“Prisoners should be allowed to vote”; Harmon wants law amended

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By Tracey Khan – Drakes

[www.inewsguana.com] –Should prisoners be allowed to vote? This topic has sparked conversations internationally and has even seen laws changed to ensure the voice of every citizen is heard through their vote.

Currently in Guyana this is not the case; according to Guyana’ constitution, once a person is imprisoned, whether convicted or remanded, they are not allowed to vote. However, many are now wondering if this antiquated law will remain the same or if legislators will work to make the necessary amendments to include those behind bars on the list of voters.

During an interview with iNews on Friday February 13, Attorney – at Law and General Secretary of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Joseph Harmon said there is need for the law to be amended.

Harmon called for the disenfranchisement of convicted and remanded prisonera to be reviewed.

“It is something as a nation we have to review because a person who is incarcerated, who is on remand or he might be there for a sentence, might be a short sentence or a long sentence, it does not mean that you should lose your constitutional right to vote.”

According to Harmon, “It is the constitutional right of a person to vote, because it doesn’t make you a non-person anymore, you’re still a Guyanese, you’re being fed at the tax payers’ expense in the prison and therefore you ought to have a say in these matters.”

He is of the view that prisoners are being made to pay twice for their crime when their constitutional right to vote is taken away from them.

Attorney – at – Law and Opposition Parliamentarian, Joseph Harmon. [iNews’ Photo]
He explained that systems can be implemented in the prisons to ensure that prisoners exercise their rights in a democratic state by voting.

“Some people are in there for very minor offenses, some are there because they are simply on remand; their cases haven’t been heard properly as yet and to deny them that right which determines their government – it’s in my view a very serious matter…

“When elections are going on there are special arrangements for prison officers to vote, they are in the same confined space so just as you can make the arrangement for those prison officers to vote, you can make special arrangements for those prisoners to vote,” Harmon said.

The APNU GS committed that if the APNU forms the next Government, this antiquated law will be reviewed.

Many other countries restrict the right of those sentenced to imprisonment to vote in elections. For example, convicted prisoners are automatically banned from voting in Armenia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Luxemburg, Romania and Russia.

In Australia, prisoners are only entitled to vote if they are serving a sentence of less than three years. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the UK must end its ban on votes for prisoners after the government lost its final appeal.