US for new elections in Bangladesh to ensure fair process
Extrajudicial killings must stop immediately, says BiswalNew Age Online
Terming the January 5 election a ‘deeply flawed’ one, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal on Tuesday said this could have serious ramifications for stability in Bangladesh and the region as the election did not credibly express the will of Bangladeshi people, UNB reported.
“I want to state very clearly that our interest in holding new elections is to ensure a free and fair process,” she said in her opening remark at a fresh hearing to examine the ‘prospects for democratic reconciliation and workers’ rights in Bangladesh held at the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in Washington.
Biswal said the United States has not taken sides or played favorites in who should lead the country. “That decision should be left to the Bangladeshi people, whose voices were not fairly heard on January 5.”
She expressed her hope that Bangladesh’s political and economic leaders in Bangladesh will take the right steps to support democratic values, foreign direct investment, and a growing economy. “Bangladesh has come too far and has too much to lose.”
Acting Associate Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Department of Labor, Eric Biel, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, Ellen Tauscher and Executive Director, Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, Kalpona Akter also took part in the hearing.
Committee Chair Senator Robert Menendez presided over the hearing that began at 10am (Washington DC time).
The US Assistant Secretary also said in spite of gains in economic growth, development, and regional stability, Bangladesh faces a worrisome political situation and regretted saying the efforts of the United Nations supported by the USA to facilitate dialogue between Awami League and BNP did not succeed.
“The country is at a critical juncture, so today’s hearing is particularly timely and sends a powerful message that the US Congress is concerned about where Bangladesh is headed.”
She mentioned that immediately after the election, the US issued a strong statement noting that the election was not a credible reflection of the will of the people and called for immediate dialogue to agree on new elections as soon as possible. “Bangladesh still has an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to democracy.”
Expressing displeasure over the use of violence for political gains, she said, “We’re disturbed by political parties’ use of violence, inflammatory rhetoric, and intimidation, and by violence against minority communities.”
Condemning violence from all quarters in the strongest terms, she said, “These tactics have no place in a democracy.”
Bangladesh’s turmoil has created uncertainty with foreign investors and impacted economic growth, she observed.
Biswal also said stifling of dissent also undermines Bangladesh’s vibrant civil society and long-term stability. “We thus call upon the country’s leadership to provide space that enables peaceful expression of political views. At the same time, we call upon the opposition to use such space responsibly.”
She said the US will continue to engage with the Bangladeshi government and opposition to encourage policies and actions that protect and advance democratic values, including respect for human rights, space for civil society to flourish, rule of law and an independent judiciary, mutual respect for Bangladeshis of all religions and of all ethnicities, and space for the free and peaceful discussion of political differences unmarred by violence.
Biswal said there has been some incremental progress in the readymade garment sector in the past year.
“Nearly 100 unions were registered in 2013, compared to one in each of the two years preceding. The courts have dropped all but one criminal case against labor activists, permitted the registration of labor rights NGOs, and started the trial for a suspect in the 2012 murder of labor activist Aminul Islam in abstentia.”
The government has completed over 200 structural soundness and 120 fire safety inspections, filled 42 vacant inspector positions, and is recruiting new inspectors.
“However, there is still much to be done and Bangladesh still has not fulfilled the many commitments it made to improve working conditions,” she said.
The US Assistant Secretary mentioned that plans to hire more inspectors and carry out more labor, fire, and building inspections are lagging.
The majority of inspections and remediation efforts are occurring under the direction of private sector initiatives. “Gaps remain between national law and international standards, no action has been taken to bring Export Processing Zones into conformity with international standards, and concerns remain over harassment of labor activists and the investigation of the murder of Aminul Islam.”
“We will continue to push for urgent reforms to improve worker rights and worker safety in Bangladesh.”
After tragedies like the Tazreen fire and Rana Plaza building collapse, President Obama made the decision in June 2013 to suspend Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits to Bangladesh.
Following this suspension, the US presented an Action Plan to improve labor, fire, and building structural soundness standards; remove obstacles to workers’ freedom of association and collective bargaining; and reform labor laws, including in the Export Processing Zones, to address the underlying concerns that led to suspension of GSP.
The US Assistant Secretary expressed concerned by recent reports of continuing extrajudicial killings and disappearances allegedly committed by security forces. “These abuses must stop immediately.”
comments powered by Disqus
The Anti-Corruption Commission on Wednesday sent notices to former health minister AFM Ruhal Haque and former state minister for water resources Mahbubur Rahman for interrogation... Full story
Bangladesh stand-in captain Mashrafe Mortaza won the toss and sent Sri Lanka in to bat in a Twenty20 international in Chittagong on Wednesday... Full story
The International Crimes Tribunal-2 on Wednesday formally closed the proceedings of the war crimes case against late Jamaat-e-Islami leader... Full story
Mentioning that Bangladesh had been a country of militancy, terrorism and corruption under the BNP-Jamaat rule, prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday said the soil of Bangladesh will not be allowed to become a playground of militancy and terrorism again by any means... Full story
Issuing a warning to his defying party men who took part in the January 5 polls without his consent, Jatiya Party chairman HM Ershad on Wednesday urged them to ‘come back’ to avert dumping into the dustbin... Full story
Terming the January 5 election a ‘deeply flawed’ one, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal on Tuesday said this could have serious ramifications for stability in Bangladesh and the region... Full story
The appellate division of the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the war crimes convict Salauddin Quader Chowdhury to submit by February 26 his summarized appeal arguments... Full story
BNP joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi on Wednesday alleged that the government is hatching diverse conspiracies to arrange ‘seat sharing-election’ like the 10th Jatiya Sangsad... Full story
The United States Department of Labour is working to establish a full-time labour attaché for its embassy here in Dhaka to ensure ‘greater engagement’ in workers’ rights and workplace safety in this country in the coming... Full story
An alleged carjacker was killed and his associate injured in a ‘gunfight’ with police at Chaltetala in the district town early Wednesday... Full story
Members of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) seized some 2,000 kgs of hilsa fish while those were being smuggled out to India through Gatipara border here early... Full story
The Sylhet police in a drive arrested a total of 18 fugitives, accused in separate cases, from different places of the city on Wednesday... Full story
At least six people were killed including four of a family, and, two others critically injured in separate road crashes in Sylhet and Faridpur districts Wednesday... Full story
A police constable, who sustained burn injuries in a petrol bomb attack while discharging duty at a Lakshmipur polling centre on the night (of January 4) before the 10th parliamentary polls, succumbed... Full story
A professional Bangladeshi photojournalist has started exploring the underwater diving in the Bay of Bengal coastal water in the Saint Martin’s... Full story
A military aircraft carrying 78 people crashed in Algeria's mountainous northeast on Tuesday, leaving just one survivor in one of the country's deadliest air disasters... Full story
North and South Korean officials sat down for their highest level talks for years Wednesday, marking a potential upswing in cooperation ahead of a reunion for families... Full story
Syria peace talks headed into a third day on Wednesday after sparking warnings of failure, but the evacuation of civilians from besieged rebel-held areas... Full story
Worldwide, one woman in 14 has been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner, according to the first global estimate of the problem, published on Wednesday... Full story
The father of a 12-year-old girl was arrested in Australia on Wednesday after allegedly marrying her off to a Muslim man 14 years her senior... Full story
Militants stormed a house of anti-Taliban activists and shot dead nine men in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar early Wednesday, police said, as government and Taliban negotiators... Full story