US reiterates need for free, fair polls
Two top US officials yesterday again highlighted the importance of free and fair elections, and protecting democracy, human rights and the freedom of expression.
They made separate statements after meeting Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday.
US State Department Counsellor Derek Chollet in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, wrote, "We discussed our cooperation on economic development and climate change and the importance of protecting freedom of expression and democracy."
Earlier in May, the US announced a visa policy that said it would deny visas to those who would be found involved in vote rigging and intimidation over national polls in Bangladesh.
In December 2021, Washington imposed sanctions against Rab and seven of its officials for alleged human rights violations. It also refrained from inviting Bangladesh to the Democracy Summit that year and in 2023, creating a strain on the bilateral relations.
Over the last year and half, numerous visiting US officials and US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas repeatedly stressed the need for free and fair elections against the backdrop of the two previous polls marred by irregularities.
The foreign ministry in a statement yesterday said Momen and Chollet discussed democracy, human rights and the elections.
Momen told Chollet how Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina played a critical role in restoring democracy and human rights from previous "autocratic regimes".
He said there had been a rise in terrorist activities, militancy, deterioration of human rights and a fake voters' list during the BNP-Jamaat alliance government, adding Bangladesh returned to stability and saw a notable socio-economic development after Awami League came to power again.
The minister told the US officials that the Bangladesh government is committed to holding a free, fair and neutral election. Thus, it formed an independent and strong election commission.
"This Election Commission already fairly conducted local government elections and proved their capacity," he told Chollet.
Momen thanked the US for providing humanitarian assistance to the Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh and sought its further support for their quick repatriation.
Derek Chollet lauded Bangladesh for its socio-economic development and sheltering the Rohingyas.
While speaking to Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen on the UNGA sidelines, Uzra Zeya, US under secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, reiterated the importance of free and fair elections and the freedom of expression in Bangladesh.
After the meeting, she yesterday posted on X saying she had a productive conversation with the foreign secretary of Bangladesh.
"Appreciated meeting again to discuss the importance of free and fair elections, freedom of expression, and continued humanitarian support for [the] Rohingya [refugees] and communities that host them."