Thursday, May 17, 2007

American Senators demands roadmap to elections in Bangladesh


SALEEM SAMAD

UNITED STATES presidential aspirant Senator Hillary Clinton and her 14 bi-partisan colleagues have asked the military-backed administration to promptly lift emergency and announce within the next two months a roadmap towards holding a free, fair, transparent and credible election to parliament.

In a strongly worded statement they raised the issues of continuation of emergency rule, political rights, custodial deaths, human rights, freedom of press, and freedom of assembly, which are essential for democracy in Bangladesh.

The May 14 letter addressed to the interim government’s chief adviser Dr Fakruddin Ahmed urged him to announce within July, a roadmap towards free and fair elections to be held as soon as possible, with input of the political parties and civil society leaders so that a democratically-elected government can be restored as soon as possible.

The bi-partisan statement by both Democrats and Republicans demands to promptly lift emergency rule, and restore the civil and political rights to citizens of Bangladesh.

The signatories are Joseph Biden (D), a presidential candidate in 1988 and 2008 and present chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Richard Lugar (R), 1996 republican presidential candidate, ranking member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a former chairman of the same committee; John Kerry (D), 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, chairman Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee Near East and South and Central Asian Affairs; Norm Coleman (R), ranking member Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee -- Near East and South and Central Asian Affairs; Hillary Clinton (D), 2008 US presidential candidate, former first lady of the United States 1992-2000; Edward Kennedy (D), 1980 presidential candidate; Barbara Boxer (D), Chairwoman Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee East Asian and Pacific Affairs; Chris Dodd (D), 2008 presidential candidate; Russell Feingold (D), member senate foreign relations near East and South and Central Asian Affairs Subcommittee; Joe Lieberman (independent), 2004 presidential candidate, 2000 democratic vice presidential nominee; Frank Lautenberg (D), member Senate Appropriations Committee; Charles Schumer (D), chairman Democratic Senatorial campaign committee; John Sununu (R), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Near East and South and Central Asian Affairs Subcommittee; Robert Menendez (D), chairman Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance Economic Affairs and International Environmental Protection; and Johnny Isakson (R), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The senators expressed their support for political, electoral, and institutional reforms in Bangladesh. “We also want to express our strong concern over the ongoing state of emergency and the slow progress towards free and fair elections in Bangladesh.”

They expressed their dismay over the restriction on political activities. “We are troubled that the indoor ban on political activity was not lifted, as planned on May 8. We look forward to the resumption of safe, outdoor political action. Freedom of assembly, like the freedom of press, is essential to any democracy.”

However, they applaud efforts in Bangladesh to address corruption, which is a major impediment to economic development and poverty alleviation.

It is critically important that any anti-corruption campaign be implemented in conjunction with Bangladeshi law and international standards, the influential senators said. “Due process and respect for human rights should be fundamental components of the effort.”

Expressing concern about the custodial deaths in the course of anti-corruption campaign, they remarked that it is vital that such deaths, and all custodial abuses be prevented.

Moreover, they are concerned by the lack of progress towards free and fair elections in Bangladesh understanding that elections scheduled for January 22, 2007 have been postponed until the end of 2008.

Bangladesh authority’s reaction to the US senators comes few hours later.

Interim government’s Law Adviser Barrister Mainul Hosein said Bangladesh has to solve its problems on its own, rather than listen to the foreigners.

"It will not do if we listen to every word the foreigners say. We have to solve our problems by ourselves," Mainul Hosein said while talking to the journalists at his office.

However, he reiterated that the ban on indoor politics will be withdrawn 'in time', without specifying any time. #