Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New group mobilising observers for clean elections

New group mobilising observers for clean elections
By Yvonne Lim  


A group of concerned Malaysians has teamed up with election watchdog Malaysians For Free and Fair Elections (MAFREL) to set up Cekap Elections Observers (CEO) to ensure the coming general election is clean and fair.

They are aiming to mobilise as many members of the Malaysian public as possible to volunteer to be trained as independent, non-partisan election observers (EO) to watch over the entire election process.
Alexa Ho, a pastor at Community Baptist Church, and four others are the initiators of this project.
“As citizens of Malaysia, our right is not just to vote, but to make a difference by being an observer and voicing out when we see irregularities in the system or any suspicious behaviour during the elections.

“What is really important is not our biasness or preference of one party over another – it is about being fair. No matter which party wins or loses, it is most important that it is all done fairly and cleanly,” Ho stresses.
CEO was officially launched on Aug 2 by putting up their Facebook page which is already gaining popularity. To date, it has more than 122 “likes”. The group intends to utilise all the social networks, including Twitter and Google +, to promote its cause.
Various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in MAFREL’s networks have been approached to advertise the EO training programmes.
While the training is completely free of charge, no incentive in any form will be given to the volunteers.
“To be completely honest, to volunteer as an EO will cost you – your money and time. But the reward is a clean and fair election. I think it is worth it,” says Ho who leads CEO.
The minimum age to be an EO during the general election is 21 years, but Ho says the “youngsters” can also participate and help in pre-election observation. Those below the age of 21 are also invited to attend the EO training.
An EO will play several important roles throughout the whole election process – from checking of the electoral roll, observing the nomination process for suspicious behaviour until the actual election day.
“They are there to check through the electoral roll for any irregularities and watch the entire process from nomination till polling day,” explains MAFREL deputy chairman Colonel Shahrudin Othman.
“On polling day, if they are allowed into the polling stations as observers, they will watch from the inside. If not, they will observe outside the polling station for any suspicious behavior, such as intimidation, harassment or buying of votes.”
The EOs will then document their observations and MAFREL will compile these into a report which will be distributed to the relevant parties, such as the Election Commission (EC) and universities to be analysed and acted upon.
CEO hopes to gather at least 1,000 volunteers to be trained as EOs by MAFREL before the coming election.
At the training sessions, MAFREL will teach volunteers how to look out for irregularities in the electoral roll, detect suspicious behaviour, as well as document their observations.
MAFREL will subsequently apply with EC for the election observers to be issued passes to be allowed into the polling stations. “But whether the EC will give it or not, we don’t know,” says Shahrudin.
Two tentative dates in September have been set aside for the training, which will be held in Petaling Jaya and Cheras. The time and exact venue for the training will be posted on CEO’s Facebook page.
Ho urges all Malaysians to come forward and volunteer themselves to be independent EOs.
For more information on CEO and MAFREL, log on to CEO’s Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/cekapelections


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