Bersih Sarawak views with much unease the statement by the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) that they are in the process of drafting and coming up with the standard operating procedures for the Sarawak state election.
Additionally, the Communications and Multimedia Minister Annuar Musa said during his recent visit to Sarawak that his ministry would discuss with the Sarawak government whether there is a need for election candidates to campaign through the government official television and radio channels, as was done during the recently concluded Malacca state election.
Under Article 113 of the Federal Constitution, it is the Election Commission that is mandated to conduct elections, which includes the necessary drafting and setting of standard operating procedures.
Other agencies, be they federal or state, can and should only be consulted by the Election Commission to come up with suitable and appropriate standard operating procedures to reduce the risks of Covid infections while uphold the integrity of the process AND to make elections as inclusive as possible so that all categories of voters can participate in it.
Is the Sarawak state government, which is currently a caretaker government, taking over the role of the Election Commission in coming up with these necessary standard operating procedures?
If so, would it not be a conflict of interest for SDMC and the current caretaker government to have a hand in the drafting of these procedures, when they are also contesting in the same election?
Will they be able to ensure through these standard operating procedures that the election will be free and fair to all parties, candidates and voters?
Now is not the time for the Election Commission to delegate its duties and constitutional responsibility to state agencies that have no expertise and legal standing to conduct elections. Such abdication and dereliction of duty puts the principle of a level playing field during elections at risk.
The Election Commission should be the primary body that writes the rules of the game, not civil servants of a caretaker government – and certainly not by the state government itself. – Bersih Sarawak