Ministry defends RM1,000 fine for Covid-19 patient at polling centre
March 12, 2022 6:48 PM
PETALING JAYA: The health ministry has defended a RM1,000 fine handed out to a positive Covid-19 patient who was at the polling centre to cast her vote in the Johor state elections after concerns that the authorities had denied the woman her constitutional right to vote.
While the woman claimed she did not know that Covid-19 patients under quarantine were not allowed to vote, SOPs for the election bar them from leaving their places of treatment or quarantine to cast their vote for fear of spreading the disease.
However, according to a lawyer, the Federal Constitution does not deny Malaysians their right to vote based on their medical condition.
“The SOPs were the result of multi-agency discussions and advice. It was agreed upon before they were finally issued,” said a health ministry spokesman when asked to comment on the issue in the ministry’s WhatsApp chat group with the media.
There are 19,817 active cases in Johor according to the health ministry’s CovidNow website, although it is uncertain how many of these patients are of voting age.
Of the 19,817 active cases, 18,585 are undergoing home quarantine and 183 are in quarantine centres, with 1,011 hospitalised and 38 in intensive care units.
While the Federal Constitution does not deny Malaysians their right to vote based on their medical condition, Article 119 (2)(a) of the Federal Constitution states that a voter is disqualified from voting at a state or general election if he is “detained as a person of unsound mind”.
The constitution also bars those who have been convicted of an offence and sentenced to death or imprisonment for a term exceeding 12 months from voting.
“How can you not allow Covid-19 positive patients to vote? That is their right under the Federal Constitution,” said lawyer Suzana Norlihan Alias.
“Why can’t the government create secure online voting platforms, voting centres at Covid-19 wards, or go house-to-house to collect votes?,” said Suzana, adding that the government already went house-to-house when carrying out its regular census.
The head of a health think tank has also highlighted the issue on Twitter, calling for Malaysia to follow the example of other countries which have successfully allowed infected voters to cast their votes.
“Isn’t it a constitutionally guaranteed right for citizens to vote?” asked Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib.
“This (denial of voting) could be challenged in court.”