Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Prisoners' right to vote in elections

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

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.

Has Bersih raised this issue, that of prisoners to be allowed to vote, only because of Anwar Ibrahim? We need to remind ourselves that prior to Anwar's imprisonment for Sodomy II, neither Bersih nor PKR even mentioned anything about prisoners votng.

While it's known I am not exactly an admirer of Anwar Ibrahim, au contraire, wakakaka, I am not questioning Bersih and PKR promoting his right to vote BUT more about them being remiss (prior to the imprisonment of Anwar) about prisoners' general right to vote in elections.

Okay, I can understand PKR's current motivation to campaign for Anwar to be able to vote but I wonder about Bersih raising this only now.

Is Bersih an organization to promote only Anwar's right? I don't believe that Bersih has such a narrow single-issue mission like PKR. Let's review what Bersih has been and is about.

Bersih seeks to reform the current Malaysian electoral system to ensure free, clean and fair elections, thus it should be working for all and not just one person's right.

If it had raised prisoners' right to vote prior to Anwar becoming a prisoner, it would have far greater credibility as a independent non-politically aligned NGO.

And for god's sake, why use Afghanistan and Nepal as examples? Is Bersih so desperate that it grabs at the first example it could think of, even a dysfunctioning one?

Look, Malaysia with all its EC-warts and all, is still a far far more democratic country than dysfunctional Afghanistan with its stable of warlords, a typical feature in most client states of the US like Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and in much earlier times, Taiwan, South Korea, Philippines, South Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, etc. Thank goodness most of those client states in Asia today have evolved away from being US client states to become shining examples of democracy.

But Afghanistan? Alamak and bloody fuyoh, I still can't get over Bersih's lamentable choice of a pathetic example.

Hey, why not refer to Canada, a by far more shining example of Westminster parliamentary democracy than Nepal or dysfunctional Afghanistan?

In fact,  Canada allows its prisoners to vote, assuming all other eligibilities like age, registration to be on electoral roll, etc, are fulfilled.

Having mentioned Canada let's examine other equally good examples of Westminster parliamentary democracies like the UK, New Zealand, Australia and India. Again, in each case, let us assume all other eligibilities like age, registration to be on electoral roll, etc, are fulfilled.

UK, the birthplace of Westminster parliamentary democracy, does NOT permit its prisoners to vote.

New Zealand like the UK does NOT permit prisoners to vote.

What about Australia then?

It depends on the prisoner's term of sentence. If the sentence is less than 3 years, the prisoner will be allowed to vote, but if the sentence is 3 years or more, then he/she will NOT be allowed. And to remind ourselves, Anwar has received a sentence of 5 years.

Coming to India, a Commonwealth country which our judiciary used to refer to its high court rulings as stare decisis, its Electoral Commission of India has declared that prisoners are NOT allowed to vote.

Okay then, let's move outside the Commonwealth system and look at the USA. The complexity associated with the example of the USA is that each of its 50 states has its own set of rules. But despite that, we can accurately say 48 out of 50 states do NOT permit their prisoners to vote, with Maine and Vermont being the exceptions.

Voting becomes a privilege rather than a right for US prisoners in most states, ranging from the harshest (complete denial of voting rights even after having served the terms of their sentences) to somewhere in between very harsh denial of voting rights to the rights enjoyed by prisoners in Maine and Vermont.

For example, in states like Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming, prisoners even after having served their sentences may be denied voting rights depending on the crime committed, time elapsed since completion of sentence, and other variables.

So, re-looking at the more familiar electoral systems of the above mentioned Commonwealth countries, other than Canada, Anwar Ibrahim with his 5 years sentence would NOT have been allowed to vote in the UK, New Zealand, Australia (ta'bolih lah with 5 years imprisonment) and India, if he was resident or citizen there.

Isn't that food for thought? And doesn't it show that Malaysia is not uniquely harsh with its prisoners including the great Anwar Ibrahim on voting rights?

I respect, appreciate and admire the sterling work of Bersih especially when Ambiga Sreenevasan was in charge but of late I'm having some qualms and indeed some second thoughts on the direction of its public statements and actions, not unlike my recent qualms and second thoughts about some personalities in DAP.

I admit I wasn't at all impressed with Maria Chin Abdullah's publicly voiced support for Major Zaidi as if the former air force officer was a hero when in fact and by law he had violated Armed Forces Council Instructions by making unauthorized statements to the press.

While Bersih's aim is to make elections a free, clean and fair process, it must not unwittingly condone violations of the law including military rules, regulations and instructions, which collectively is an intrinsic part of Malaysian Law.

Indeed, for more on this, Maria Chin Abdullah should go ask Yingluck Shinawatra.

I became PM by a landslide in a democratic election

I am no longer a PM by a landslide caused by a military decision


  1. Is AI fighting for prisoners’ human rights and/or rule of law? Or is it just one of his political haggle and antics? Clearly, it serves no end!

    And OMG, BERSIH has quoted Nepal and Afghanistan – really? Plus one to KT’s remark “Alamak and bloody fuyoh, I still can't get over Bersih's lamentable choice of a pathetic example." Wakakaka...

    Is international law/UN convention granting prisoners a right to vote? Not that I know of? Hasn’t AI/BERSIH got any other vital human rights/civil rights issue to brandish? What a classic example of a woolly-minded democratically thinking process?

    I wonder what would be BERSIH’s next coming campaign. Would it be prisoners to remain full citizens and therefore must be given the full rights, including holding of elected office? Wakakaka…

  2. Menawhile..........


    Yeah, life is so cheap........But wait a minute, who mastermind all these shits? Is it Najib?

    What the cibai chao cibai kaytee going to say about this? When is he going to highlight this? Simply because it will incriminate Najib.

    Do you know that the high ranking officer who handled Beng Hock is now MACC Sabah chief.

    Cibai Kaytee!