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Discussion on Bangladesh Elections and Minority issues held at European Parliament

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Brussels: Campaign for Protection of the Religious Minorities in Bangladesh (CPRMB) and Secular Bangladesh Movement, UK jointly organised a Discussion at the European Parliament in Brussels on “Bangladesh Election 2018- The State of Politics, Economy and Society” on 10 July 2018.

The discussion was convened by the British MEP, Dr Charles Tannock who is also the UK Conservative Party Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Spokesman for London. The Seminar discussed at length the political and economic setting in Bangladesh in the run up to the 2018 elections as well as the threats of terrorism, minority rights issues and the rule of law within the country. The seminar also discussed how the international community can help to strengthen Bangladeshi democracy and governance. Speakers from Bangladesh were: political advisor to the PM of Bangladesh, H T Imam, former Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, advisor to the PM of Bangladesh Mashiur Rahman:  and from Europe, MEP Ms. Jean Lambert, head of European Bangladesh affairs group, Professor Willem van der Geest, an economist, Dr. Siegfried Wolf, a SE Asia terrorist expert, Baroness Mobarrak from London, Sayeed Kamal, MEP, Sajjad Karim, member of European Parliamentary Group, Amjad Bashir, Pusphpita Gupta of  Secular Movement for Bangladesh UK and Ajit Saha of CPRMB. The seminar was held in a committee room of the Parliament.

Leaders from the main opposition party, BNP were also invited to the Seminar, according to the organisers. But they refused to participate in the seminar on the ground that they would not be given enough floor to place their arguments. Around 40 participants took part in the seminar. Awami league leaders from a number of European countries, human rights activists also took part.

 

Speakers in the seminar underscored the need for an independent and strong Election Commission to ensure free and fair elections in Bangladesh. They said, to keep the pace of current development intact this is very important. Ms Jean Lambert in her speech called upon the government of Bangladesh to take stern actions against those who created and took part in violence in different elections in the country. She also called for ensuring the rights of peaceful protests by all in Bangladesh.

Ms Dipu Moni former Foreign minister said, the forthcoming elections will be free and fair and there will be scopes for observation teams. But if any party does not want to join the polls, it means they already know that they are rejected by the people because of their past deeds. (In this meeting BNP leaders were invited, but BNP says in such meetings in the past BNP was leaders were not given enough floor to express their views. That is why BNP did not take part in this meeting in Brussels.)

 

At the start of the meeting Charles Tennock MEP appreciated the progress of Bangladesh but also mentioned about the challenge of terrorism. South East Asia terrorism expert Dr Wolf Siegfried accused Jamaat-e-Islami of the spread of religious extremism in Bangladesh. He said, although Jamaat is not registered with the Election Commission, this party will have influence in the coming elections. He said, terrorism is being expanded to the madrashas and universities in Bangladesh. Even the Rohingya refugee camps and the jails have become the targets of terrorism and violence, he added.

 

But Ms. Lambert said, it is not that only one party is working to spread religious terrorism, lot of other groups are also involved. Charles Tennock said, it would be very unfortunate if BNP attempts to make Jamaat accepted to people. PM’s two advisors from Dhaka gave a list of the success stories of AL government in last 9 years. Pushpita Gupta and Ajit Saha gave a description of the atrocities meted out to the Hindu community members during the AL government period and said, the present government has failed to ensure the lives and properties of the minority community members. Their allegations were refuted by the Bangladeshi delegates from Dhaka.