US, EU do plain talking with Dhaka on democracy

May 9th, 2008 - 7:55 pm ICT by admin  

Dhaka, May 9 (IANS) The US Friday told Bangladesh’s caretaker government that it would not accept “any deviation” from the December timetable for free and fair elections to restore democracy. It also said that the state of national emergency, in force since January last year, with a blanket ban on political activity, must end early.

The European Union (EU), among the major donors assisting Bangladesh, too has said that foreign investors would stay away as long there was no democracy and political stability.

Visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Richard A. Boucher Friday said: “The only path forward is to have an election. We would not accept any deviation from that path.”

Boucher also said “good elections” would not be possible under a state of emergency, ban on political activity and without an “open and free” media, Star Online said.

“We don’t think you can have a good election under an emergency. We think the emergency has to be lifted. We think the rules for political activity need to be opened. The open information environment needs to be in place for a full and open discussion about the issues,” he said.

“We have been pushing for that and encouraging the lifting of the emergency because that’s necessary for a good and successful election,” Boucher added.

He said both the former prime ministers, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, currently detained and under trial, must face the law.

But he stressed the need for “fair and open trials”.

Boucher ducked questions regarding the credibility of the elections, when he was asked whether the polls would be credible if the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) or the Awami League (AL), or both the parties boycotted the elections.

“We will hear more from the government. I can’t deal with all these ifs, there is too much speculation out there,” he said, adding: “We’ll be monitoring it, following it. All of these proceedings need to be on track.”

He welcomed the dialogues and hoped they will produce a set of understandings for the elections to take place.

He said he does not think there will be a military intervention in Bangladesh and its possibility was not discussed during his meetings with both Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed and Army chief Gen Moeen U. Ahmed.

He said that democracy is the best way to fight terrorism, protect human rights and ensure development.

His visit coincided with that of US counter-terrorism coordinator Dell Dailey.

“There are problems that need to be fixed. We think these problems are best fixed under an elected government,” he said when asked of his opinion on the human rights situation here.

The EU has been pressing Dhaka for early and fair elections.

Foreign investors are still hesitating to make long-term investments because of the situation prevailing in Bangladesh, Stefan Frowein, the head of the delegation of the European Commission in Bangladesh, said on the occasion of Europe Day.

Pointing at the sluggish foreign direct investment in the country, he said that no big investment has been recorded in Bangladesh recently, although a lot of money was available throughout the world.

“They (foreign investors) look for a situation that is stable and ensures the security of heir money,” said Frowein, adding that the situation that is now prevailing in Bangladesh “does not say that everything is fine, everything is beautiful.”

“Nobody likes a state of emergency, nor do foreign investors,” New Age newspaper quoted him as saying Friday.

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