Only leaders of the two main political parties -- Awami League and BNP -- can agree on conditions that would pave the way for free and fair elections, said UN Resident Coordinator in Dhaka Neal Walker yesterday.
He said, “My view is that the solution must come from Bangladesh, mainly from two political leaders. This really depends on the will of both sides … there're no outsiders and the UN never pretended to do that.
“ … Solution to democratic evolution in Bangladesh can only be formulated and implemented by Bangladeshis.”
Asked if the UN, after failing in its first attempt in last December, would take a second initiative to bring the feuding parties to the table, he told diplomatic correspondents that the UN secretary-general remains very open to continuing his good offices but “it really depends on the will of both the sides”.
Diplomatic Correspondents Association Bangladesh (DCAB) arranged the “DCAB Talk” with its president Mainul Alam in the chair. DCAB general secretary Angur Nahar Monty was also present.
UN Assistant Secretary for Political Affairs Oscar Fernández-Taranco in December had facilitated three rounds of talks between Awami League and the BNP to find a solution.
Walker, who himself facilitated one round of talks at his residence, said the UN had simply tried to get the two parties to sit together and talk about the issues.
He said the issues include whether the prime minister's power could somehow be managed in times of elections, composition and structure of the election-time government, security of citizens and political parties and independent Election Commission.
These issues are defined by Bangladeshis not by the UN, the UN official said.
In reply to a question Walker said the UN still stressed the need for creating conditions for inclusive elections in Bangladesh but never want to put any timeline for the elections.
He laid emphasis on an inclusive democracy that would allow the two leading parties to compete on a level playing field and that would allow Bangladeshi voters the choices they want to have.
“What Bangladesh witnessed in 2013 serves only to strengthen radical and or conservative religious groups, it distorts dialogue, which should have been focused on the political platforms of the two leading parties, instead of on the caretaker government yes or the caretaker government no. This is a problem which only Bangladeshis can solve,” he said.
On Gaza, he said the UN chief has made a strong statement and other steps have been taken. “He's investing himself personally in this issue.”
He said the UN is owned by its member states. “Only the member states can decide what the UN does. Ask us to act. If you do not ask us to act, we can't act.”
He did not see any failure of the UN in handling the Gaza issue.