Malaysia

Sarawak minister: 18-year-olds may not be able to vote if state polls held this year


Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the current automatic voter registration exercise is slated to end on December 31 this year and may not be ready for the 12th state election. ― Picture by Sulok Tawie
Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the current automatic voter registration exercise is slated to end on December 31 this year and may not be ready for the 12th state election. ― Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, Oct 11 — Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) vice-president Datuk Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah today said 18-year olds may not be able to cast their votes in the state election should be it be held this year.

He said the current automatic voter registration exercise is slated to end on December 31 this year and may not be ready for the 12th state election.

“I believe the automatic voter registration for the 18-year-olds will be applicable for the 13th state election,” the state Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister said at a press conference.

Karim, who is also the state Youth and Sports Minister, said it is up to the Election Commission (EC) when it wants to gazette the automatically registered voters list.

“The latest gazetted voter list is updated in September this year,” he said, adding that there is an increase by over 5,000 new voters in his Asajaya state seat as of last month.

He said the Emergency Order in Sarawak has three-and-a-half months more to go before it expires on February 1 next year, but it does not mean that it cannot be lifted earlier.

“If we want to call for an early election before February 1, a lot will depend on the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said, adding that the Emergency was imposed because of the pandemic, not because of civil disorder or famine.

“If we see that the scale of the pandemic has gone down that we are able to manage it nicely, I think, there is nothing wrong with us moving forward by calling for the state election,” he said.

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“As far as politics is concerned, we are on borrowed time. We are supposed to have the State Assembly automatically dissolved on June 6, but now we are still here,” he said, believing that many state assemblymen from Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and the public are not happy with the long-overdue state election.

He said he is puzzled why the Opposition parties are not calling for the state election, saying that in any place in the world, they are the first ones who want to have the election held, if it is long overdue.

“But it is the opposite down here. Probably, they are complacent. They are happy, shaking legs, getting their salaries during the extra time,” he suggested.

He claimed only lazy state assemblymen would love to see the “borrowed time” to drag on, if possible for another year.

“But personally, I see that we have to give the mandate to the people as soon as possible. Not to worry about 18-year-olds voting,” he said.

Among those who have appealed to the state government not to call for an election in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic are PSB president Datuk Sri Wong Soon Koh, Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen and Parti Bumi Kenyalang president Voon Lee Shan.

They had said calling for the state election this year will lead to a further increase in Covid-19 cases in Sarawak, citing neighbouring state Sabah as an example.

They added Sabah saw a sharp jump in the number of Covid-19 cases after it held snap polls in September last year.

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