Gambia’s political parties discussed Saturday 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 which was 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 the rights for inmates to vote, former Vice-President and emblematic figure of the United Democratic Party (UDP), Ousainou Darboe, made it clear that they will have to face security issues when prisoners are granted voting rights.

The tiny West African nation is making giant strides towards the formulation of a new Constitution as the CRC continues to spearhead massive public consultations.

“Can we really take into account the security issues?,” the veteran lawyer quizzed. “If prisoners are going to vote, the various candidates have to have their agents in Jangjangbureh, Banjul and Old Jeshwang…”

Darboe expressed doubts as to whether gov’t has the capacity to put all the logistics in place as there are prisoners who registered in different constituencies.

M.C Cham Jr. of the opposition Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) said prisoners should not have the rights  to participate in elections. He then added that 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,” he remarked while noting that when they come out of prisons, they should be able to rebuild their life.

The public hearing failed to highlight whether convicted felons or death row inmates should also enjoy the restoration of their voting rights…

Meanwhile, participants also weighed in on the important issues of citizenship, diasporans rights to vote, healthcare, access to potable and water and which drew mixed reactions from party representatives.

Written by Abdoulie John

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