Gambian political parties on Saturday discussed the possibility of extending voting rights to convicts serving their jail term in the country’s correctional facilities. The ‘controversial’ issue topped the agenda at the second round of consultations on Constitutional Reform held at the National Nutrition Agency (NaNa) headquarter located along Berthil Harding Highway in Bakau.
While Gambia Moral Congress (GMC) leader, Mai Ahmad Fatty, did not raise any objection about the issue of restoring the rights for inmates to vote, former Vice-President and leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), Ousainou Darboe, said granting voting rights to prisoners would create security issues.
The Gambia is making giant strides towards the formulation of a new Constitution, with the CRC extending its massive public consultations.
“Can we really take into account the security issues?,” the veteran lawyer asked. “If prisoners are going to vote, the various candidates have to have their agents in Jan Jan Bureh, Banjul and Old Jeshwang…”
Darboe doubted whether the government has the capacity to put all the logistics in place as there are prisoners who registered in different constituencies.
For M.C Cham Jr. of the opposition Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) prisoners do not deserve the rights to participate in elections. He said it is an open secret that they will vote against the government in place.
However, GDC’s Member of Parliament for Niamina East, Omar Ceesay, okayed prisoners’ rights to participate in electoral competitions. “The politicians are going there to empower the prisoners in terms of knowledge and innovative ideas,” Hon. Ceesay, adding that when prisoners should be able to rebuild their life upon release.
The public hearing failed to highlight whether convicted felons or death row prisoners should also enjoy the restoration of their voting rights…
Meanwhile, participants also delved into important issues of citizenship, diasporans’ rights to vote, healthcare, access to potable and water. All these issues drew mixed reactions from party representatives.