Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mafrel refutes 'opposition mouthpiece' jibe


Nigel Aw
Apr 6, 10

NGO Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel) has refuted Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Noh Omar claims that the body is an opposition mouthpiece.

Yesterday, Noh, who is Selangor Umno deputy chief and Hulu Selangor by-election director, had accused Mafrel of bias following an article published in Sinar Harian where the election watchdog said that Barisan National violated election rules.

'Mafrel's statement shows it is no longer independent [...] it is becoming a mouthpiece for the opposition,' Noh had said.

Contacted today, Mafrel president Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh (left) said that the statement was directed at BN because a reporter had specifically asked for his (Syed Ibrahim's) comments on Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's visit to Hulu Selangor four days ago.

"A reporter had asked me to comment on the deputy prime minister's promise of four new schools during his visit to Hulu Selangor," said Syed Ibrahim.

The watchdog chief said that while the distribution of welfare was understandable as it was part of the duties of elected representatives, insinuating who voters should vote for before the official campaigning period was wrong.

"Our observation was based on the statements made to the media by individuals from both sides. While both sides have been handing out welfare, BN has made insinuations that the people should vote for it," he added.

'Undilah Barisan Nasional'?

During his visit to Hulu Selangor last week when he announced four new schools for the district, Muhyiddin (left, below) was quoted as saying that voters should mark the Hulu Selangor by-election date in their diary and next to it jot down 'undilah Barisan Nasional' (vote Barisan Nasional).

Syed Ibrahim said he remained confident of Mafrel's credibility despite Noh's call for the Election Comission (EC) to review the Mafrel's position as an independent elections watchdog.

"What we do is not subject to the EC. It is just that the EC recognises our observers work in the field. But we hope that the cooperation with the EC will continue," he said.

He also refuted claims that Mafrel had not submitted any reports to EC on their various observations.

"We have shared our last general elections report with the EC and we have made a commitment to submit reports this month for all the by-elections held in the past year," he explained.

With Hulu Selangor by-election looming on April 25, the constituency has been promised new schools by the federal government and a RM2 million allocation to develop its drainage system.

The ruling Pakatan Rakyat state government, meanwhile, has handed out land titles to 108 families and cash to senior citizens under a welfare scheme.

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