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Malaysia’s announcement of a lockdown within its borders will have significant repercussions for Singapore in the worsening Covid-19 crisis.
Just after the announcement by the Malaysian PM that the restriction will take effect from 18-31 March, people in Malaysia started making their way to Singapore last night and will undoubtedly continue today.
Tens of thousands of workers, many of whom may already be infected with the virus but show no symptoms, are crossing the causeway into Singapore undetected.
It may take a couple of weeks more before their health deteriorates by which time they may have spread the disease even wider among Singaporeans.
Already, we have seen a surge in cases over the past week with a record 17 new infections just yesterday with many of them coming from overseas.
The already precarious situation in Singapore may be stretched to breaking point where drastic action of our own may have to be taken.
Given such developments, it is even more reason for the GE not to be held at this time. If infections escalate to a point where thousands need to be quarantined or issued Stay Home Notices, these voters would be denied their right to elect their MPs.
Also, electors, especially the elderly who are more vulnerable to infection, may be deterred from coming out to vote.
And if candidates are affected, they may not be able to campaign or manage their campaigns. Worse, they may not even be able to register as candidates if they are not allowed to be present at nomination centres to present their papers.
The whole GE process will be thrown into chaos. The voting process will be riddled with irregularities and results disputed. What will this do to the nation going forward?
Elections are about major national issues that will determine our nation’s future. These issues and policies must be properly debated.
In Singapore, the nine days of a GE campaign are probably the only times that the Singaporeans get to hear frank and open public debates about the policies that affect their daily lives. They allow the public to be informed of what is at stake and the nation to go to the polls with clarity of will and purpose.
A mandate obtained from a properly held election will give a government moral and political gravitas to govern.
But an election held in the midst of a chaotic pandemic will only cause confusion among the people. The collective anxiety will obscure grave and long-term issues such as foreigner influx, housing, job security and the cost of living that need to be nationally debated.
A government elected under such circumstances based on political opportunism will cause much unhappiness among the electorate. This will further divide the nation.
In light of the latest announcement in Malaysia and our own deteriorating circumstances, it would be unconscionable for the PAP to call for the GE at this time.
The Covid-19 outbreak will pass. When the international community gains control over the pandemic and resources are mobilised globally, things will start to improve. The GE can be held then, not before.