Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bersih welcomes Anwar’s test case against EC, says prisoners have right to vote

BY V. ANBALAGAN, ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR

Election watchdog Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah says Malaysian registered voters in jail should be allowed to vote. – The Malaysian Insider filepic, May 12, 2015.

Election watchdog Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah says Malaysian registered voters in jail should be allowed to vote. – The Malaysian Insider filepic, May 12, 2015.
Malaysians serving time in jail, who are registered voters, must be given the right to exercise their vote in an election, said the head of electoral reform group Bersih 2.0, following a test case filed by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
He is suing the Election Commission (EC) for denying him this right in the recent Permatang Pauh by-election.
Bersih chairman Maria Chin Abdullah said countries such as Nepal and Afghanistan allowed prisoners to cast their ballots.
"Electing people's representatives to the state and federal legislatures is a right accorded under our Federal Constitution. They should not be barred from voting just because their freedom of movement has been restricted," she told The Malaysian Insider.
Maria said this in response to a declaration sought by PKR de facto leader, Anwar, against the EC, its chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof and the Malaysian government, who refused to let him vote in the recent Permatang Pauh by-election.
He filed an originating summons against the three parties on May 6.
Citing Article 119 of the Federal Constitution, Anwar has argued that he should be allowed to vote in prison because he registered as a voter before he began his sentence.
He is currently serving a five-year prison sentence at Sungai Buloh prison after being convicted of sodomy.
The Federal Court upheld his conviction on February 10. The Permatang Pauh by-election was on May 7, which Anwar's wife, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, contested under the PKR ticket and won.
Aziz, however, has said that the constitutional provision on a prisoner's eligibility to vote was in relation to the "qualifying date" and whether the voter concerned was serving a prison sentence at the time.
However, Anwar's lawyer N. Surendran has said that the constitution also spelt out in another clause that "qualifying date" referred to the date a person applies to register as a voter.
Maria said the nation's charter on the rights of prisoners to cast their ballots was silent and this was something for the court to decide.
"This will be a good test case for Malaysian judges to interpret the constitution whether prisoners could exercise one of their basic rights. It will also create awareness among the people, including our lawmakers."
There are about 40,000 people, including foreigners, serving custodial sentences in 35 prisons nationwide but it is unclear how many are registered voters.
Maria said even if prisoners were allowed to vote, the next question that arose was whether the election process in jail would be fair.
"Will the prisoners be under undue influence," she asked.
A report of the People's Tribunal on the 13th general election (GE13) had stated that the national polls in 2013 had not been conducted in a free and fair manner, with many violations to electoral laws.
Th tribunal, made up of local and foreign experts, was formed to probe into alleged electoral fraud in GE13.
Maria said that the tribunal's verdict concluded that the EC failed to deliver a free and fair election, and added, "we do not know whether that has been the case in previous elections".
She said that the election results had been determined because of malapportionment and gerrymandering where a simple majority was guaranteed for the ruling Barisan Nasional.
The Federal Court will hear on June 18 Pakatan Rakyat's (PR) leave application to restore a suit seeking the cancellation of GE13 results on the grounds it was not free and fair due to the indelible ink fiasco.
The Court of Appeal on November 7 last year upheld the High Court's ruling that the litigants could only challenge election results by filing petitions before an election court.
PR first filed the suit in July 2013, asking the court to set aside the results of all parliamentary seats, as well as to disband the current EC leadership and to conduct fresh polls.
In its statement of claim, PR said that the unprecedented move was necessary because of the indelible ink fiasco, which it said caused massive cheating in the polls. – May 12, 2015.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/bersih-welcomes-anwars-test-case-against-ec-says-prisoners-have-right-to-vo#sthash.V7UPSkHK.dpuf

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