PETALING JAYA (THE STAR) – Tighter precautionary measures for holding polls must be considered by the authorities as Malaysia elections loom, said Alliance for Safe Community Chairman Lee Lam Thye.
He said while Malaysians were wise in not wanting a state of emergency to be declared, that decision has “attendant risks”.
“One such risk, as pointed out by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, is that by-elections cannot be postponed,” he said, referring to the Batu Sapi by-election.
He added that Malaysia could not afford another scenario like the Sabah state polls, in which the number of COVID-19 cases increased exponentially after voters were exposed to the virus.
“It is imperative and crucial that every precaution be taken from now until December 5 when the (Batu-Sapi) by-election is slated to take place.
“The alternative is unthinkable,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Experts, he said, have predicted that the number of infections will increase more rapidly and that the trend is likely to continue until the next year.
He cited the experts from Universiti Sains Malaysia who said the current trend could very possibly overwhelm the country’s healthcare infrastructure and services.
“The most worrying thought from this prediction is that it was based on the current situation, which is not being exacerbated by public activities such as talk, walkabouts and house visits by politicians,” he said.
He said that authorities must pool their resources to determine if the Covid-19 can be contained in light of the coming elections and if the country’s healthcare infrastructure can cope with a sudden increase in cases.
“If it is not possible to marshal the needed resources in the wake of a huge spike in the number of cases, it is time for us to weigh our alternatives.
“It has been said that there can be no moratorium on by-elections since our Constitution does not sanction any postponement of election.
“If declaring an emergency is not a solution, is it feasible to have postal voting for the election to be held?” he said.
He also said measures to prohibit house-to-house canvassing and political talk can also be looked into.
“Candidates can use social media to do campaigning instead, which I believe is acceptable.
“Another alternative is to stretch the voting period to more than a day so as to avoid overcrowding at polling stations,” he said.
Malaysia, he added, could learn to adopt practices undertaken by countries such as New Zealand and Singapore who have conducted their elections smoothly without a surge in COVID-19 cases.
“Let our Election Commission look into the feasibility of these proposed measures and engage the Health Ministry and other authorities for further discussion.”