, as were Sabah politicians. It is too late to play the blame game now. As the Malay saying goes, nasi sudah jadi bubur (the rice has turned to porridge)! 

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Hopefully, all those politicians from the peninsula and from Sabah realise how irresponsible and dishonourable they have been. Hopefully, they have also learned a valuable lesson. What they did has caused unnecessary anguish and hardship to the people they are supposed to lead. How can they can sleep at night!

On 18 November, the prime minister said the by-election would be held “as soon as the Covid-19 pandemic is over”.

Note the words “as soon as the Covid-19 pandemic is over”. When will this be? Scientists and medical experts have no idea. It might take another six months to a year or more. Even then, according to experts, the coronavirus may never be completely wiped out.  

According to the Election Commission, a by-election must be held 60 days after a seat has been vacated. Does the Federal Constitution have a deadline for holding a by-election under a pandemic, especially when nobody knows when it will end? Does the prime minister have any idea?

Another Warisan seat, this time the Bugaya state seat, has fallen vacant with the passing of the incumbent Manis Muka Mohd Darah. This means another by-election in Sabah, apart from the by-election in Gerik, Perak. The Election Commission has to fix a date a by-election within 60 days of it falling vacant – which means it could fall sometime in mid-January 2021.  

Will the state of emergency be extended to Bugaya, resulting in another by-election being postponed? DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng sensibly suggested that all parties allow Warisan a walkover to respect the mandate of the Bugaya voters in the recent state election and “put public health and safety over electioneering”. 

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Deputy Chief Minister Bung Moktar Radin told him in no uncertain terms to ‘butt out’: “Whether there is a contest or not, what’s important is that we in Sabah know best how to assess the political development on our own and how we can move it.” 

The Umno deputy president made a similar suggestion as well in relation to Batu Sapi, but that was ignored too. With the rise in Covid-19 cases in Sabah to 26,098 yesterday and 192 deaths, is the Sabah government and its health services able to cope? 

Do the people of Sabah deserve a further battering of rising cases and deaths that could be caused by another by-election? This pandemic is not going away any time soon, so why is it so difficult for politicians, for once, to put the lives of their own people first before their own interests?

The prime minister’s tenacity in convincing the king to declare a state of emergency to stop the Batu Sapi by-election, purportedly for the health and wellbeing of the people of Sabah, deserves some acknowledgement. The PM has been pushing for this for many months now. So round one to the prime minister! 

Will there be another by-election in Bugaya? Will the prime minister continue to get his way with more states being put under emergency – all this done purportedly for the good of the people? Only time will tell.  

Jem, an Aliran reader, still cares deeply about Sabah, despite having lived in the peninsula for some time 

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loyal malaysian
loyal malaysian
23 Nov 2020 4.11pm

No, Jem, not only Bugoya but Gerik as well!!
A state of emergency should be declared in those 2 constituencies, too if the backdoor PM wants to be consistentl!
Yes, Jem you have raised a very pertinent question – how long should the state of emergency last.
The covid 19 pandemic is not going to be over anytime soon. Singapore , our little neighbor has shown how even general elections can be carried out even.
Come on, the backdoor govt. must not be so proud – time to learn a thing or two on holding elections during the pandemic.