March 4, 2009
By SHARON LING
KUCHING: The Election Commission has fixed March 29 as nomination day for the Batang Ai by-election while polling is on April 7.
The nomination and polling dates are the same as the by-elections for the Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat in Perak and the Bukit Selambau state seat in Kedah.
Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said the Commission decided to hold the three by-elections at the same time so as not to prolong the campaign period.
“We don’t want the campaign period to be too long. If we do it after the by-elections in Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau, it would add nine more days to the campaign period to make it a total of 18 days.
“Such a long campaign period could create tension, so we feel that it’s best to hold the by-elections simultaneously; this would also save time for those involved in campaigning,” he told a press conference here Wednesday.
The Batang Ai seat fell vacant following the death of its four-term assemblyman Datuk Dublin Unting Ingkot on Feb 24.
Unting, who was also state assistant minister for sports and agriculture and a Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) vice-president, died nine months after suffering a stroke and falling into a coma.
Abdul Aziz said the Commission’s officers in Sarawak were ready to conduct the by-election and had made the necessary preparations.
He said the Commission had 25 vehicles and 18 boats ready as well as a helicopter on standby in case of an emergency.
He added that the dates were also suitable in terms of weather conditions as it would not be the dry season yet.
“I understand that during the dry season, it would be more difficult to navigate the rivers in the area,” he said.
The Commission will use the 2008 master electoral roll gazetted on Feb 19 this year for the by-election.
There are 8,006 registered voters in Batang Ai, including 43 postal voters.
Abdul Aziz said an enforcement team would be set up to monitor campaign activities from nomination day to the end of polling at 5pm on April 7.
He also said Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel) would be given permission to observe the by-election.
PRS, a Dayak-based Barisan Nasional component party, is expected to meet Thursday to decide on the candidate for the by-election.
Barisan is expected to face PKR, part of the Pakatan Rakyat alliance, and independent(s) in the fight.