Of a polls observer group
An EC-registered organisation which observed the December 30 election and termed it “free and fair” is said to have links with the ruling Awami League led grand alliance.
Its advisers included RAM Obaidul Muktadir Chowdhury, an Awami League leader who won from Brahmanbaria-3, and one leader from the Jatiya Party (Ershad) and one from the JP (Manju). The JP factions are part of the grand alliance which won in the polls.
Obaidul has been an adviser to the organisation -- SAARC Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) -- since its inception in 2014, The Daily Star learnt after talking to the polls observer's Secretary General Mawlana Mohammad Abed Ali.
The Dhaka-based SHRF is part of the Election Monitoring Forum (EMF), a platform of 31 organisations registered with the Election Commission (EC) and 26 non-government organisations, which was formed in November last year. The association deployed 5,765 observers in 214 constituencies, who visited 17,165 polling centres on December 30.
During a press conference at the Jatiya Press Club the next day, Abed, also EMF executive director, claimed that the election was peaceful and was “far better than the previous one”.
Addressing the event, a group of foreign polls observers, invited by the SHRF and the EMF, also termed the election free, fair and peaceful.
Asked, Abed told this newspaper yesterday that Obaidul, being an advisor to the organisation, did not violate the EC guidelines.
The SHRF has one or two more politicians as advisers and those are “ornamental” posts, he said. “Their political views are not served here”.
The SHRF executive committee is headed by a retired judge, who is the president of the policymaking body, he added.
The EC guidelines for election observers said an organisation would not be registered as polls observer if it has an individual, directly involved with a registered political party or a polls aspirant, as its chief executive or a member of its board of directors or management committee.
Contacted, Obaidul claimed he was involved with the SHRF till 2015 and has no connection with the organisation now.
“I am not involved with it [SHRF] since 2016. They used my name when it was founded… I was involved with it nominally,” he told this paper over the phone.
He claimed he did not attend any of its meetings nor give them any advice.
During a visit to the SHRF office in Mirpur-12 recently, a correspondent of The Daily Star found that it was housed in an apartment building.
The journalist was not allowed in.
The website of the organisation -- (https://sarchumanrights.org) -- was also down.
Asked, Abed said, “We're working to fix it. It [the website] will be available soon.”
At the December 31 press conference, the foreign observers from Canada, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka also said the just-concluded election was “much better” than past elections in Bangladesh and could be a “glowing example for other democratic countries”.
They had visited some polling centres in the capital.
“This was a world standard election… We can compare this with the elections of major democratic countries,” said former president of Kolkata Press Club, Komol Bhattacharya.
Another observer from Nepal, Advocate Mohamadin Ali, said Bangladesh has set the best example of a high standard election.
Former minister and member of Nepal Communist Party, Hakikullah Musalman, said he was immensely impressed to see such a “peaceful, disciplined and orderly” election in Bangladesh.
The EC had approved 25,920 local observers from 81 organisations to monitor the election.