Equality for Persons with Disabilities in Political Elections

Jakarta, 2 February 2015 (Press release) – General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA) held its 3rd Regional Dialogue, “Upholding the Political Rights of Person with  Disabilities – Enabling Accessible Elections”, on January 28 -29, at JS Luwansa Hotel, in Jakarta.

More than 180 participants from 27 countries attended the conference which addressed issues vital to the political and electoral rights of persons with disabilities. It also served as a platform for information and knowledge sharing on success stories and best practices around the world.

Election Managers from Korea, Timor Leste, Thailand, Malaysia, even Fiji came to the event which was co-hosted by Indonesia’s general election commission (KPU) and the Association of World Election Bodies (AWEB).

Furthermore, representatives from disabled people’s organizations including Libya, Georgia, Egypt, Australia and the United States were also present at the event. Gufroni Sakaril, President of Indonesian Association of Persons with Disabilities (PPDI), M. Afifuddin, National Coordinator of Voter Education Network for the People (JPPR), Yong-Hi Kim, General Secretary of AWEB, His Excellency Mr. Simon Phillip Merrifield, Australian Ambassador to ASEAN, and Rafendi Djamin,Indonesia’s Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) were among speakers at the event.

The dialogue was opened by KPU Chairman Husni Kamil Manik. AGENDA also presented its latest monitoring report of the accessibility of the 2014 presidential election as well as sharing media guidelines on reporting on accessible elections. The rights for person with disabilities have been a long fight. So many recommendations on accessibility for person with disabilities in elections have been made to the election commission. As a result, the issue had become one of main concerns from the media at the 2014 presidential election.

General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA) is a collaboration of civil society and people with disability organization in the South East Asia region led by PPDI. Its aims are to establish and enhance accessibility for people with disabilities for using their political rights, such as right to vote and right to be voted, in the region.

To achieve the goal, a gathering project was set up between certain local and regional organizations to share experiences and establish a well-organized consultation institution. The project had managed to create strong network between OPD and civil society who were monitoring and strengthening election processes in Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar.

Among other ten countries of South East Asia region, Indonesia and Philippines are considered to be more advanced in relation to disability rights recognition. Though still have many flaws, the 2014 presidential election had shown that the rights were fulfilled, as stated by by Risnawati Utami, Disability Right Advisor AGENDA (General Network for Disability Access).

She said, “Indonesia holds a leading role in rights of disability practice. Then, Philippines which also managed to accommodate needs of person with disabilities at the election. In addition, the media have also changed their approach in news reporting. They were no longer using charity-based-approach. We see now that media had strong effect on this. It is inappropriate way to approach person with disabilities by gesture that would make them look like they need help, make them incapable of working in the political space and public space, generally.”

Hadar N Gumay, commissioner of KPU (Election Commission) said, “It is not only the concern of person with disability organization but also other organization. KPU has defended the rights of people with disability, both in practice and policy. Through policy, KPU had drafted a regulation on disability access which would take effect on December 2015 to be implemented on 204 regional elections.”

Furthermore, Hadar cited some practices to be implemented in the regional election, including modified template for visually impaired people, sign language service during debates between candidates, more socialization, and ensure voters with disabilities are registered.

Rafendi Djamin, AICHR (Indonesia Representative to ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights) welcomes these initiatives. “Indonesia marked as a new power in ensuring human rights. New power democracy of human rights,” says Rafendi.

It relates to ASEAN’s Human Rights declaration that guarantee rights of minorities to vote and selected for certain amount of time and “genuine” (honest, fair, free, and secret) election, stated Rafendi Djamin.

As a result of the Regional Dialogue, participants comprise of election commissions from other countries, disabled organizations, and government institutions have agreed on four points stated in Jakarta Addendum, which are:

  1. Unique barriers encountered by people with disabilities who also identify with another marginalized group are identified and strategies to removed these barriers are developed
  1.  Disability rights are mainstreamed in existing gender, youth and other civil society organizations
  2.  Women with disabilities and people with disabilities from indigenous and other minority groups are represented in decision-making      bodies and political processes at all levels; and
  3. The post-2015 global development framework includes provisions to strengthen the political rights and participation in public life of these marginalized groups

SOURCE: Global Indonesian Voices