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Bersih Sarawak chairman Ann Teo (right) having a conversation with Sarawak election director Jasni Jubli after handing over the memorandum, November 24, 2021. — Picture by Sulok Tawie
Bersih Sarawak chairman Ann Teo (right) having a conversation with Sarawak election director Jasni Jubli after handing over the memorandum, November 24, 2021. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

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KUCHING, Nov 24 — A group of 17 civil society organisations today said an estimated 250,000 Sarawakians residing in peninsula Malaysia and Sabah may not be able to vote in the state election on December 18 if the Election Commission (EC) does not allow them to be postal voters.

It said the EC allowed Malaysians working and living in Singapore and Brunei to vote via postal voting during the recent Melaka state election as well as the upcoming Sarawak state election.

“The Sarawakians, therefore, working and residing in peninsula Malaysia and Sabah should also be accorded the same access by expanding the existing absentee voting methods to them,” the group said in a memorandum to the EC.

The memorandum was handed by Bersih Sarawak chairman Ann Teo on behalf of the 17 Sarawak-based civil society organisations to the state election director Jasni Jubli at the hotel where the EC was holding a special meeting on the Sarawak election.

The group said not to allow Sarawak voters in the peninsula and Sabah to vote via absentee voting is to deliberately disenfranchise them.

“This action flies in the face of the EC’s constitutional duty to facilitate voting by all eligible to vote and to manage elections in Malaysia.

“It bears repeating that many Sarawakians migrate temporarily to the peninsula to earn a living or get an education due to unequal development and lack of job opportunities in our home state.

“They therefore should not be penalised and forced to spend large amounts of hard-earned money for air tickets just to fly across the South China Sea to get their right to vote,” the group said.

The group added during this pandemic, it is even more imperative for the EC to extend such arrangements to enfranchise Sarawakians voters in other parts of Malaysia and to ensure credible turnout levels.

The group also noted with deep concern that despite the notice of postal voting being extended to overseas Sarawakians being published in the Federal Government Gazette on November 8, the EC only announced and published the information in the media one week later on November 16.

It said the application period for postal votes for this category closed today.

“The EC also did not highlight the fact that voters residing in neighbouring Singapore and Brunei were now allowed to vote by post,” it said.

The group urged the EC to extend the time for online applications to be a postal voter for this category of Sarawakian voters to three days before nomination day.

“As this is an online application process, it should not be difficult for the EC to work towards this extension so as to enfranchise all eligible Sarawakian voters. Anything else is unacceptable to us,” the group added.

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