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Hold talks for credible polls, Hillary tells Bangladesh politicians
Publication Date : 06-05-2012
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday urged all political actors in Bangladesh to settle their differences through dialogue and plan for holding the next general election in a free, fair and credible manner.
She expressed concern about the disappearance of BNP leader Ilias Ali and the killing of a labour leader, and called for thorough and independent probe into the incidents.
"We urge all political actors to work together regardless of their differences. All political actors must work together for constructive dialogue so that democracy gets sustained path," she said at a joint press briefing at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in Dhaka after a 75-minute meeting with her counterpart Dipu Moni.
The two top diplomats later signed the “Joint Declaration on Bangladesh-US Dialogue on Partnership” to hold annual dialogue on bilateral relations and priorities in Dhaka and Washington DC by turns.
"We want to see Bangladesh as a prosperous democratic country despite challenges of democratic process," said Hillary, who arrived in Dhaka yesterday on a two-day visit.
Her visit, first by a US secretary of state since 2003, reflects USA's growing interest in strengthening ties with Asian nations.
In 1995, Hillary visited Bangladesh as the US first lady with her daughter Chelsea. In 2000, Bill Clinton, the then US president and Hillary's husband, visited Bangladesh.
Hillary stressed the need for a consensus among all in Bangladesh on fundamental issues for the sake of democracy, sustainable development and the rule of law.
"Democracy must flourish in Bangladesh," she said.
"We support flourishing of democracy and the rule of law. We urge all political actors to work together for the good of this country."
Hillary said in a strong democracy "everybody has to be rowing in the same direction because you are all in the same boat. You are going to make progress together or you are going to run into very turbulent waters."
Everybody has a role to play in democracy, said Hillary.
"We came as a friend and partner…we raise these issues as we are friend and partner of Bangladesh."
On the Grameen Bank issue, Hillary said the Bangladesh government should allow the organisation to operate freely. She also underscored the need for picking an acceptable and respected person as its managing director.
Referring to the civil society's role, the top US diplomat said civil society is a model and inspiration for flourishing democracy in any country. It is essential that civil society groups operate freely in Bangladesh.
Hillary said the killing of labour leader Aminul Islam and the disappearance of BNP leader Ilias Ali came up during the talks, and she urged the government to carry out thorough and independent investigations into the incidents.
"It is important that in this country ... everybody takes seriously any disappearance, any violence against activists, any oppression of civil society, any intimidation of the press…that is just what is required in the 21st century if democracy [is to be] sustainable."
She said Foreign Minister Dipu Moni assured that the government is probing all these incidents.
"Any violence, disappearance or repression on civil society and the press is contrary to democracy and rule of law."
She said weeks of strikes and protests that paralysed the country and killed at least five people had undermined development and scared off foreign investors.
"Violent demonstrations exact a heavy toll, especially on Bangladesh's poorest and most vulnerable citizens. They also send a negative signal to the international community about the investment climate here."
She, however, said, "We support democracy, freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly…We urge all to settle their differences through dialogue. We want democracy to sustain in Bangladesh."
Replying to a query on security in the Bay of Bengal, Hillary commended the present government for its policy of zero tolerance for terrorists, and said it prevented them from using Bangladesh as a transit and training point to commit violence against Bangladesh or any other country.
On Bangladesh-US security dialogue held last month in Dhaka, she said both the sides had very positive discussions on bilateral defence cooperation and shared the values of peace and stability in the region.
Talking about Bangladesh's triumph in the maritime dispute with Myanmar, she said, "I think future of Bangladesh is extremely positive. It gives clear demarcation of the maritime boundary so Bangladesh can begin exploration of resources in the sea for the benefit of the people of Bangladesh."
The top US diplomat said she thinks there should be a room for cooperation to protect the investments regarding natural resources. She said it is important to have protection against piracy as maritime trade and exploration continue to increase.
Dipu Moni led a 10-member delegation at the bilateral meeting from 6:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. at the PMO. The delegation included Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes and Bangladesh Ambassador to the USA Akramul Qader.
Hillary led a seven-member delegation that included Robert O Blake, US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, and Dan Mozena, US ambassador in Dhaka.
Speaking about exploration of natural resources, she said everyone is concerned about economic interests and security in the 21st century. "There has to be a clear understanding about what is yours and what is someone else's."
In her introductory remarks, Hillary said the USA wants Bangladesh to be a prosperous and successful democratic country that demonstrates sustainable development.
She stressed the need for consensus and cooperation among all actors in Bangladesh on fundamental issues to achieve the desired level of development.
"It is important for the USA to see rule of law and transparency, but it is not easy. Many countries have given up but you have never given up because of your successful leadership," said the US secretary of state.
Hillary lauded Bangladesh's impressive progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals and its role in UN peacekeeping.
Dipu Moni said at the joint press briefing that Bangladesh sought duty free and quota free access of its products to the US market and extension of the GSP facilities.
Bangladesh's inclusion in the Millennium Challenge Account and repatriation of a convicted killer of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were raised during the talks, she said.
The foreign minister said the US side also raised a number of issues including governance, economic cooperation, counterterrorism and partnership on global issues.