Political parties must have river, water issues in manifestos: IFC
The International Farakka Committee (IFC) has urged the government and all political parties to give greater importance to river and water issues in their political manifestos because Bangladesh owes its origin to rivers and is dependent on those for survival. Sayed Tipu Sultan, Secretary General of IFC, New York, made this call at an opinion exchange meeting at the Sagor-Runi Hall of the Dhaka Reporters Unity on Saturday. The government and all concerned should also prepare to negotiate a new treaty on the Ganges with guarantee and arbitration clauses as the present 30-year Ganges Treaty will end in 2026. This is an appropriate time to talk on water issues as some parties are in a movement for democracy while others have started campaigning for general elections, he said. Sayed Tipu Sultan said, we want to have friendly and peaceful relations with our neighbours, but the irony is that all 54 common rivers that flow into Bangladesh, and account for 90 percent of its fresh surface water, have been embanked, depriving the country of their normal flows. The 30-year Ganges Treaty has failed to bring the agreed quantum of water. The entire dry season flow of the Teesta is being diverted for two decades. A process of desertification has thus started in the Southwestern and the Northern parts of Bangladesh, he added. Read more: Don’t sign off on Kushiara before Teesta: Farakka Committee Water salinity has intruded from the seashore to 200 miles deep inland affecting agriculture, fishery, industry and fresh-water vegetation. The existence of the Sundarbans, UNESCO designated heritage site for mankind, has been threatened. Because of the dams and barrages on the common rivers, Bangladesh is on the one hand deprived of normal rainy season inundation of its floodplains with devastation effects on its riverine ecosystem, and on the other facing flood disasters at intervals that serve severe blows to agriculture, economy and life and livelihood of the people. Last year the People of the Sylhet region were battered by the worst flood in 20 years while the Teesta basin experienced four waves of flood and riverbank erosion. The Indo-Bangla Joint Rivers Commission met after nine years last year to sign a MoU on water sharing of the Kushiara, an essentially Bangladeshi river. Earlier withdrawal of water from Bangladesh’s Feni River upstream in India was formalised, but the Teesta treaty remained elusive. The largest delta in the world, Bangladesh faces threat to its existence as the rivers that created it over the millennia and sustain it have been blocked. Political leaders should create national unity on this question of life and death of the people. Read more: Ensure flow of common rivers, avert disaster: Farakka Committee Sayed Tipu Sultan reiterated the IFC demand for implementation of the Teesta Master Plan to save two crore people living in the Bangladesh part of its basin from recurring floods and riverbank erosion. Among others, Mostafa Kamal Majumder, coordinator, Ataur Rahman Ata, joint secretary of IFC also spoke at the opinion exchange meeting.
US calls on all political parties in Bangladesh to respect rule of law, avoid violence
The United States has called on all political parties in Bangladesh to respect the rule of law, refrain from violence, harassment and intimidation."Genuine elections require the ability of all candidates to engage voters free from violence, harassment and intimidation," said US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price during a regular media briefing in Washington DC on January 3.When it comes to reports of violence, harassment, intimidation, unjustified detention, he said, they call on the government to investigate these reports thoroughly, transparently, impartially, and to hold the perpetrators to account.The US spokesperson said they call on the Bangladesh government to ensure that no party or candidate threatens, incites, or conducts violence against another party or candidate.On Monday, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said the government is not worried about the next national election, noting that the election will be held timely and fairly."Election will be held at the time of election. We believe in people," he told reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Momen said the government is committed to holding a "free, fair, transparent, and inclusive" election.He said it would be good if all parties join the next election. If not, that is okay too, he said.Asked whether the government could assure the foreigners about a fair election, Momen said, “It’s not our headache; it is your headache. Why should I assure foreigners? If we work accordingly, they will understand.”He said the next election is still far and in other countries they see election-related events just two months ahead of the scheduled election. “Here we see election-centric noises one year ahead of the election. This is very sad.”Momen said there is an "independent Election Commission with transparent arrangements" to hold fair elections.
