Persons with disabilities lobby for more conducive laws
General and Regional Elections
Laws need to be put in place to ensure that every person living with a disability in Guyana is not disenfranchised or prevented from exercising their right as it relates to casting a ballot during elections.
This is according to the Guyana Council of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities (GCOPD) Programme Coordinator Ganesh Singh, who on Thursday said that after elections next month, the organisation would be lobbying for legislative change to properly cater for persons living with disabilities.
“Legislative changes to provide a legal framework, so that systems for elections in Guyana can be more inclusive and accessible for persons with disabilities. In the future, we don’t want to have, not every election we must be doing these things. We don’t want to have to do this again at a national election where we are lobbying GECOM to implement sensors for blind voters to vote independently…we want it to be there in legislation,” Singh told the gathering at the National Library on Thursday at the launch of a Voters Education Campaign for Persons with Disabilities.
GCOPD Chairman Cecil Morris reiterated the importance of such laws, stating that this would be a “very important and very necessary step”.
“Over the years, persons with disabilities have not been getting the kind of recognition, the kind of observance that they should be having when it comes to elections and things of this matter … we want our people to take note of what is happening so that they can take their rightful position as persons with disabilities in the basic need to understand what is happening, so that they can play their part when it comes to elections and things of this matter,” he explained.
Meanwhile, GECOM Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh said that the purpose of voters’ education was to disseminate balanced and objective information on what citizens need to know in order to exercise their right to vote, but necessary legislation to assist persons living with disabilities was lacking.
“It is important that voters understand their rights and duties under the Constitution as well as the election laws, namely the Representation of the People Act, Chapter 103, so that they can meet their obligations in a responsible way. Presently, there is no provision in our legislation for persons with disabilities to vote with Braille. The Representation of the People Act, Chapter 103, does not make provision to enable a person who is blind or physically incapacitated to vote independently,” she noted.
Justice Singh added that while GECOM was “sympathetic” to the persons with disabilities, there was need to have the necessary legislation implemented.
Additionally, US Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch, who was also at the launch, noted that although there were sensitisation programmes and initiatives countrywide to ensure that all voters were aware of their rights and how to successfully cast their ballots, more needed to be done for persons with disabilities.
“Members of the Council believe that the Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM’s) own extensive public relations campaign to the general public simply isn’t always able to reach some persons with disabilities. So, just as voting rights are unmarkable without access, accommodations are ineffective if many of those who would benefit are unaware,” the Ambassador said.
General and Regional Elections are slated for March 2, 2020.