• Saturday, April 19, 2014

Open dialogue for fresh polls

US Senate committee chief writes to Hasina, Khaleda

Diplomatic Correspondent

The US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has urged Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina, and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia to eschew street violence and begin negotiation for free, fair and inclusive elections.
Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the committee, made the call to the "two main political parties" in letters with similar content dated January 8. The letters are available on the senate committee's official website.
“The world is watching Bangladesh. As a strong supporter of our important bilateral relationship, I again urge renewed negotiations that will lead to free, fair, peaceful and inclusive elections and an immediate end to politically motivated violence," he said.
Menendez asked both the leaders to end the current deadlock to reaffirm their commitment to improving labour conditions in Bangladesh garment industry.
"The current political stalemate could destabilise the country and have long-term negative implications for the democratic process and economic prospects for Bangladesh. The people of Bangladesh deserve a durable, transparent and credible political process through which they can choose their future leaders," he wrote in his letters.
The senator strongly condemned the violence and unrest during the pre-election period and on the election day.
"Under no circumstances is violence an acceptable and legitimate expression of political views. The street violence must stop immediately and parties must have political space to peacefully express their views."
He said Bangladesh was a valued partner of the US and bilateral trade between the countries now tops $ 6 billion annually. US companies had made significant long-term investments in Bangladesh, he added.
"US relations with the people of Bangladesh have never been stronger and we partner on an increasingly wide array of common interests," the letters read.
The senator further said the current political deadlock and the associated violence significantly threatened US-Bangladesh common achievements and the potential for continued progress on a range of issues such as counterterrorism and counter-piracy, the mitigation of natural disasters, poverty alleviation and food security.
According to him, the ongoing political deadlock has had serious economic consequences and will further weaken the confidence of international investors.
He said, "To end this downward spiral, I strongly urge you to begin negotiations on new elections that are free, fair, peaceful and inclusive."
Menendez mentioned that both the countries are also working together to improve labour conditions in Bangladesh. "While some progress has been made on fire and building safety, much more remains to be done and I still have serious concerns regarding the organising environment for workers."
Terming the current period "tenuous", he urged both the leaders to publicly endorse the commitments to worker safety and labour rights embodied in the Generalised System of Preferences Action Plan.
The senator also requested Hasina and Khaleda to work closely with the US and the international community to empower workers and bolster the confidence of international investors and consumers in Bangladesh's garment sector.

Published: 12:01 am Sunday, January 12, 2014

Last modified: 10:12 pm Sunday, January 12, 2014

TAGS: Bangladesh BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia US Senator Robert Menendez US Senate Committee Foreign Relations Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina political parties US companies Bangladesh's garment sector.

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