Will act against those trying to create anarchy: Home Minister
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan today said that action will be taken if anyone tries to create anarchy in the country. Political parties have to do politics, abiding by rules, the home minister said at the inauguration ceremony of Upazila Ansar and VDP office in Bagha of Rajshahi. Read more: There was no lack of security during US ambassador’s Shaheenbagh visit: Home Minister He said that the law and order situation in the country is satisfactory and the police force is working with patriotism and bravery. “If political parties of the country do not follow rules, they will be held accountable.” “Every force is working efficiently. Ansar and VDP are among them,” said the minister, adding that when police cannot be deployed in elections, Ansar personnel are deployed. “Around 2,00,000 Ansar members performed their duties bravely when arson attacks were carried out in the country,” the minister said. Regarding killings at Bangladesh-India border, the home minister said, “Talks have been held with India to stop border killings. They (India) also do not support such killings.” Read more: Fardin Noor: Home Minister puts faith in RAB, DB investigation Besides, India has requested the Bangladesh government to take care of the issue of free movement in the border areas, he added. “The government is also keeping an eye on it.” If there is a problem at the border, an immediate flag meeting is being held. The home ministries of both countries are also working together to solve various problems and crises, the home minister said. In order to make the field level activities of Bangladesh Ansar and VDP more dynamic and up to date, construction of upazila Ansar and VDP model buildings is underway in 13 upazilas of Bangladesh. Construction of nine Upazila Ansar and VDP buildings has been completed.
Vote counting finishes in Fiji election with no clear winner
Vote counting finished in Fiji's general election Sunday but there was no clear winner, and various political parties are now negotiating to form a coalition government. The election had pitted two former coup leaders against each other. Sitiveni Rabuka, who led a coup back in 1987 and later served as an elected prime minister in the 1990s, emerged as the main challenger to Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who has held power for the past 16 years. Rabuka’s People’s Alliance Party and allies the National Federation Party won about 45% of the vote combined. Bainimarama's Fiji's First party, meanwhile, won about 43%. That has left both sides seeking to form a coalition with the Social Democrat Liberal Party. The liberal party's general secretary Lenaitasi Duru told media they were having meetings with both sides. “The first round of negotiations was done yesterday,” Duru said. "We are expecting more negotiations later this afternoon.” He said the party's priorities included Indigenous affairs and education. “Right now we’re sitting in the middle," Duru said. "We’re watching and waiting for what is on offer, then we’ll make the decision based on what’s best for the nation.” Earlier, on Friday, Rabuka's party and four others had said they were launching a nationwide petition because they had no faith in the integrity of election officials. Read more: Peru s presidential runoff election too close to call But an international group that monitored the election said Friday it did not observe any voting irregularities and the process was transparent and credible. The dispute had threatened to destabilize the Pacific nation’s fragile democracy, which has been marred by four military coups in the past 35 years. Rebekha Sharkie, an Australian lawmaker and co-chair of the 90-strong Multinational Observer Group, told reporters in Fiji they had unrestricted access to the election process and didn't observe any irregularities. She said the group had assessed that Fijians were able to vote freely. Rabuka’s concerns came after his party had been leading in preliminary results posted online after polls closed, but then the results app stopped working. Election officials said they’d found an anomaly in the system and needed to reload the results. When the next batch of results was posted, Bainimarama’s party was in front. Election officials later stopped their provisional count and switched to a final count. Bainimarama first seized the top job by force in 2006 and later refashioned himself as a democratic leader by introducing a new constitution and winning elections in 2014 and again in 2018. Fiji is known abroad as a tourist paradise that is dotted with pristine beaches and filled with friendly, relaxed people. Read more: Congress removes Peru's president amid political unrest However, the past few years have proved tough for many people in the nation of just under 1 million, after tourism evaporated when COVID-19 hit and the economy tanked. The World Bank estimates the nation’s poverty rate is about 24%.
PM to political parties: Let’s all take part in next parliamentary polls
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday said the government wants the participation of all political parties in the next parliamentary election, but it’s up to a political party to join it or not. “It is the decision of any political party whether to participate in the election or not. We can’t impose anything there…..Yes, we definitely want all parties to join it,” she said. The premier said this while replying to a question at a press conference arranged at her official residence Ganobhaban on the outcome of her recent official visit to the UK and the USA. Read: Election Commission independent, can hold fair polls: PM tells VOA Hasina said the Awami League, along with its allies and all others, made all the improvements and reforms in the country’s electoral system. “Even that if anyone doesn’t join, what can we do?” she said. “Yes, we want all parties to join the election and vie in the polls. Awami League will never come power, rigging votes at least and didn’t do (in the past) also,” she said. Pointing at BNP, she said they blamed the government when they lost the national election, giving nomination to 700 aspirants in 300 constituencies in 2018. “Do the people vote for those who killed people through arson violence? They (the people) never can do,” said Hasina, also the president of Awami League. Read: PM in NY: Election will be fair, BNP has no reason to worry She said Awami League came to power time and again working for the people, winning their hearts and cashing in their votes. AL never came out from the pocket of any military dictator. “AL always came to power through votes and elections,” she added. The AL chief said her party’s triennial council will be held in December next and the party started taking preparation for the 12th parliamentary elections to be held late 2023 or early 2024. She said AL is now perhaps the only party in the country that abides by its charter always.
