12:00 AM, January 08, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:38 AM, March 08, 2015

UN chief calls for meaningful talks

UN chief calls for meaningful talks

Saddened by violence, poor participation in polls; US, Japan for fresh polls
Diplomatic Correspondent
Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon

Censuring deadly violence centring the just-concluded elections in Bangladesh, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday called upon political parties to resume meaningful dialogue and urgently go for an inclusive political process.
The US, Australia and Japan also expressed concerns over the issue and suggested fresh polls to meet the people's expectation.
In a statement released by his spokesperson, Ban Ki-moon said, "The UN will continue to support the country's democratic process in accordance with the principles of inclusiveness, non-violence, reconciliation and dialogue."
The UN chief expressed sadness at the loss of lives and violent incidents that marred the January 5 parliamentary polls, which were characterised by "polarisation and low participation".
"He [Ban] regrets that the parties did not reach the kind of agreements which could have produced a peaceful, all-inclusive election outcome," reads the statement.
He urged all sides to exercise restraint and ensure first and foremost a peaceful and conducive environment, where people can maintain their right to assembly and expression.
"Violence and attacks on people and property can never be acceptable," said the UN chief.
The US has called for fresh polls in Bangladesh that reflect the will of the people, expressing strong concern over the just-concluded general elections, which it alleged was neither credible nor fair.
"We have been very clear about our strong concerns about the election and what we think the way forward should be. We believe Bangladesh still has an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to democracy by organising free and fair elections that are credible in the eyes of the Bangladeshi people," State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said.
"We did note that we were disappointed by the recent parliamentary elections, especially because so many of the seats were uncontested or only had token opposition. Obviously, we believe going forward things should be done very differently," she told reporters yesterday during the regular press briefing in Washington DC.
The response came when she was asked whether the new government was legitimate and if the US was planning to work with it.
Bangladesh still had a chance to have a different future, she said, adding that the US condemned in the strongest terms the violence coming from all quarters.
"We believe that violence has no place in a democratic process, and encourage Bangladesh going forward, the parties -- all parties and all sides -- to come together and move away from that kind of violence," said Marie.
The US official asserted violence was not an acceptable element of the political process.
Asked whether the US was planning to invoke its provisions of halting aids to Bangladesh, she said, "Well, this was parliamentary elections … I'm happy to check and see what the future holds in terms of our relationship and what that might look like."
In response to another question that how she knew it was a bad election since there had been no US observer, Marie said, "I think when we say observers, that's people like at polling stations. What I base the statement on was that more than half of the seats were uncontested and most of the remainder offered only token opposition. Obviously, you don't need to have an observer at a polling place to see that."
Harf said there had also been quite a bit of violence, which obviously did not need observers at a polling station to see.
Asked whether Bangladesh had sought any kind of help or the US offered any, she said, "Not to my knowledge. I am happy to check with our folks."
Japan yesterday called for initiating serious efforts by the political leadership in Bangladesh to provide the people with a voting opportunity that responds to their aspiration.
In a press release, Japanese Ambassador Shiro Sadoshima said, "Japan is aware that the people of Bangladesh have strong aspiration for making political choice based on their own free will without the fear of violence.
"Therefore, we are deeply disappointed by the fact that no agreement was achieved among major political parties on political framework prior to the implementation of the 10th parliamentary election,"
Referring to the ongoing violence, the envoy said Japan was deeply concerned about the political violence, which resulted in death and injury of so many people over the last several months.
“We strongly condemn all sorts of violence and intimidation toward people of Bangladesh, including attack against peaceful political activities, assault on minority communities, arbitrary arrest and obstruction of electioneering,” added the Japanese ambassador.
Australia has called for holding a new, fully contested and transparent election as soon as possible.
“While the elections were constitutionally valid, less than half the parliamentary seats were contested and voter turnout was low. The Australian Government condemns the attacks against minorities, and calls on all sides to end the political violence,” said Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop.
In a statement issued yesterday, she expressed deep concern at the ongoing violence and political discord which marred the election.
The Australian foreign minister said it had been reported that both the Awami League government and the opposition coalition led by the BNP contributed to the unstable political conditions.



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