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Jan 5 polls deeply flawed

Staff Correspondent

A US senate hearing on Tuesday termed the general elections that took place on January 5 ‘deeply flawed’ and stressed the need for mounting international pressure on Bangladesh to have fresh elections with the participation of all political parties.
The hearing on ‘prospects for democratic reconciliation and workers’ right in Bangladesh’ that Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), also chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, presided over continued for more than two hours.
It was the third hearing of the US senate committee on the current political situation in Bangladesh.
In his welcome speech, Menendez said, ‘We meet to discuss US policy in Bangladesh following the controversial January election and ensuing political stalemate.’
‘Last month, I sent letters to Bangladesh’s political leaders telling them that the political deadlock will further weaken the confidence of international investors and strongly urged that they begin negotiations on new elections that are free, fair, peaceful and inclusive. The people of Bangladesh deserve no less,’ he added.
While presenting her assessment, Nisha Desai Biswal, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, said that despite some significant success of Bangladesh, the country is facing a ‘worrisome political situation.’
She said that the January 5 elections were deeply flawed which were boycotted by major opposition parties and ‘did not express the will of the people of the country.’
‘All of international partners including the US have voiced strong concerns over the poll and we also supported the UN efforts to reach a consensus among rival political parties.’
‘We said there should be a new election which will be transparent and inclusive,’ she added.
She said that the United States had not taken any side in Bangladesh’s political affairs. ‘That decision should be left for the people of the country but that was not heard in the January 5 polls,’ she added.
At same time, she added, the United States was disturbed by the opposition’s violence, violence against minorities and killing by security forces.
In reply to a question of the chair on the response from actors in Bangladesh, Biswal said, ‘It is unclear. We are continuing to put pressure on Bangladesh to ensure an inclusive poll.’
The hearing also talked about the condition of worker safety at workplace and government action to improve workers safety at workplace.
It also talked about Bangladesh’s measures to get restored generalised system of preferences facilities for Bangladeshi products to the US market as pledged by the US president Barack Obama.
The hearing expressed concern about the removal of Muhammad Yunus from Grameen Bank.
‘It is a political move to punish Muhammad Yunus,’ Senator Richar J Durbin said.

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