Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Sabah Issues New Bid to Extend Polling Hours on Religious Grounds

Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sabah Issues New Bid to Extend Polling Hours on Religious Grounds

The Mission of Seventh-day Adventists' Sabah Secretariat has issued a fresh call on Tuesday to extend polling hours ahead of the 15th General Election in Malaysia.

The religious denomination made the plea on religious grounds since it observes Sabbath, which falls on Saturdays.

Early Voting Request

The Borneo Post Online reported that the Secretariat's spokesperson, Pastor Earie Madius, bared that the country's Election Commission (EC) had earlier rejected their request for their members to have early voting flexibility.

He disclosed that the EC informed them on Oct. 28 that their application was denied.

Madius said that the EC reasoned that "voters who are eligible to vote early are only members of the police who serve with the General Operations Force and spouses and members of the military who are on duty on voting day."

With the initial rejection, Madius said they decided to send the EC another request to extend the voting time by 90 minutes.

"In early October 2022, the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar had announced that a number of improvements in the GE, including the extension of voting hours which start from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for Peninsular Malaysia while from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for Sabah and Sarawak. After making a reference for Saturday of November 19, the sunset time is at 6:58 p.m. in the Peninsular, while for Sabah and Sarawak it is 5:56 p.m. and 6:25 p.m. respectively," The Borneo Post Online quoted Madius saying.

Madius explained that given such parameters, their church members need the EC's green light to 'exercise their duties as Malaysian citizens without compromising their religious obligations.'

"Accordingly, the SDA Church humbly requests consideration, the voting time can be extended for about an hour and 30 minutes from the existing schedule in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak," Madius said.

The report mentioned that members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church observe the Sabbath beginning at sunset on Fridays and ending at sunset on Saturdays. 

Madius disclosed that they emailed their second request on Nov. 1 to Rohiman Rahia, the Sabbah State Election Director. 

Also Read: Pope Francis Calls Catholic Church in Asia 'Church of the Poor, Church of the Young'

Historical Precedence

Aside from merely arguing that their church members must be accorded flexibility in casting their ballots in the Nov. 19 General Election, Madius added a newspaper clipping dated March 13, 1967. 

The clipping contained an article titled "Saturday Sabbath, so polling is put off a day" that clearly stated the country's EC allowed members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to cast their ballots on Sunday. It is one full day later than this year's 90-minute request by the same denomination.

Details of the 15th General Election

A Nikkei Asia report said that the 15th General election in Malaysia would see millions of first-time voters between 18 and 21 getting the power to choose the country's next government.

The election is on Nov. 19 and will feature opposing parties battling it out to secure the 222 federal seats.

Malaysia's ruling party, United Malays National Organization, led by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, is eyed to lead the polls heading to election day.

Related Article: Christian Thai Youth Rescued in Cave Talks About Faith, Future in Wake of Ron Howard's 'Thirteen Lives' Release