By Zikri Kamarulzaman | Malaysiakini
Covid-19 patients have a constitutional right to vote in the Sabah polls this Saturday, said Bersih and several lawyers.
The right to vote is enshrined under Article 119(1) of the Constitution, and a person can only be disqualified from voting if they are mentally unsound or have been sentenced to a prison term of more than 12 months.
As such, lawyers New Sin Yew and Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, as well as Bersih, say that the Election Commission (EC) has a duty to facilitate Covid-19 patients right to vote.
Yesterday, the government announced that Covid-19 patients would not be allowed to vote. However, those who have symptoms, and those under quarantine will get to do so.
Sabah currently has 658 active cases of Covid-19, with 449 cases in Tawau.
Speaking to Malaysiakini, New said the government has no right to prevent a Covid-19 patient from voting.
“There is nothing in the Federal Constitution and the election laws allowing them to do so,” the lawyer said.
He added that the government and the EC should instead provide “reasonable assistance” to allow the Covid-19 patients to vote, such as perhaps turning quarantine centres into polling stations.
Haniff, meanwhile, suggested that the government could even gazette hospitals as polling stations and appoint medical officers to be election agents.
He said patients could also be given their ballot papers in their respective wards for them to fill in if they choose to do so.
Bersih also suggested something similar, to ensure that Covid-19 voters comply with regulations preventing them from leaving the hospital.
Haniff said gazetting hospitals and medical officers to facilitate voting can be done within 24 hours as the government had shown whenever it renewed the movement control order on the eve of it expiring.
“If there is a will, there’s a way,” he said.
Haniff and Bersih both said that legal action can be initiated by Covid-19 patients who are being denied to vote.