No need new law if Sarawak holds polls during Emergency, says Minister

Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah – Picture from New Sarawak Tribune

By John Isaac

PARTI Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) vice-president Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah disagrees with the view by constitutional law expert Prof Datuk Shad Saleem Faruqi, that a new law is needed if Sarawak holds its state election when the Emergency is still in force.

Abdul Karim, who is state Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister and a lawyer by training, said this was clearly stated in Section 13 of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 with regards to Election of State Legislative Assembly.

He said for as long as the Emergency is in force, Section 13(a) of the Ordinance states that ‘the provisions relating to an election for the election to a State Legislative Assembly in the Eighth Schedule to the Federal Constitution, Constitution of any State and any State Law shall have no effect’.

He also pointed out Section 13(b) of the same Ordinance states that ‘an election for the election to the State Legislative Assembly shall be held on a date as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong thinks appropriate after consultation with the respective Ruler or the Yang di-Pertua Negeri’.

“I don’t see the need for a new ordinance or law if we were to call for the next state election.

“So I opine, if Sarawak wishes to have an early date (for election) before the expiry of the Emergency, the Chief Minister will have to bring up the matter to the Independent Special Committee to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) and the YDPA will consult the Tuan Yang Terutama (TYT) Yang di-Pertua Negeri,” said Abdul Karim, who is also state Youth and Sports Minister, when contacted by Borneo Post.

He was commenting on a report published by a local daily which quoted Shad Saleem as saying the Yang di-Pertuan Agong would have to amend the existing ordinance within the Emergency period to allow Sarawak to have its state election this year.

Shad Saleem was quoted as saying that if the Emergency ends on Aug 1, the laws that suspended the elections will continue to be in force for another six months due to Article 150(7) of the Federal Constitution.

“In my view, before Emergency ends and while Yang di-Pertuan Agong still has the power to consult with the Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sarawak to order an election as soon as possible, he (Agong) has to amend the ordinance to allow election in the state,” he said as quoted by the daily during an online talk hosted by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) 2.0 recently.

Shad Saleem also said during the Emergency, the provision in the Eight Schedule which states that an election must be held within 60 days of the dissolution of the State Legislative Assembly, has been suspended.

Last Friday, it was reported that Sarawak Cabinet members had discussed appealing to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to lift the Emergency Order in Sarawak if the Covid-19 situation in the state was brought to a manageable level.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing told Bernama if the appeal was favourably considered, it would pave the way for the 12th state election as the term for the current State Legislative Assembly ends in June.