PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Wednesday (Nov 18) admitted that the Sabah state elections in September was the cause of the latest wave of Covid-19 infections in the country.
He was making the case for why he wanted to postpone the Dec 5 by-election for Batu Sapi, a parliamentary constituency in Sabah.
Malaysia's King on Wednesday assented to the government's request to declare a state of emergency for the constituency, thus postponing the by-election.
The public has in the last two months blamed free-mingling of politicians and voters in the two-week campaign before the Sept 26 Sabah polls for causing a new surge of infections in the Borneo state.
Thousands of political campaigners along with Cabinet ministers returned to their home states after the state polls, causing a spike in coronavirus cases throughout Malaysia.
Speaking live over television and on social media platforms, Tan Sri Muhyiddin said although the Election Commission (EC) had set tight health protocols for the Sabah state elections, compliance was very weak.
He added that the number of cumulative cases in the state was 808 on nomination day on Sept 12, increasing by 91.5 per cent to 1,547 cases on polling day on Sept 26.
Four weeks later on Oct 24, Sabah recorded 11,285 cumulative cases, becoming the first state in the country to record more than 10,000 cases.
Up till Wednesday, Sabah had recorded 24,269 cases and 181 deaths.
Malaysia on Wednesday reported 660 new cases nationwide, the first time the daily figure has fallen below 700 a day this month.
Sabah reported the highest number of new cases (58.6 per cent) followed by the Klang Valley (26.2 per cent) and Negeri Sembilan (4.7 per cent).
There were four new fatalities to bring the total deaths caused by Covid-19 to 322.
Mr Muhyiddin said the Cabinet last Friday discussed in detail the effects of the Batu Sapi by-election if it were held while the Covid-19 pandemic was still contagious in Sabah.
"In making this consideration, the Cabinet took into account the consequences of the Covid-19 transmission in Sabah following the elections in September," he said in his live address.
PM Muhyiddin also said that the EC faced obstacles in trying to recruit election workers for the Batu Sapi polls, as many were afraid they would get infected while on duty.
He said that as at Nov 6, the EC had only succeeded in appointing 143 election officials, which is only 17.1 per cent of the 837 workers needed for the by-election.
The by-election was being called following the October death of its federal lawmaker.
Mr Muhyiddin said the by-election would be held when the pandemic was over.
He also said the Cabinet had sought the views of the Attorney General on the best way in terms of legislation and the Federal Constitution to postpone the by-election to another date.
The Constitution states that any vacancy in Parliament must be filled within 60 days, once Parliament or the State Assembly has been formally informed of a vacated seat.
"A state of emergency was declared in Batu Sapi, only to cancel and postpone the by-election in order to protect the lives of the people. The lives of the people in Batu Sapi will not be affected by the emergency declaration.
"There is no curfew or military-style government in Batu Sapi. The government administration, economic activities and social activities can continue subject to the practice of new norms and regulations as well as the SOP (standard operating procedures) under the conditional movement control order in Sabah, " said Mr Muhyiddin.