‘Catastrophe’ if Sarawak holds elections soon, says ex-health minister

Former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad has cautioned against new elections in the midst of a surge in Covid-19 cases.

PETALING JAYA: Former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad says there will be a “catastrophe” if Sarawak holds its state elections in the near future.

Posting on his Twitter account, Dzulkefly said Malaysia was on the verge of a third wave of Covid-19 infections. “Four digit active cases again, as in April to June!” he said, making reference to the latest figures from the health ministry.

Referring to a news report quoting Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg as saying that state elections would be held “at any time” from yesterday, Dzulkefly said: “(I) truly hope he is not serious or misquoted.”

Dzulkefly, who now heads the Selangor state government’s Covid-19 task force, added: “Politicians, in (a) bi-partisan way, must act responsibly and mitigate the catastrophe”.

Abang Johari’s remarks were made on a day when a new record high number of infections were reported. The current Sarawak state assembly’s term expires in June next year.

A former health systems and policies specialist at Universiti Malaya, Dr Khor Swee Kheng, also said Malaysia must not hold elections unless it can fulfil three criteria: ensure the health ministry has adequate support; and safeguard the safety of travellers and voters.

Khor also said politicians should act responsibly during campaigns and quarantines, with visible punishments for rule-breaking. “Otherwise, all election talk is irresponsible,” said Khor.

The health ministry reported 317 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, bringing the total number of Covid-19 infections in Malaysia to 12,088.

Returnees to the peninsula from Sabah, where state elections were held on Sept 26, have been behind the recent surge in cases in all 13 states.

Opposition MPs have questioned the government following the spike in cases, with their protests centered on the lack of a 14-day quarantine for those returning from Sabah and the decision not to impose a travel ban to the state despite the rapid increase in the number of cases.