Rejoinder, our reply
Fazlur Rahim, the presiding officer of 74 Panchpukuria Govt Primary School polling centre of Sundorpur union parishad in Fatikchhari upazila of Chittagong, has sent a rejoinder to a photo published in The Daily Star on April 24.
The photo taken on April 23 during the UP election showed a man stamping ballots in favour of the ruling party chairman candidate at the third booth of the polling centre right next to a policeman watching his act.
However, Rahim in the rejoinder claimed that voting process at the centre was free and fair.
He said there were three officers on duty at the centre -- assistant presiding officer Kazi Forhad Uddin and polling officers Nasir Uddin and Yeasmin Akter. The man who was seen in the photo was Nasir Uddin.
“After publishing of the news they informed me that Nasir Uddin was helping asst presiding officer Mr Forhad on request because there was a rush of voters. He was using the official seal on the back side of the ballot paper,” Rahim said in the rejoinder.
He termed the news (actually a photo caption) on fake voting “false, baseless and fabricated.”
When The Daily Star correspondents went to the centre in question around 1:30pm on April 23, at best three voters were seen in the polling centre. The presiding officer was heard to announce it was lunchtime and voting would resume after a break (under the law, voting should continue without a break). There was no voter in booth No. 3 of the centre at that time.
The agents of BNP and independent candidates were heard complaining to police and the presiding officer of fake votes cast by agents of the ruling party candidate. But neither the police nor the presiding officer seemed to act on the complaints.
At this, agents of BNP and the independent candidates left the polling centre. Despite presence of journalists at the centre, fake voting continued. The Daily Star correspondent and the photographer were present at the centre for about an hour. At least two other TV journalists were present at the time and witnessed the whole incident. This newspaper is not disclosing their names as they do not want to be identified.
Our photo clearly shows a man stamping ballot papers as a policeman looks on.
In the rejoinder, the presiding officer claimed that the man seen in the photo was Nasir Uddin who was a “polling officer” and was “helping” the assistant presiding officer by stamping the official seal “on the back page” of ballot papers.
Our photo shows the man was stamping on the symbol printed on the front of the ballot papers. In the photo, symbols of the candidates are seen to his right and the back pages of the ballot papers are to his left.
About the “rush” at the centre, as already stated, when the series of photos were taken there were hardly any voters.
A close look at the photo published in The Daily Star on April 24 will make it clear that there is a seal on the “boat” symbol [symbol of the ruling party candidate] on the ballot paper the man was holding in his hand.
We stand by our photo.