Site Meter

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The right to vote is the cornerstone of democracy

The right to vote is the cornerstone of democracy

August 25, 2011


Former ISA detainee Kengadharan says that not allowing prisoners and detainees to vote is a serious violation of human rights.

By R Kengadharan

The setting up of the Parliamentary Select Committee on electoral reforms is to be welcomed. This is necessary so as to reach consensus in facing the next general election without any suspicion or perceived manipulation and the PSC may dispel any misconception.

Any electoral reforms undertaken upon recommendation will enhance and strengthen our own peculiar parliamentary democracy and such reforms are necessary so as to monitor behaviours and actions of political parties and their candidates.

No political party should be allowed to gain an unfair and vulgar advantage in an election and every form of manipulation and institutionalised fraud (if any) must be vigorously condemned and rejected.

Any violations or breaches must be dealt with sternly and if necessary disqualify the candidate.

However, prior to holding the general election it is necessary for the government to clean up the electoral roll.

Lately there have been serious allegations of foreigners, dead people , phantom voters and permanent residents given voting rights and if not investigated it could effectively undermine and threaten our parliamentary democracy.

The Election Commission in their commitment to parliamentary democracy, fair play, good governance and transparency must consider and study the use of indelible ink and the use of a biometric system.

I urge that this system must be made mandatory and the Federal Constitution must be amended to facilitate the above and the suggestion put forward by the Election Commission is quite encouraging for it would be subjected to scrutiny by political parties/agents.

In addition to the above, the Election Commission has a legal obligation to let/allow prisoners and detainees to vote in general elections and by- elections and the present blanket ban is completely illogical, certainly discriminatory and a serious violation of human rights.

The continued reluctance not to allow prisoners and detainees to vote is a most serious offence.

For instance in the United Kingdom prisoners in remand awaiting trial, fine, defaulters and people jailed for contempt of Court are permitted to vote.

It must never be forgotten that the right to vote is the cornerstone of a democracy and any laws that prevent anyone from voting could upset the political process.

No democratic process can and should disenfranchise its citizens right to vote and in Malaysia the Election Commission must successfully dismantle this prohibition permanently.

R Kengadharan is a lawyer and an ex-ISA detainee

No comments: