Bangladesh should be example of free and fair elections

US secretary of state Antony Blinken meets Bangladeshi foreign minister AK Abdul Momen in a bilateral meeting in WashingtonCollected

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reiterated the country’s expectations for a free and fair elections in Bangladesh. He said that the whole world including the United States is keeping an eye on the upcoming elections of Bangladesh. Everyone is focused on ensuring that Bangladesh proves itself an example of holding a free and fair election in the region and across the world.

He spoke about this expectation at the beginning of the bilateral meeting with foreign minister AK Abdul Momen at the US State Department on Monday afternoon at Washington local time.

After the meeting between the two foreign ministers, Abdul Momen said, US Secretary of state emphasised on free and fair elections. The foreign minister said, “They stressed on a free and fair elections. They hoped there would be a model election. I ensured him that this is also our intention. We also want a model election. I requested him to help us in this regard so that we can carry out  a free, fair and transparent election.”

US secretary of state Antony Blinken meets Bangladeshi foreign minister AK Abdul Momen in a bilateral meeting in Washington

Following the discussion with Antony Blinken , Abdul Momen said, “We have said that free and fair elections are also our goal. We are committed to free, fair, transparent and credible elections. Government has a strict stance about this.. We have created photo ID so that no fake vote is cast. We have made transparent ballot boxes and an independent Election Commission. We hope this commission will conduct free and fair elections. Elections don’t occur automatically. We want the US to send observers.

But the government alone cannot hold a free and fair election. All the opposition must come forward. They must commit to free and fair elections. People die during elections in our country. We don't want a single person to die. We hold elections in a festive atmosphere. But sometimes people are so egoistic, so excited that they kill people. We don’t want one person to die due to election issues. We have created an environment for free and fair elections. It should also help other people.”

The foreign minister said that although he welcomes US observers in the upcoming elections, no Bangladeshi expatriate can be an observer affiliated with a political party.

Abdul Momen said, (I told the US Secretary of State) we will definitely win if it is free, fair and transparent election. For this, all parties are welcome to participate in the election.

After the meeting at the US State Department, the foreign minister told reporters that they discussed about the Digital Security Act (DSA), media and freedom of expression. Abdul Momen said, “We did not enact DSA to curtail the freedom of media. Awami League believes in freedom of media. A total of 1251 dailies are published in our country. There are 43 private TV networks. They are hyper active.

We don't restrict anything. Opposition parties in our country can protest whenever. But we don't mind although we remain quite cautious. We only try those who destroy public and private property. The government has an obligation in this regard. No one can disrupt public life in the name of freedom of expression.”

Citing that the discussion included human rights violations, the foreign minister said, "They requested to do justice to some people. Then we said we will do justice. Because, we also want the rule of law and good governance.”

Abdul Momen said further said, the meeting discussed about various matter including the labour rights situation in Bangladesh, the protection of religious freedom, increasing trade and economic cooperation, sustainable solution to the Rohingya issue, the return of Rashed Chowdhury, the convicted murderer of Bangabandhu's murder case, who fled to the United States, and other issues of bilateral cooperation. In addition to this, various international issues were discussed, including dealing with the situation arising in the context of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Earlier, in the presence of journalists at the beginning of the meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “The relationship between Bangladesh and the United States has grown tremendously over the last 50 years – economically, our people-to-people ties, work that we’ve been doing more recently on everything from climate to health, which we very much value.  And we also deeply appreciate Bangladesh’s remarkable generosity to more than 1 million Rohingya refugees that they have been taking care of. We’re committed to continuing to work together, to find ways to strengthen and deepen the relationship, to address as well economic development and human rights.”

Agreeing with Blinken regarding bilateral relations, Abdul Momen said, “We want to advance with your support and active partnership, and we are proud of your partnership. I am here to develop, strengthen, and consolidate our relationship.”