GM Quader meets EU envoy
Jatiya Party Chairman GM Quader met European Union Ambassador to Bangladesh Charles Whiteley on Sunday morning. The EU envoy invited Quader for breakfast meeting at his residence in the city’s Gulshan, according to a press release. Meanwhile, the EU Ambassador tweeted, "European Union (EU) Heads of mission are continuing their regular meetings with political parties to gain insights into the outlook in Bangladesh. Today, together with HOMs of Sweden and Denmark, we met GM Quader, Chairman of the Jatiya Party for a wide-ranging exchange.” Ambassadors of Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Norway and France in Dhaka were present at the meeting.
EVMs in 150 constituencies: EC finalises Tk 8,711cr project
The Election Commission (EC) today approved a Tk 8,711 crore project to procure Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for 150 constituencies, out of 300, for the 12th parliamentary election. The project details will soon be sent to the Planning Commission for approval, Election Commissioner Md Alamgir said in a press briefing. Earlier, the project was approved in a meeting of the commission. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal, who recently tested positive for Covid-19, joined the meeting virtually. Read: Jatiya Party to shun alliances at next election: GM Quader EC Alamgir said, “The commission earlier decided to use EVMs in 150 constituencies, in the next general election, but 1.5 lakh machines we currently have can be used in highest 70 to 80 constituencies.” So, the project was approved to procure and maintain new EVMs, he said. The Election Commission unveiled roadmap for next the general election at a function held at the auditorium of the Nirbachan Bhaban on Wednesday. Read: Next national election by Jan 29, 2024; EVMs to be used in 150 constituencies On August 23, the EC decided to use electronic voting machines instead of traditional ballot papers in maximum 150 constituencies in the next general election – likely to be held late next year. The decision received strong opposition from BNP and its allies, who didn’t join the talks with the CEC that continued throughout the month of July. However, the ruling Awami League welcomed the decision as it was their demand to use EVMs in all 300 seats in the next election. Read AL in favour of using EVMs in national election: Quader Earlier, the commission had invited 39 political parties registered with it for talks on the use of electronic voting machines; 28 political parties responded to the commission’s invitations while 11 parties, including BNP, rejected it.
Dipu Moni for participation of all parties in elections
Minister for Education Dr Dipu Moni said on Wednesday that they want the participation of all political parties in the upcoming zilla parishad and national elections. She also said there is no scope for bringing in any political party if they have the intention to make the elections questionable. Minister Moni, also joint general secretary of the ruling Awami League (AL), said this while responding to queries from journalists at a function at Chandpur Circuit House in the evening. Asked about the use of the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) in the elections, she said the use of the EVMs depends on the election commission (EC), and the AL will assist them in holding a fair election. “I don’t know whether all parties will reach a point regarding the use of the EVM, however, we will have to march forward for the sake of development with technology unless all are agreed,” Dipu said. Read: AL wants competitive elections: Obaidul Quader The minister reiterated that the national elections will be held on time and won’t wait for anyone. Some political parties oppose opposition without reasonable grounds. Expressing her optimism of participation of all competent parties in the upcoming election, she said it is their political right if they don’t compete in the election despite having all arrangements. Chandpur Deputy Commissioner Kamrul Hasan, Superintendent of Police Milon Mahmud and the party’s leaders and activists were present there.
EC begins talks with political parties
The Election Commission (EC) Sunday has started its dialogue with the registered political parties ahead of the next parliamentary elections. The Nationalist Democratic Movement, Bangladesh Nationalist Front, Bangladesh Congress and Bangladesh Muslim League joined the talks Sunday as part of a dialogue series. The EC commissioners and secretary also joined the meeting. The commission will continue the dialogues till July 31, the EC officials said. The Bangladesh Islamic Front, Bangladesh Sangskritik Muktijot, Khilafat Majlish and Bangladesh Biplobi Workers Party are scheduled to join the dialogue Monday. The commission invited the Bangladesh Kalyan Party, Islamic Oikya Jote, Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish and Bangladesher Samyabadi Dal to talks Tuesday. The EC is scheduled to sit with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Ganatantri Party and Bangladesh National Awami Party Wednesday. However, the BNP already said it would not join the talks. The EC will have talks with the Bangladesh Tarikat Federation, Bangladesh Jatiya Party, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal and Gano Front the next day. The Bangladesh Khilafat Andolan, Jatiya Party (JP), Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal and Islamic Front Bangladesh are scheduled to join the EC dialogue on July 24 and the Bangladesh Muslim League, Workers Party of Bangladesh, Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal and Liberal Democratic Party on July 25. Also, the commission invited the Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam Bangladesh, Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh, Islami Andolan Bangladesh and National People's Party to its dialogue on July 26. The Bangladesh Jatiya Party, Zaker Party and Krishak Sramik Janata League were invited to talks on July 27. The commission is also scheduled to hold dialogues with the Gano Forum, Bangladesh National Awami Party and Communist Party of Bangladesh on July 28. The Awami League and Jatiya Party are scheduled to hold talks with the EC on July 31. Earlier, the commission had invited 39 political parties registered with it to talks on the use of electronic voting machines; 28 political parties responded to the commission's invitations while 11 parties, including the BNP, rejected it.
