Wednesday, March 26, 2014


    Jakarta, March 26 (Antara) - Within the next 15 days, Indonesian people will cast their votes in the legislative elections, but those with visual impairment have considered the upcoming elections discriminative towards them.
      The visually impaired are disappointed because the General Elections Commission (KPU) does not provide braille templates to be placed over ballot papers for the elections of House of Representatives (DPR) and Provincial Legislative Council (DPRD) members this year.
      The braille templates will only be available for the presidential and Regional Representative Council (DPD) elections.

      KPU commissioner Arief Budiman previously stated that it was not possible for the commission to provide braille templates for the DPR and DPRD member elections.
       He attributed this deficiency to technical reasons as the font size on the ballots for the DPR and DPRD elections were too small for braille, as reported by the Jakarta Post.
      Election Committee for the Disabled (PPUA Penca) chairwoman Ariani Soekanwo, meanwhile, pointed out that another difficulty for the KPU in providing braille templates for the DPR and DPRD elections was the number of electoral districts and legislative candidates.
     "The template for the presidential election is only one model. There is a DPD for each of the 33 provinces; therefore there need to be 33 kinds of templates. But if we're talking about the DPR, there are just too many electoral districts. There wouldn't be enough time (to produce all the templates)," she told The Jakarta Post recently.
         To ensure that disabled people are able to exercise their voting rights freely without concerns about their votes being manipulated, the KPU requires each disabled person to assign their own assistants who will accompany them to the polling booths in the DPR and DPRD elections.
         Indonesia's Forum of People with Visual Impairment has decided to challenge the KPU for not providing the braille template.
         The forum consists of a number of blind people's association such as the Indonesian Blind Association, the Association of Wyata Guna's Alumni, the Association of the Indonesian Blind Muslims, and the Association of Indonesian Blind Athletes.
          The forum's chairman, Suhendar, in Bandung, West Java, on Tuesday (March 25) observed that political parties had failed to accommodate the needs of the visually impaired in the legislative elections this year.
        Indonesia is going to hold parliamentary elections on April 9, which will have participation from 12 national political parties and three Aceh local parties, and the presidential election on July 9.
        It is estimated that the number of visually impaired people in Indonesia is around 3.5 million, 1.7 million of which are eligible voters.
         "The provision of braille templates during the elections 2014 is a must," he noted.
         Therefore, the forum plans to file a lawsuit against KPU over the absence of braille templates for blind voters in the legislative elections 2014.
         "We will fight the injustice that the KPU has done against blind voters. We will file a lawsuit against the KPU's decision of not providing braille templates for us," Suhendar retorted. The lawsuit will be filed in the Constitution Court or the State Administrative Court (PTUN).
          A decision to provide escorts for blind voters at polling stations is a denial of their right to vote in privacy, secrecy and directly, he explained. It also violates the principles of independence and equality for people with disabilities, he highlighted.   
     According to him, there is an indication that certain parties want to direct blind voters when casting the ballots, by providing someone to accompany them.
          "We reject the elections, both the implementation and the results," Suhendar stressed, expressing his regret that the KPU has been insensitive and does not care for people with disabilities.
          By not providing braille templates for blind voters, the Commission has deprived the blind voters of their political rights. The absence of braille templates will be against the principle of secret ballot for voters, including the blind ones, he pointed out. 
    Suhendar explained that Braille templates were provided in the general elections in 2004 and 2009, but surprisingly the election executors this year have failed to provide the templates in the legislative elections.
         "Now, the braille templates are available only for the presidential and DPD elections," he clarified.
         Chairman of the Indonesian Blind Muslims (ITMI) chapter in West Java Yudi Yuspar also voiced his demand for braille templates.
         "No more escorts. We want to be independent and vote our ballot by ourselves. Having someone to helps us means we are not independent," Yudi countered.
         Supporting the forum, the National Commission for Human rights (Komnas HAM) explained that the KPU had indeed violated human rights by not providing Braille templates for the blind in the legislative elections 2014.
          "Komnas HAM has concluded that such a treatment is categorized as a human rights violation, in line with the UU No. 39/1999 on human rights related to political civilian rights, particularly to the rights of the blind," Komnas HAM's Commissioner Nur Kholis observed in Bandung, on March 25.
           The Law No. 39/1999 on human rights states that every person has the right to vote. Therefore, the state must be able to provide facilities as required by voters, including braille templates for blind voters, he remarked.
           Earlier, Komnas HAM member Imdadun Rahmat criticized the poll body's decision to provide braille templates to be placed over ballot papers only for the Presidential and Regional Representative Council (DPD) elections.
          "This is not an ideal situation. Ideally, disabled people, including visually impaired people, have to be facilitated so that the best voting practices can be achieved," quoted the Jakarta Post.
          The political rights of the visually impaired are protected under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, which was adopted on 13 December 2006.
         In the Convention's Article 29 on Participation in political and public life, it is stated, "States Parties shall guarantee to persons with disabilities political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others."
     The Convention demands that voting procedures, facilities and materials are appropriate, accessible and easy to understand and use.
           Persons with disabilities have the right to vote by secret ballot in elections and public referendums without intimidation, and to stand for elections, according to the UN Convention. ***1***

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