Canada wants dialogue between ruling Awami League and BNP to determine the framework for holding the next elections.
“We call for dialogue, and hope two parties would hold dialogue not only for the elections, but for the framework of next elections,” said Canadian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Heather Cruden today.
“We want to see shift in political culture…in democracy there must be scope for dissents, but that must be peaceful, not violent,” she said about the possible movement by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
The diplomat was addressing a meet the press programme organised by the Diplomatic Correspondents Association of Bangladesh (DCAB) at the Jatiya Press Club in the capital.
Terming the violence ahead of the January 5 elections “distressingly regular part of life”, she said the minorities, in particular Hindus, suffered brunt of many of the attacks.
Heather Cruden said many individuals from religious minorities remain sadly unprotected and continue to fear for their lives.
She said the January 5 election was constitutional, but Canada was disappointed that more than half the parliamentary seats were not contested.
However, she said, all were relieved with the cease of the violence after the polling.
“We all hope the violence will not be starting again,” she said, adding that five-year cycle of electoral violence and instability should be broken.
The diplomat said democracy requires strong independent institutions, space for the media and civil society to be able to constructively criticise the government and strengthen governance.
Asked on the government’s new restrictive broadcasting policy and some politicians’ objectionable remarks in the recent days, Heather Cruden said, “We will continue to closely monitor it.”
“When other institutions of the state are unable, it is left to the media to hold governments to account,” she said, stressing on freedom of the press.
On trade issues, she said Canada wants to help Bangladesh prosper, especially through training human resources and development of readymade garment (RMG) sector, and that now the Canadian companies are helping ensure safety of the RMG factories.
“Let me be clear: there is no alternative. After Rana Plaza, Canadian consumers will not tolerate clothes made in dangerous conditions,” Heather said.
If Bangladesh’s garment sector continues to improve working and safety conditions, it can thrive, otherwise it will wither, she told journalists.
Stating that RMG sector is vital for Bangladesh and that must grow, but “this must not come at the expense of workers’ lives”, said the diplomat of Canada that has a 1.8 billion annual trade with Bangladesh and is a major importer of clothes from here.
DCAB President Mainul Alam and General Secretary Angur Nahar Monty also spoke.