Election commission building
File photo

Finally, the two controversial organisations, Election Monitoring Forum and SAARC Human Rights Foundation, are about to get registered as election observers. Earlier, the election commission (EC) had rejected their applications the first time for not fulfilling the conditions.

With the next national parliament election ahead, the election commission has newly selected 29 local organisations including these two as ‘election observer organisations’. It has been learned that there are several more so-called organisations among them.

Earlier in September, the election commission gave registration to 66 more organisations. There were quite a few spurious organisations among them as well. These were organisations owned by individuals with political involvement also.

Journalists were informed by the EC secretariat on Monday that the list of 29 non-government organisations primarily eligible for registration as election observers will be published in different newspapers today, Tuesday.

If anyone has any claims, objections or complaints regarding these organisations, they can submit it in writing to the election commission within 15 working days of the notice being published.

The list of the 29 organisations the election commission is going to register newly, includies the Election Monitoring Forum and SAARC Human Rights Foundation that were denied registration when they had applied earlier.

The organisation named ‘Society for Rural Need’ (Srabon), named on the list, provides an address in Barishal as their location. No office of that organisation was found at that address, during a visit there on Monday.

SAARC Human Rights Forum was criticised for inviting several inexperienced foreign citizens as observers in the last national election. Meanwhile, the Election Monitoring Forum recently brought a few foreigners to the country and introduced them as ‘foreign observers’ before the election this time.

The chairman of Election Monitoring Forum is named Abed Ali. He is also the secretary general of SAARC Human Rights Foundation. However, the person who applied for registration on behalf of SAARC Human Rights Foundation is retired justice Siddiqur Rahman Miah. Meanwhile, Abed Ali applied for the registration of Election Monitoring Forum which is an association of several other agencies.

In reply to the query as to how did several organisations that were rejected the first time become eligible for registration now, EC secretary Md Jahangir Alam told Prothom Alo that those who have applied again by meeting the required conditions, have been considered eligible for registration.

Phony organisations on the list

One of the 29 organisations that the EC is about to get registered this time is named ‘Udbhabani Mohila Sangstha’. Maria Bhuiyan, the executive director of this non-government organisation from Damodarpur area in Khulna’s Phultala, is an active Mohila Awami League activist. The organisation has five employees.

Mentioning experience of assisting another observer organisation in the election back in 2018, Maria Bhuiyan told Prothom Alo on Monday, "My brothers are Jubo League leaders. I too am involved in politics."

The election commission is registering these organisations as observers. This action yet again proves that people’s lack of confidence in the election commission is only logical.
Badiul Alam Majumdar, secretary, Shushanoer Jonno Nagorik (Shujan)

"Since I have an organisation, I cannot remain in any political post. For example I was supposed to send activists to Awami League’s rally in Khulna. I went there myself and sent other activists also," she added.

The organisation named ‘Society for Rural Need’ (Srabon), named on the list, provides an address in Barishal as their location. No office of that organisation was found at that address, during a visit there on Monday. That location sports the signboard of another organisation named ‘Uththan’.

When contacted the number given on the signboard, a man named Ashraf Hossain picked up the call. Identifying himself as the executive director of Srabon, he said that this was basically their sub-office. Their head office is in Patuakhali’s Bauphal and they have been running Srabon’s operation out of Uththan’s office, he added.  

In response to the question if the organisation had any staff of its own, Ashraf Hosain said, “No, we don’t have that. And the reason is that, we don’t run micro-credit programmes. We work in various government projects and we don’t have any active projects right now.” Looking into the matter in Bauphal it was found that the organisation named, Srabon is a phony one and they don’t have any such activities going on there.

Another organisation on EC’s list named BEDO Socio-Economic Centre has its office in a village of Sirajganj’s Belkuchi upazila. The organisation doesn’t have any such activities in the area.

One of the 29 organisations that the EC is about to get registered this time is named ‘Udbhabani Mohila Sangstha’. Maria Bhuiyan, the executive director of this non-government organisation from Damodarpur area in Khulna’s Phultala is an active Mohila Awami League activist. The organisation has five employees.

Belkuchi upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) Afia Sultana told Prothom Alo that she had gone to the inauguration of one of the workshops of this organisation a few days ago. To her, they seemed to be short on staff. She said she will look into the matter.

Social Advancement Community Organisation (SACO) is a union-level organisation from Mirzaganj upazila of Patuakhali. Though Mosa Shahnaz Khanam is the official president of the organisation, it’s basically run her son Md Adnan Shaon. Shaon is the president of the Chhatra League unit in the union and the vice-president of Patuakhali district Chhatra League unit.

With this year’s election ahead, local organisations are being registered as observers in two separate phases. A total of 66 organisations were registered in last September. But, EC feels the number of local observer agencies is a lot lower this time.

So, to increase the number, EC called for application the second time on 14 September. Total 149 organisations applied for registration in time.  After completing the screening process, EC primarily selected 29 organisations for the registration.

Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar told Prothom Alo that Abed Ali’s organisation, SAARC Human Rights Foundation, had committed a sort of fraud in the name of inviting foreign observers during the last general election.

This time too, the Election Monitoring Forum brought a few foreign citizens and introduced them as foreign observers a few days ago. The election commission is registering these organisations as observer organisations. This action yet again proves that people’s lack of confidence in the election commission is only justified, he added.

(Prothom Alo correspondents from the respective areas helped preparing this report)