Months after terming the 11th parliamentary election “free and fair”, Saarc Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) yesterday reiterated its claim, saying some organisations tried to make the polls look questionable through bringing “smaller issues to the fore”.
The EC-registered organisation which observed the December 30 election made the claims at a views-exchange meeting at the capital’s Jatiya Press Club.
SHRF, with support of Election Monitoring Forum (EMF), arranged the meeting where alongside local experts, election observers from India and Nepal who observed the December 30 polls, spoke.
SHRF Secretary General Abed Ali said there were media reports on irregularities found in 213 polling centres. “But this was a tiny part of the whole election,” he said.
Such findings seemed to have been prepared from a bias, or based on ill-advice from certain political parties, he said. He said they have applied to the Election Commission to “settle the matter”.
SHRF and EMF believe good citizens should not raise question over important issues like the national election, said Abed, also executive director of EMF.
Addressing the meeting, election observer and former president of Kolkata Press Club, Komol Bhattacharya, said he along with some other observers visited some polling centres in Dhaka city on election day.
“We first visited Gulshan Model School around 8:15am. I wrote it down, taking notes like a journalist,” he said.
Komol said, at the polling centre when asked whether there were any issues, a voter, Abdul Maleque told him there was no obstacle and that voting was going on “peacefully”.
Addressing the meeting, former chairman of National Human Rights Commission Kazi Reazul Hoque said the 11th parliamentary election took place in a “transparent and disciplined manner”.
SHRF is said to have links with the ruling Awami League-led grand alliance.
After being invited to Bangladesh by SHRF and EMF, a group of foreign observers from Canada, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka said at a press conference in Dhaka on December 31 last year that the just concluded election was “much better” than past elections in Bangladesh and could be “a glowing example for other democratic countries”.
According to a Reuters report, SHRF President M Abdus Salam said in January that he now believes there should be a fresh election after hearing accounts from voters and officials presiding over polling booths that activists of Awami League stuffed ballot boxes the night before the election and intimidated voters.
“Now I have come to know everything, and can say that the election was not free and fair,” he said.