Give prisoners their right to vote, say NGOs

Give prisoners their right to vote, say NGOs
Prisoners should not be deprieved of their right to vote just because they are behind bars, say two civil society groups.

According to electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0, there are no existing laws which prevents prisoners from exercising this basic right as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

"Prisoners who have already registered as voters have all the rights to vote but they are not allowed to register as voters while serving their sentence," said Bersih steering committee member and lawyer Andrew Khoo.

The main reason Malaysian prisoners have not been voting all this while was because they are not allowed to leave their cells, he said.

“Perhaps, a polling station can be set up in the prison for eligible voters to cast their votes. It is also important to keep their identity a secret for their safety”, he added.

Another suggestion came from political scientist and International Movement for a Just World (JUST) president Chandra Muzaffar, who said prisoners could be brought out of prison to vote.

“A proper mechanism should be formed to carry out this voting process, maybe either by voting in the prison itself or by bringing the prisoners to their respective polling stations,” he said.

Chandra said that Malaysian prisoners should be allowed to vote as prisoners in other countries are allowed to do so.

He added that prisoners constitute quite a big number of the country's population, and many votes will be lost if they are not allowed to cast their votes.

Yesterday, Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that  the ministry is now studying the possible mechanisms which will enable prisoners to vote during elections.

He said that discussions will be carried out with the Royal Malaysian Police and the Election Commission in order to allow this group to exercise their rights.

Currently, Malaysia has 35,000 prisoners across the country and 48 per cent of them are charged for drug offences.