Don’t run away from election, CEC urges the political parties
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal on Sunday urged the political parties to stay in the election field saying that the Commission will fail if all political parties don’t cooperate with it. “You must have a concerted effort. If someone stands with a sword, you should stand with a rifle or another sword. If you run, what do I do? We will help. We’ll have command over the police and the government,” he said. The CEC made the remarks at the meeting with a team of Nationalist Democratic Movement (NDM), which was held at the Nirbachan Bhaban here, opening the EC’s dialogues with registered political parties. "We can’t stop the violence. You (political parties) also have to take responsibility. You are the players. You play on the field. We’re the referees. We’ve huge power. The power is not less. We’ll apply the power,” he said. Habibul asked the people not to judge the current commission by the performances of the last two general elections in 2014 and 2018. “We’ll take responsibility of the elections conducted by us. We will make every effort to make the election participatory and impartial. If all parties do not cooperate, we will fail there,” he said. In response to CEC's statement, NDM chairman Bobby Hajjaj said that the law doesn’t permit standing with shotguns. However, the CEC did not make any further comments in response. Later at seperate talks with Bangladesh Congress, Habibul changed his stance asking the political parties not to engage in electoral fights with swords and riffles. Describing the election as one kind of fighting, he said none should fight with weapons here. “Actually, you will have to fight with public support. Don't fight with swords-rifles.....fight for the ballots. You’ll have to fight the battle for ballots,” he went on. About the election-time government, Habibul in the talks with NDM said, “The one that will be there during the election is the government. I have repeatedly said that the political party and the government are not the same.... We will seek help from the government. If the government does not help, then there could be dire consequences of the election.” Also read: CEC assures OECD countries’ envoys of holding inclusive, acceptable polls He said the participation of political parties, particularly major parties in the election is very essential. “I can’t force any party to participate in the election. But we will continue asking all parties repeatedly to participate effectively. We will continue that effort,'' he added. He said the public opinion would not be reflected accurately unless there is no competition in the election. The CEC said if only a political party forms the government winning 300 constituencies, there is no constitutional barrier here. But history says, in that case, democracy will die soon, he went on. Also read: Despite pros and cons, EVMs better than ballots: CEC About the Electronic Voting Machines, the CEC said the EC went for open talks with political parties and experts following arrangement of five to seven workshops on EVMs. “No one could show any flaw,” he continued. Noting that the propaganda over the EVMs continues, he said there is confusion and doubt about EVMs. “We are really worried.... It is our hope that the national leaders will resolve the contentious issues through intensive discussions with a positive attitude and create a favorable environment and level playing field in the upcoming general election,” he added. The NDM team led by its chairman Bobby Hajjaj placed an eight-point proposal in the meeting. The proposals include staggering the holding the national elections, bringing the full control of public administration under the EC during the election, incorporating audit paper trail (Voter-verified paper audit trail-VVPAT) in EVMs, stopping the wholesale arrest in political cases after announcement of election schedules and controlling the ceiling of election expenditures strongly. The delegation of Bangladesh Congress, led by its chairman Advocate Kazi Rezaul Hossain, raised a number of proposals in the dialogue with the EC. The proposals include running three ministries –-home, public administration and defence-– by the CEC during the election and announcement of schedule three months before election. Other proposals include introduction of printed tokens with electoral symbols in the EVMs and allocating .02pc of the national budget for registered political parties and distributing the money equally among the parties to run the parties and spend these for social welfare. In a separate meeting, a team of Bangladesh Nationalist Front-BNF, led by its president SM Abul Kalam Azad expressed uncertainty over a credible and participatory election in the existing political culture. In this context, BNF asked the Election Commission to play a bold role as a constitutional body. The party, in a written statement, said the social unrest, political instability, absence of a strong opposition political party in the parliament is pushing the parliamentary democratic system towards uncertainty in the country. “In this situation, an acceptable and participatory election in a peaceful manner is uncertain.” The EC invited four parties out of 39 registered political parties to join its dialogues separately on Sunday. But three parties participated in the talks. Bangladesh Muslim League-BML didn’t join the scheduled talks.