Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ambiga: Bersih’s ‘citizen observers’ will be non-partisan

December 20, 2012
Ambiga said Bersih’s ‘citizen observers’ will comply with global standards for domestic election monitoring.
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 20 — Bersih 2.0 has chided the Election Commission (EC) for labelling it “partisan”, insisting to the agency that its “citizen observers” will comply with global standards on election monitoring, which list non-partisanship as a requirement.
The movement’s co-chairman, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, said the use of citizen observers during polls is a practice that has been accepted and used in many countries abroad, including Indonesia.
“We understand what they are saying that we should be well-organised and not interfere with the polls process. Certainly, that is not our intention,” the renowned lawyer told The Malaysian Insider.
“We are providing training for our observers and we will comply with global standards for domestic election monitoring,” she said when contacted yesterday.
The standards referred to by Ambiga are enshrined in the “Declaration of Global Principles for Non-Partisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organisations and its Code of Conduct”.
The declaration was commemorated at the United Nations on April 3 this year by the Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors, an international network that connects some 150 organisations worldwide. In Malaysia, Bersih 2.0, the Malaysian Voters Union and the National Institute for Democracy and Electoral Integrity (NIEI) signed on to the declaration.
Ambiga said the purpose behind calling for citizen observers was not to manipulate the results of the polls but to offer Malaysians an active role in protecting their own vote.
She pointed out that any member of the public could sign up as a citizen observer, irrespective of their political leaning.
“We made the call publicly... everyone can sign up for training,” she said.
Wan Ahmad raised the possibility that Bersih may have a certain agenda to protect its partisan interests.
Agreeing, Maria Chin Abdullah, a Bersih 2.0 steering committee member, said there was nothing partisan about urging Malaysians to come forward and participate in the polls process of their own country.
“We are merely asking citizens to take a stand on the fraud that has been happening. It’s their right, after all, to see that their votes are protected… we are not telling them who to vote,” she said.
Ambiga also said the very reason behind the initiative, also known as the “Jom Pantau” campaign, had stemmed from Bersih 2.0’s lack of confidence in the EC’s commitment to reforms.
“Rather than attacking us, they should actually be focusing on cleaning up their act for the elections.
“Why do they seem to be so nervous about our independent observers?” she asked.
“Frankly, I would really like to make this call to all members of the EC who have chosen to remain silent — we will hold each and every one of them responsible for how the coming elections are run.
“I urge the commissioners to search their conscience and ask themselves if this is an acceptable state of affairs for Malaysia and if they are fulfilling their constitutional duties to the people,” she said.
The EC questioned yesterday the ability of Ambiga to ensure all “citizen observers” in her Bersih 2.0 electoral watchdog group obey the law and steer clear of fouling up the polls regulator’s work.
EC deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar was reported by a Malay news portal as saying Bersih 2.0 was formed along partisan lines and that it was possible the group may have a certain agenda to protect its partisan interests.
He told Sinar Harian Online that while the prominent legal expert, who is co-chairman of the electoral reform group, is seen to be familiar with the law, he asked: “But is she capable of taking care of members involved in the Jom Pantau PRU13?”
Wan Ahmad said the EC acknowledged the right of citizens to monitor the election process for any possible fraud that may arise, but said they must not disturb the work of the authorities and EC.
“We want to give a reminder so that Bersih 2.0 that launched this campaign will not disturb this election’s affairs,” he told the news portal.
Bersih 2.0 has already launched its “Jom Pantau” and “Jom 100” but Ambiga said on Monday that these campaigns will be expanded next month to keep the pressure on the authorities.

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