Top US official stresses need for transparent probe
Conveying disappointment both at irregularities in the city corporation elections and BNP’s boycott midway, Washington said the focus must now be on a transparent investigation to ensure improvement in the next election.
“We remain focused on a long-term solution that accommodates all parties and allow the Bangladeshi people to peacefully express their views,” said a top US diplomat in Dhaka on Friday.
Speaking at a joint press conference on the outcome of the two-day 4th Partnership Dialogue, US under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman stressed, need for focusing on to have a transparent investigation into those electoral irregularities.
“I think what everyone needs to focus on how the next election is highly improved and that is very important for democracy,” she said adding “I am here to discuss finding ways that two moderate, pluralistic nations can work together to advance common goals.”
Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque, who led the Bangladesh delegation at the 2-day dialogue, said they discussed issues of three broad areas -- development and governance; trade and investment and security cooperation in the discussion.
“We’re extremely happy as the meeting was held in a very productive manner. Many issues came up for discussion,” he said.
Speaking about the partnership dialogue, Sherman said they have broadened the discussion to include an emphasis on the environment, health and infectious diseases, and the blue (maritime) economy.
Terming relations with Bangladesh strong, deep and vibrant, she said, “We’re working very closely in strengthening our bilateral relationship and support Bangladesh to achieve its economic and social development goals.”
“We support Bangladesh’s goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2021—and we are actively partnering with Bangladesh and investing our resources to make it a reality,” said the US diplomat.
The Under Secretary said the US is eager to work with Bangladesh to help raise incomes and livelihoods in Bangladesh by connecting the growing economies of South and Southeast Asia.
“We think Bangladesh has near-unlimited potential to transform both itself and its region, and we are excited to be your strong partner in reaching that potential,” she said.
Appreciating Bangladesh’s contribution to the peacekeeping efforts, the US official said Bangladesh’s contribution in peacekeeping is second to none.
She mentioned that in a just few days, they are providing Bangladesh with its second Coast Guard Cutter. “Ambassador Bernicat will deliver the ship to Vice Admiral Habib at a ceremony in California on May 6.”
The US diplomat said the US is increasing its security cooperation and Bangladesh is already a force for global peace and stability. “And with its improving naval capabilities, Bangladesh will become a key maritime security provider in the Bay of Bengal.”
The Under Secretary thinks expanding the country’s investments in women and girls – by preventing early and forced marriage and encouraging girls’ completion of secondary school – will foster broader and more sustainable economic growth.
“Prime Minister Hasina (Sheikh Hasina) has been an outspoken champion of empowering women and girls, and we share the view that a country’s true strength is determined by how well it integrates and its entire population,” she added.
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia has informed the visiting US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman about the widespread irregularities and vote rigging with documents in the recently held elections at the three city corporations.
Before leaving Dhaka on May 1, Sherman went to Khaleda’s Gulshan residence around 4:27pm and held nearly a half an hour meeting with her.
Accompanied by US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat and other US officials, Shermen did not talk with reporters about the outcome of their meeting.
However, talking to reporters, BNP standing committee member Abdul Moyeen Khan who was present in the meeting, said the BNP chief projected the country’s political situation, the government’s repressive acts, sacking of opposition-backed elected representatives from different local government bodies, repression on the opposition leaders and activists and filing of false cases against them.
Khaleda also provided Shermen with various documents and footage on the issues, he added. Asked what Shermen told Khaleda regarding the April 28 city corporation elections, Khan said the US delegation has already expressed their views very clearly in written.
Meeting sources said the BNP chief told Shermen that her party is repeatedly calling upon the government to sit in dialogue for holding a free, fair and inclusive general election in the country to resolve the ongoing political stalemate but Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is not paying any heed to their call.
Khaleda’s advisers--Reaz Rahman and Sabihuddin Ahmed assisted Khaleda in the meeting.