THE Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) Youth’s initiative to provide airfare subsidy to individuals returning to Sarawak to vote this weekend has been met with lukewarm reception.

Polling is this Saturday but to date, only 73 people have applied for the subsidy since it was launched on December 1, Siah Kwong Liang, chairman of KLSCAH Youth told The Malaysian Insight.

“Currently we have received 73 applications, it’s not very encouraging.

“Of the 73, only 50 qualified for the subsidy while the rest did not because they are not registered voters,” Siah said.

Siah said the underwhelming response could be due to a lack of interest from voters to go back home to cast their votes.

“People are also not interested in going back to vote, unlike in the 2018 general election.”

KLSCAH Youth is providing a RM200 subsidy each for 100 registered voters. The subsidy is available up till December 17.

It announced this initiative after dates for the Sarawak elections were announced last month.

The group is using the balance of funds it raised for the UndiRabu initiative in 2018 when it helped pay transportation costs for Malaysians travelling home to vote, be it bus fare or airfare.

UndiRabu raised RM201,536 from donations and was able to sponsor 1,300 voters, including some 300 overseas voters.

“We had a balance of RM17,983.75 from UndiRabu, so we decided to use it for the Sarawak elections,” said Siah.

The state elections should have been held earlier after the legislative assembly term expired on June 6, but all polls were suspended under a national emergency to fight the Covid-19 epidemic.

When the national emergency ended in August, a localised emergency in Sarawak was enforced, until it was lifted on November 3. Polls had to be held within 60 days from that date.

The authorities have been criticised for setting the election date this month with Covid-19 infections still raging, and for not waiting till Undi18 or the new minimum voting age at 18 could be implemented.

When the election date was announced, airfares from the peninsula to the state skyrocketed, costing as much as RM1,000.

Fares finally came down after the Sarawak Transport Ministry and the Sarawak disaster management committee (SDMC) agreed to allow an additional 42 flights weekly from the peninsula and Sabah into Sarawak for a limited period.

The Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom), said based on its monitoring for the period of December 11 to 31, airfares averaged at RM360.

Siah said the exorbitant airfares was another reason why the group wanted to provide the subsidy and encourage more people to return home.

A check by The Malaysian Insight of Google Flights yesterday showed that a return ticket to Sarawak leaving on the eve of the polls and returning on December 19 will set a traveller back RM551 on Malindo Air.

Meanwhile, AirAsia is charging RM740 for a round-trip in the same period while Malaysia Airlines is charging RM770. – December 16, 2021.

Retrieved from The Malaysian Insight

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