Foreign envoy’s comments: EC, govt sing same tune
The Election Commission and the government have picked up similar tones against statements by foreign diplomats on Bangladesh's domestic issues, such as elections.
The government yesterday said it would not tolerate any interference of foreign diplomats in Bangladesh's internal matters, while the EC said foreign envoys in Dhaka should think before speaking about polls in Bangladesh.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Mohammed Shahriar Alam yesterday reminded diplomats of the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The convention requires diplomats to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state. It also restricts them from meddling in the host nation's domestic affairs.
Over the last few months, foreign diplomats commented on the upcoming general elections during meetings with the chief election commissioner (CEC) as well as in other programmes.
The diplomats said they want a free and fair general election for Bangladeshis to choose their leaders. Credible elections are a must to ensure that democratic institutions of the country are effective, they said.
Turkish Ambassador to Bangladesh Mustafa Osman Turan yesterday said Bangladesh would miss the opportunity to hold a free and fair election if opposition parties did not take part in it.
On Monday, Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Ito Naoki said he heard about an example of "ballot box stuffing" and that some police officers stuffed ballot boxes the night before the polls, something he "never heard" anywhere else in the world.
"Such incidents should never be repeated," he remarked while speaking at an event titled "Meet the Ambassador" at a Dhaka hotel.
UK High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson on August 22 said, "A fair election must ensure that all parties are allowed to participate, everyone should be able to cast their vote freely, and the results of the election must be accepted by all parties."
He also said fair and credible elections are a must to ensure that democratic institutions are effective.
On June 8, US Ambassador Peter Haas after a meeting with the CEC said the US wants a general election in which the Bangladeshi people can choose their leaders and that the holding of a credible election was the job of the EC and the entire society.
The heads and deputy heads of the missions of the 14 countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development after a meeting with the CEC on July 3 said ensuring an electoral environment that is participatory and free from violence and intimidation is crucial.
Election Commissioner Anisur Rahman yesterday said, "I think, first it should be clear whether such comments were their personal comments, or if it was their country's comment. I can say a lot personally but as an election commissioner, I can't say much. They should think before making comments."
He said foreign diplomats work and speak in line with the Vienna convention and that every host country is unique which should be kept in mind.
On Monday, Shahriar Alam in a Facebook post said, "We summoned the Japanese Ambassador. We conveyed necessary messages to him. We do not think there is a need to say everything in detail in the media, so we do not want to make any further statement in any media on this matter."
Shahriar on Tuesday said the Japanese ambassador's comments on Bangladesh's election was "unexpected and the government would take appropriate steps if any foreign diplomat crosses the line".
Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque yesterday said any interference of foreign diplomats in the country's internal issues will not be tolerated.
"Persons who do this will be warned. The Japanese ambassador will also be warned," he said while talking to reporters in Meherpur.
"Bangladesh is an independent and sovereign country. We've liberated it through a bloody war. We'll not give any concession on the question of the country's dignity," he said.
An election commissioner said activities of many Bangladeshi politicians create the scope for foreign diplomats to make comments on internal matters of the country.
Another commissioner said some foreign diplomats were talking about incidents that might have happened during the tenure of the previous EC.
The previous two ECs were criticised for holding "one-sided" polls in 2014 in which 153 MPs out of 300 were elected unopposed amid polls boycott by major opposition parties and arson attacks on polling stations, and for failing to stop alleged ballot box stuffing the night before the 2018 polls.