Bersih urges EC, Nadma to publicise SOP on voting amidst floods

19 Oct 2022 05:38pm
Bersih chairman Thomas Fann - BERNAMA
Bersih chairman Thomas Fann - BERNAMA

SHAH ALAM – Non-governmental organisation Bersih calls upon the Election Commission (EC) and the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) to publish their Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on Voting amidst Floods (UndiBanjir).

Bersih said the EC’s special meeting tomorrow to announce on the nomination and polling days must also cover the contingency plan to prevent unintended vote suppression caused by floods.

Hence, they called for the EC and Nadma to produce a transparent and comprehensive SOP on how to handle election amidst floods, with an inclusive decision-making process to build cross-party consensus when difficult decisions need to be made to save lives and preserve democracy.

The steering committee underlined three necessary components to be included in the SOP produced by the EC in consultation with Nadma including the recovery measures to take, redlines crossed to escalate recovery and who would be involved in such decision-making.

“The EC must ensure its representatives must sit on the national, state and district-level Disaster Management Committees, that decisions on saving lives and preserving democracy are coordinated to minimise the trade-off between the two,” the steering committee said in a statement.

Bersih called upon all institutions and quarters – political and unelected - to respect the role of EC as an independent institution and give it full room to make professional decisions in the electoral process.

“It is regrettable that the Parliament has been dissolved amidst the flood season against expert advices.

“The EC must not be pushed to complete election at the risk of harming lives or suppressing votes.”

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Bersih insisted that the flash floods that hit Kota Kinabalu, Penampang, Tuaran (Oct 9) and Pulau Langkawi (Oct 16) had debunked the political myth that UndiBanjir could definitely be avoided if the election was held in early November.

The EC, Nadma and the three-tiered Disaster Management Committees must be prepared for situations like the flash flood in P104 Pulau Langkawi might happen on or just before the polling day.

From the news reports, at least 30 settlements or places were flooded, across 14 of 27 polling districts, potentially affecting 38,118 voters, or 57 per cent of P104 Pulau Langkawi’s 66,808 electorates.

Of the 14 schools or halls in the affected polling districts used as polling centres in GE14, one was flooded and one is listed on the high alert flood-prone areas.

Any decision to delay polling, even just at a few affected constituencies, let alone the entire GE15 would be greatly controversial, as it would affect voters’ choices in postponed elections or cause the balance of power hanging in the air, the committee said.

However, not doing so may cause either avoidable loss of lives especially election workers and police personnel or suppression of votes where flood victims are denied their right to determine their country and state’s future.

Bersih also said that if there was ill-preparation of voting amidst floods which caused avoidable life and property loss and denial of voting right, this would not just expose the senior officers of the EC and Nadma to suits of negligence.

Worse, such cases would sink the country into political instability.

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