Wednesday, April 7, 2010

EC drops local polls watchdog in Hulu Selangor

EC drops local polls watchdog in Hulu Selangor
By G. Manimaran
Bahasa Malaysia Editor
KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 — The Election Commission (EC) has dropped the local election watchdog, Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel), as official election monitors in the Hulu Selangor by-election as it has not sent reports for the previous nine by-elections since Election 2008.

Mafrel is the only election watchdog recognised by the EC but it was slammed by Selangor Umno deputy chief Datuk Seri Noh Omar who called them “mouthpieces of the opposition” two days ago for saying the coalition broke election rules ahead of the April 25 vote.

“We won’t appoint Mafrel as independent election monitors for the EC at the Hulu Selangor by-election,” EC deputy chairman Datuk Wira Wan Ahmad Wan Omar told The Malaysian Insider last night.

It is understood that Mafrel could lose EC accreditation but still operate as election watchdog for the by-election when campaigning starts after nomination on April 17 .

But Wan Ahmad said the EC decision is not related to Noh’s criticism of Mafrel, adding its decision was made earlier.

The EC’s appointment of Mafrel in since Election 2008 has allowed the watchdog to monitor and report on everything related to the conduct of elections.

Wan Ahmad also stressed that Mafrel’s statements had nothing to do with the EC as it was done in their own capacity.

“The statements by Mafrel is not linked to the EC,” he said.

He added the EC has repeatedly asked for reports after each by-election but Mafrel had ignored the requests.

“We have given reminders after reminders to Mafrel to send in their reports but after nine by-elections starting from Permatang Pauh, we have not received even one.

“That is the the condition of appointment, to send monitoring reports... since the Permatang Pauh by-election (in August 2008) until the Bagan Pinang by-election last year, Mafrel has not sent a report although asked to do so,” Wan Ahmad said, describing Mafrel as “going against the conditions of appointment”.

Mafrel chairman Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh had earlier told The Malaysian Insider that no one, including the EC or politicians like Noh, can stop it from monitoring the elections.

But he expressed optimism that the relationship between Mafrel and the EC will continue to ensure a free and fair election for all.

“What Datuk Noh say is his right and we have a right to express our views too,” he added, commenting on Noh’s call to the EC to review Mafrel’s role as election watchdog.

Noh, who is Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister, said if Mafrel wanted to slam BN for going to the ground, campaigning and giving allocations to the people of Hulu Selangor before the campaign period started, it should be “fair and unbiased” about it as Pakatan Rakyat had done the same.

Mafrel had criticised the federal government for approving various housing and school projects in Hulu Selangor although the campaign period had not officially started yet.

“What has this got to do with Mafrel? The election has not started yet, Mafrel doesn’t understand their jurisdiction. They also don’t understand the EC’s regulations on the authority of the police and local government.

Syed Ibrahim said Mafrel has carried out its role since 2001 including the Sarawak Election in 2006 and the series of by-elections in the country.

“We monitor outside and within the campaign periods. The EC has acknowledged us and have asked us to monitor polling days too. So we work throughout time and during polling day. We censure what is wrong and report what is right,” he added, saying they are an impartial organisation.

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