Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mafrel reinvited as official observer

MALAYSIANS for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel) has been re-invited by the Election Commission (EC) to be its official observer for the coming 10th Sarawak election.

“We have reinstated Mafrel, but they have to follow all the 18 rules we’ve listed,” commission deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar said yesterday.

Among the rules, he said, was that the non-governmental organisation (NGO) had been banned from making public statements.

The rules: Wan Ahmad holding a copy of the commission’s enforcement guidelines during a press conference in Kuching.

“Also, Mafrel’s observers have to be non-partisan. They cannot campaign or get involved in any way other than observe.”

Wan Ahmad said Mafrel’s role was to submit written reports once the election was over.

“Their job is just to monitor, record the election’s weaknesses, process the information, and give us the feedback.”

The EC deputy chairman was speaking to reporters prior to the start of a seminar on election enforcement here.

Marfel, which formed in Oct 2003 and describes itself as an election watchdog, was appointed by EC as the first and only NGO observer during 2004 11th parliamentary election.

However, in recent years, the EC has dissociated itself from the organisation.

Wan Ahmad said some Mafrel members had failed to be non-partisan.

The EC official also claimed Mafrel had never submitted any written report.

“Yes it’s true,” Wan Ahmad replied to a question on the matter.

“We didn’t appoint Mafrel for several recent by-elections like in Tenang, Kerdau, Galas, among others. So they appealed to us, and we are willing to give them a second chance. So this time they really must submit written reports.”

Wan Ahmad then defended the organisation, saying, as a whole, Mafrel had good intentions.

“Maybe some of its members were overzealous.”

To a related question, Wan Ahmad said other NGOs had requested to be EC’s appointed watchdog. However, the EC had encouraged these organisations to become part of Mafrel, he said.

Meanwhile, it was learnt yesterday that Movement for Change Sarawak (MoCS) had been invited by Mafrel to field election observers.

In an email, MoCS president Francis Siah claimed Mafrel preferred to have Sarawakians observe the election.

“So far, five MoCS members have signed up to be observers in the Kuching area.”

Wan Ahmad said EC was in its final lap of preparations. Today, its enforcement seminar reaches Sibu, and Miri the day after.

About RM50mil have been budgeted for this state election, making it the most expensive ever.

Between nomination and polling day, the EC will use about 4,000 land vehicles, 800 longboats and 27 helicopters, including aircraft from Indonesia and the Philippines.

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