Home Civil Society Voices 2016 Civil Society Voices Sarawak polls: Remove all entry restrictions urgently, says Rose

Sarawak polls: Remove all entry restrictions urgently, says Rose

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Whoever becomes the ruling government after polling day of the Sarawak elections runs the risk of being labelled as illegitimate, says Rise of Sarawak Efforts (Rose).

In a democracy like ours, free and fair elections are integral and governments elected into power are deemed legitimate as a result of being there by the ‘will of the people’.

Rose has received reports from various west Malaysians entering Sarawak in the last couple of days that they have not been given the 90-day social visit pass but instead have had this shortened ridiculously to 5 May 2016.

Those affected appear to be opposition political parties and activities and, according to DAP, the move is designed to stop campaigners and polling and counting agents from coming in from West Malaysia. If so, this will certainly have an impact on personnel and resources of the political parties who might be handicapped by such a seemingly arbitrary and unreasonable restriction.

Polling and counting agents are usually either party workers or volunteers who are authorised by election laws to be the candidate’s representative or agent inside each room where the polls take place and votes are counted.

Rose has also received random reports that even businessmen and holiday-makers coming in from the Peninsula have been similarly affected. This does not augur well for the state’s tourism and revenue from visitors in general.

Adenan had previously stated that those affected like Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali and others will be allowed back after the state elections. One wonders how the state government can still say that this is not for political reasons or, as quoted, “to keep unsavoury people out of Sarawak”. (One of the points in the BN manifesto for the state elections is it will not “hesitate to use our immigration laws to keep out extremists and any form of negative elements”.)

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The barring of Aduns and MPs from the opposition camp the last few weeks has gone beyond keeping unsavoury or negative elements out of Sarawak. In fact, it is a blatant breach and disregard of Section 67 of the Immigration Act which provides for entry into Sarawak for the “sole purpose of engaging in legitimate political activity”.

Section 67 is under PART VII of the Immigration Act (Special Provisions for East Malaysia) which is the manifestation of one of the terms of the Malaysia Agreement as part of the founding documents for the birth of Malaysia. Hence, any breach is politically and constitutionally significant.

Rose is of the opinion that West Malaysians coming here to be campaigners and agents for the Sarawak elections would be engaging in “legitimate political activity”. Anyone who is a Malaysian citizen and is 21 years old and above and has not been convicted of any crime under the relevant election law within the last five years is entitled to enter Sarawak without restrictions and can legally act and serve as polling agents or counting agents.

Rose therefore strongly urges the State Authority to act within the constitutional limits and remove all entry restrictions on an URGENT basis in the run up to 7 May 2016, failing which this election cannot be deemed to be a free or fair contest. It instead tarnishes the next government. Needless to say such prohibitions also compromises the integrity of our electoral process.

Rose is a civil society group promoting voters education, free and fair elections and citizens participation in the electoral process and has been carrying out training for polling and counting agents to raise volunteers to promote free and fair elections.

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