KOTA KINABALU, Aug 18 ― Calling for fresh state elections while the country is still in the grips of the Covid-19 pandemic was something caretaker Sabah chief minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal hoped to avoid.
At the same time, he said the current restrictions from Covid-19 alone cannot be the reason to avoid polls, especially in the event of a power tussle.
“From the beginning I was reluctant to dissolve the state assembly. But looking at the situation, rather than handing over power to them, I thought it would be better to let the people decide who will lead Sabah,” he told a news conference here today.
“If Singapore can have their general elections, Korea and the US is also having their elections in November, why can’t Sabah? We have to make sure everything is in order because my concern is the people’s lives,” he said.
Sabah was asked to comment about the upcoming state polls at a press conference here today.
To help maintain safety, Shafie said the state government had acquired some 10 million masks and hand sanitisers for voting districts and offices that will be handed out on polling day.
“If we see voters lining up without a mask, then they will be given a mask. Sanitisers must also be present. These are some of the steps that we took to ensure safety,” he said.
Shafie also said that the state command centre on Covid-19 might restrict certain forms of campaigning if it was considered unsafe.
“I don’t want to jeopardise anything. For the right to vote, it’s ok, but the right to campaign, we have to look into it. If it jeopardises safety, then certain actions have to be taken,” he said.
Shafie was responding to a question on whether the voter turnout in the coming Sabah state election would be affected by measures to stem Covid-19.
The state election is scheduled for nomination on September 12, followed by polling day on September 26.
It was triggered after former chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman claimed he had the support of a simple majority to form a government in the 65-member House, after 13 government-aligned assemblymen defected.
Shafie preempted the toppling, asking the Sabah Governor for consent to dissolve the state assembly instead, a decision that is currently being legally challenged by Musa and 32 other assemblymen in High Court.
The High Court said it would decide this Friday whether it was justiciable for the court to hear the case by Musa and the 32 assemblymen who were challenging the Head of State’s Tun Juhar Mahiruddin’s decision to dissolve the state assembly.
Shafie said it was up to the courts to decide on the case, but his party would prepare for the incoming state polls.