KUCHING, July 31 — Senior Fellow with the National Professors Council Jeniri Amir today said the Proclamation of Emergency for Sarawak is consistent with the views expressed by state political leaders as the number of Covid-19 cases remains high.
He said Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) leaders such as Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing and state Opposition figures have stated their support for a localised Emergency to be proclaimed to prolong the term of the Sarawak state assembly and suspend the state election temporarily.
“The chief minister has been consistent on this issue, and he has been saying that the state election could be carried out once the Covid-19 situation improves or the number of cases is drastically reduced.
“Now, daily cases have hovered over 400 for the past few weeks, taking into account the Delta variant as well as the over 15,000 cases recorded in peninsula Malaysia.
“I think these have been taken into serious consideration in proclaiming the localised Emergency for Sarawak by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong,” Jeniri said.
He said there is nothing to stop another extension after February 2 if the Covid-19 situation has not improved or the number of cases remains high.
He stressed the premise of the justification for the proclamation now rests with the number of cases, adding, “If we are unable to control the pandemic in Sarawak and if the country is still facing serious threats, I think that can be taken into serious consideration again.”
He said he also does not rule out the possibility of the Emergency being shortened if Sarawak reduces the number of cases, say to 50 or below, by October.
He said there is no reason for Sarawak not to have the state election then.
Jeniri said if the state election is held, it should be treated purely as a Sarawak affair as the cases in other state are still high.
“We have to be careful about allowing people from outside the state to come to Sarawak during the campaign period.
“Of course, the state government, using the state autonomy over immigration, should stop non-Sarawakian Malaysians from coming.
“That is the possibility because the premise of justification is on the number of Covid-19 cases,” he said.
He said he had expected Sarawak to hold its state election in December last year when the Covid-19 situation was less grave.
“During that time, the cases were confined to certain areas, not widespread in the community,” he said, adding that the cases started to spike after the Pasai Siong cluster was triggered in March.
Meanwhile, Santubong MP Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the extension of the Emergency was expected because the Covid-19 situation in Sarawak had not yet reached the threshold set by the Ministry of Health and Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC).
“This has been discussed at length by both the state and federal governments, and they agreed to the extension on the Ministry of Health’s advice.
“This is to avoid a repeat of the Sabah episode in September 2020. This time, it is more critical because the Covid-19 Delta variant is present in Sarawak as well as in the peninsula,” he told Malay Mail.
Wan Junaidi, who is also the federal entrepreneur development and cooperative minister, said as much as the chief minister and his GPS component parties would like to seek a new mandate from the people, they know public health comes first.
He said GPS is prepared for the election as its leaders and representatives have been on the ground since 2019.
Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) president Bobby anak William said while concurring said he wanted to know the Emergency’s implications on economic activities.
He said he hopes that the state government will ease the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to allow more economic sectors to resume business activities.
“On the other hand, it is good to extend the Emergency until next year because we are more concerned with saving human lives,” he said.
In a gazette notification dated July 29, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, decreed that the Emergency in Sarawak was extended from August 2, 2021 to February 2, 2022 in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The proclamation of Emergency, made under clause (1) of Article 150 of the Federal Constitution, means that elections for the Sarawak state assembly are now suspended.