Prisoner voting rights EC to discuss with Party Secys

The Elections Secretariat, whilst acknowledging that there are practical issues with regard to implementing the right to vote afforded to convicts imprisoned for under two years, informed the Committee for Protecting the Rights of Prisoners, in writing, that the Election Commission (EC) would consider the matter and discuss it with the Party Secretaries.  

The Election Commission has however, noted that enacting related laws and making relevant legal amendments are matters that come under the purview of the Judiciary and Parliament. 

The letter was sent by Director General of Elections, Saman Sri Rathnayake to the Chairman of the Committee, Attorney-At-Law Senaka Perera with copies to the Secretary General of Parliament, the Secretary – Judicial Service Commission, Election Commission Secretary and the Assistant Commissioner (Legal and Investigation) of the Elections Secretariat.  

Previously, Perera and Committee General Secretary Sudesh Nandimal Silva met Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya on 17 July in this regard where they requested the Election Commission to create and implement a practical programme of action to allow suspects cum prisoners (under Article 89 of the Constitution, suspects whose franchise has not been taken away, and/or convicts punished and sentenced to imprisonment yet whose names are found in the voter registry) the right to exercise the universal franchise to vote as electors at polls and referendums.  

“Prisoners are twofold – suspects and convicts. Article 13(5) entitles suspects to the presumption of innocence while Article 89 provides for certain types of convicts who have served a specific period of their sentence, specifically term of imprisonment, to exercise their suffrage,” Perera added.

Article 3 holds that the franchise is part of the inalienable sovereignty of the people and Article 4 allows for every citizen who has attained the age of 18 years if he or she is qualified to be an elector and his or her name is entered in the register of electors to exercise the franchise at Presidential and Parliamentary Elections and referendums. Article 88 deals with the right to be an elector unless disqualified. 

Article 89 which deals with disqualifications to be an elector, lists as disqualifications among others – being found or declared by law as being of unsound mind; being convicted for offences punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of two years; being given the death sentence; being convicted of any offence (including a corrupt or illegal practice) under Sections 52(1) and 53 of the Ceylon (Parliamentary Elections) Order in Council of 1946, of Bribery under the Bribery Act, Sections 77-82 of the Local Authorities Elections Ordinance, Sections 2-3 of the Public Bodies (Prevention of Corruption) Ordinance, and Sections 188-201 of the Penal Code; civic disabilities as per Article 81 being imposed through a passed resolution; being convicted of contempt of Court in connection with the authority of a Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry; and unless the requisite specified period (a part of the entire term) of the term of imprisonment is completely served.

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