Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 23rd of January, 2016
The newly appointed Election Commission (EC) chairman should allow Sarawakians living and working outside the state to cast votes as postal voters in the upcoming Sarawak state elections
The appointment of the new EC chairman, Datu Seri Mohd Hashim bin Abdullah takes effect today, 24th of January, 2016. He replaces Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof. In the handing over ceremony which took place 2 days ago, it was reported that the EC would be asking for a budget of RM181million for the upcoming Sarawak state elections, which is approximately two and a half times the RM78m that was spent by the EC in the 2011 Sarawak state elections. The outgoing EC chairman cited increases in the cost of renting vehicles and of food as some of the main reasons for the budget increase.
The incoming EC chairman should realize that the cost of going to the polls to cast a vote have also increased especially for the Sarawakians who are living and working outside the state. The transportation costs, whether it is flight tickets, bus tickets or boat tickets, have increased as a result of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The price of overnight stays in motels or hotels would also have increased. As has the price of food. It is especially costly for voters who have to travel from KL, Johor Bahru, Singapore and Kota Kinabalu to cast their votes in the interior areas such as Kapit, Hulu Rejang and Bakelalan.
In order to lessen the financial burdens of such voters, the EC should allow for Sarawakians living and working in Sabah, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore to cast their votes as postal voters rather than forcing them to travel back to Sarawak to cast their votes. In the 13th general election, Sarawakians (and indeed, all Malaysians) who were living outside Malaysia and Singapore were allowed to register as postal voters. The same option should be given to Sarawakians so that they can cast their vote in the EC office or in a suitable location in every state in Peninsular Malaysia, in Sabah and also at the Malaysian embassy in Singapore a few days before the actual polling day. And just like in the 13th general election, their votes will be considered as postal votes and returned to their respective constituencies to be counted on polling day itself.
This is not a new recommendation. The parliamentary select committee on electoral reform, which was set up in 2011, listed this as one of their recommendations in its final report which was tabled in 2012. (See below)
Source: Laporan Jawatankuasa Pilihan Khas Berhubung dengan Penambahbaikan Proses Pilihan Raya, mukasurat 39.
This should be one of the first priorities of the newly appointed EC chairman in order to ease the financial burdens of Sarawakians who would otherwise have to make a costly journey to cast their votes in the upcoming Sarawak state elections.
Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang