KOTA KINABALU: The proposed advanced voting by Bersih 2.0 for Sabahans and Sarawakians working in the peninsula and vice versa will only work if it means scrapping postal votes in favour of specific polling centres.
Parti Cinta Sabah president Wilfred Bumburing said the problem with postal voting, especially among security personnel such as those in the police force and the army, was that the votes could be manipulated.
“I have heard from retired army and police officers who alleged that they had to vote in front of their superiors.
“In some instances, they even said those superiors would actually vote for them. And, of course, they will be compelled to vote for a certain party only.
“In effect, these people voted while under duress. So it is unfair to them and unfair to the system,” he told FMT.
Calling this a betrayal of citizens’ rights to vote for those they choose, Bumburing said it would be better if postal votes were scrapped.
Instead, he said, the Election Commission (EC) should set up polling centres in Peninsular Malaysia for Sabahans and Sarawakians so they can vote according to their constituencies.
The Tamparuli assemblyman said he understood the difficulties Sabahans faced getting home and carrying out their duty to vote in elections.
“Some of them asked if their family members here can pool money together so they can come home. I have met a few who have been in that situation,” he said.
He also noted that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had warned that any offer of a travel allowance to entice voters to return to their hometowns to vote would be deemed as a bribe.
However, Bumburing said while he agreed with the MACC deputy chief commissioner on the matter, he did not think such rules should apply to voters who were members of political parties.
A return flight ticket to the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) can cost between RM400 and RM600 per person if booked at least two weeks prior to the travel date.
The price does not include other expenses such as travelling costs to the airport, and any additional costs that might be incurred to get to one’s destination.
Some 150,000 registered voters from Sabah and Sarawak are reportedly living and working in Peninsular Malaysia.
Only a handful are expected to return to their constituencies to vote in the general election.
Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah said allowing Sabahans and Sarawakians to become advanced voters, just like the police and army personnel, would help boost voter turnout and allow the government and the EC to demonstrate their commitment to protecting the voting rights of all registered voters.
Speaking to FMT, sisters Prisca Cylla and Penny Jane Totu said they would rather wait for longer and more important holidays such as Christmas to go home than spend a huge sum of money just to cast their votes.
“In our constituency, we know already who will win no matter who we vote for. So, I don’t think it is worth it to spend so much money just for that,” said Prisca who is a registered voter.
Her sister Penny Jane said she had been staying in Peninsular Malaysia for more than 10 years but never went home to vote because of the high travelling cost.
“If there were free tickets or discounted ones, then maybe we would go home. But even then, we would need to stay for at least a week,” she said.
Both agreed that advanced voting as proposed by Bersih could ensure that Sabahans and Sarawakians carry out their duties to vote.
Statistics show that Sabahans and Sarawakians mostly live in Selangor, Penang and Johor.