Thursday, May 6, 2010

Rain or shine, Mafrel will be in Sibu

Thursday, 06 May 2010 17:09

KUALA LUMPUR – The Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel) will go ahead and observe the coming Sibu by-election process despite the Election Commission’s decision to drop it as an independent observer for elections.

Its chairman, Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, said Mafrel would carry out observation from the nomination day on May 8 until polling day on May 16.

'Don't tell us what to do'

“The question of whether there is a need for observers or not does not arise. It will not affect Mafrel’s wish to monitor Sibu by-election. Mafrel is an independent organisation registered under the Companies Commission,” he told reporters here today.

“We will continue to carry out our operations without fear or favour. Mafrel does not need permission or sanction of any parties including EC to monitor the process.

“In fact, EC should be encouraging us to work towards the advocacy of democracy and a free and fair election process,” he said.

The EC’s deputy chairman Wan Ahman Wan Omar who said that there was no need for Mafrel or similar NGOs to be independent observers for the Sibu by-election.

He said Mafrel deputy chairman Col (R) Shahruddin Othman and another representative would be in Sibu from May 14 until May 17 to observe the campaigning, polling and post election processes.

“They will assisted by at least 20 local volunteers for the observation and monitoring process during the Sibu by-election,” he said.

Mafrel would focus on bribes offered to voters, abuse of government machinery and public resources and also possiblities of violence and threats during campaigning.

On EC withdrawing Mafrel as an independent election watchdog following its failure to submit reports of nine previous by-elections, Syed Ibrahim said Mafrel had written a letter to EC chairman on April 12 seeking a meeting and to discuss the reports but had yet to get a response from EC.

Reports of nine by-elections ready

He said Mafrel had already completed reports of the nine by-elections held after the 12th general election and a preliminary report of the Hulu Selangor by-election.

He said the delay in preparing reports was due to data scrutiny, fact verification and high standard set by Mafrel as well as the frequent by-elections in the past two years.

He said the problem could be resolved between Mafrel and EC fairly without intervention by political parties or individuals with vested interest.

On Senator Idris Buang from Sarawak who questioned the credibility of Mafrel and Mafrel’s sources of funding, Syed Ibrahim admitted that Mafrel had received funding from Finland Embassy and International Republican Institute from the US, which went towards training of volunteers and observation processes of the 12th general election.

Open about foreign funding

“We are transparent about our sources of funding. We need funding to implement our monitoring work, but it does not mean that we are a foreign agent. We are not under the influence of anybody.

“We have to prepare reports but they are not exclusive for the parties just because they had funded us,” he said in The Star report.

On Idris’ claim that Mafrel was funded by a former PKR youth leader for Selangor and Federal Territory, Syed Ibrahim said : ”Many organisations are founded by politicians but it has to be clearly understood that the role of Mafrel is as an independent professional observer.”

Rife with offences

In its preliminary report on Hulu Selangor by-election, Mafrel highlighted that the campaign for the by-election was marred by incidents of vote buying attempts and blatant election offences committed by both candidates.

It stated that party big-wigs from both Barisan Nasional and PKR went around promising millions of ringgit in development and aid money to voters that might be construed as election offences and infringements of the provisions of the election law and result in the whole election process being declared null and void.

It said there were no serious attempts by the authorities to curtail or stop such practices.

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