May 7, 2016
SARAWAK 2016: Election that is not an Election
By P Ramakrishnan
The Sarawak election does not fit into the democratic mode in any way.It is an election that does not give the Opposition any chance to contest on an equal footing. It is so unfair that it can be easily compared to a boxer being thrown into the ring with his hands tied.
Sarawak covers a huge tract of land that is inaccessible without large resources and facilities – a great handicap for the Opposition. A huge team of party workers is required to spread out and reach remote villages to bring to them a party’s point of view on political matters, so clearly much effort and time is needed.
This makes it doubly hard for Opposition parties when they lack the resources to penetrate these inaccessible areas to bring home the message of change. This is made even harder by the Barisan Nasional, that unfairly puts obstacles in the Opposition’s way in a bid to deny their parties the legitimate right to campaign effectively.
When Opposition politicians are barred from Sarawak without any rhyme or reason whereas BN politicians are allowed free access to campaign, one is left baffled as to how lopsided this election has become. It is atrociously outrageous, to be honest.
We hear accusations that Opposition leaders from the Peninsula would control Sarawak if the Opposition won. We wonder how this would be possible when only Sarawakians are contesting in the elections. No one from the Peninsula is contesting in this election. How then could Opposition leaders from the Peninsula control Sarawak? This is an absurd accusation by people who have lost their thinking faculties.
Going by that same logic, can we then claim that BN leaders from the Peninsula would be controlling Sarawak because these leaders are busily campaigning there as well? That would be stupid.
The Prime Mminister and his entire cabinet (with nothing useful do in Putrajaya) have descended on Sarawak and are spreading out across the state using various convenient transportation facilities at their disposal and promising projects and incentives to woo the voters. This is bribing.
When you prevent Opposition politicians from conducting legitimate political activities during the election period by banning them from the state, you are reducing their campaign personnel and their ability to campaign effectively. Thus the Sarawak Opposition is rendered ineffective and their influence is deliberately diminished so that they cannot do well in the election. This is contrary to the rule of law.
Immigration laws allow Opposition politicians to enter Sarawak “for the sole purpose of engaging in legitimate political activity”. But when this provision is totally ignored, it means even the rule by law is discarded. There is no rule of law; neither is there rule by law. The Sarawak government under Adenan Satem has no moral authority to exercise any legitimate power to prevent the Opposition equal access to the state.
It is a commonly accepted notion that a caretaker chief minister does not have the power to ban Opposition politicians, who have a right to be in Sarawak during this campaign period. He can only attend to the day-to-day affairs and cannot initiate new projects or approve allocations for whatever reason or purpose. However this simple moral obligation has not been observed by the chief minister of Sarawak.
Sarawak voters must never tolerate this blatant abuse of power. If the right of politicians can be denied so blatantly, it only means that the right of ordinary Sarawakians can also be denied any time after the election.
To safeguard your rights, “Never be a spectator to unfairness or stupidity.”
P Ramakrishnan is an Aliran executive committee member.
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