Dhaka seeks Washington's cooperation on participatory elections: Foreign minister

Foreign minister Abdul Momen on Sunday said Dhaka has sought cooperation from Washington to ensure participation of all political parties in the upcoming national election.

It is not possible for the government and the election commission to conduct a fair election single-handedly. Political parties and people must have sincerity and commitment, and the government has sought cooperation from the USA to that end, he said.

Foreign minister Abdul Momen on Sunday briefed the media on his recent meeting with the US secretary of state Antony Blinken in Washington, at the foreign ministry in Dhaka on 16 April 2023.
Prothom Alo

The foreign minister made the remarks replying to queries from journalists on his meeting with US secretary of state Antony Blinken in Washington as he was briefing the media at the foreign ministry in Dhaka for the first time since his visit to USA.

Abdul Momen said his US counterpart had raised question on several issues during their bilateral meeting.

“They raised several questions and we have responded. They raised a question on the Digital Security Act. We told them that we think the DSA was not applied properly in some cases, and we have taken these incidents to court. And, if there is any weakness, we will take care of it. There are laws on cyber issues in their country too. And, if our law has any weakness, we will fix it up,” he added.

Citing the US government has questions on the Digital Security Act, the foreign minister said, “The DSA is not formulated to muzzle the freedom of expression. The law has been formulated for two reasons – one is to prevent riots triggered by religious fanaticism and another is to prevent demeaning any individual without any reasons through propaganda. Sometimes, the Digital Security Act is being used excessively and we will fix it.”

Saying Antony Blinken raised question on election, Abdul Momen said, “Some people informed them that our opposition parties cannot hold rallies and were jailed. We don’t take anyone to prison for political grounds, we send someone committing crimes and sabotage to jail. We don’t obstruct the oppositions; they can hold meetings and speak to the media, if they want. We never hold them back. If anyone wants to block roads in USA, you (the US) will not allow it. Our opposition are free to hold meetings.”

The foreign minister further said the US spoke about holding a free and fair election and they have been informed about various measures taken by the government to ensure a free and fair election, and these measures include institutional development, introduction of photo identification and transparent ballot box to prevent ballot stuffing at night, and formation of an independent and strong election commission.

Asked whether the US is satisfied over the government’s explanation on holding a free and fair election, Abdul Momen said, “They seemed to be satisfied and they only want that nobody faces harassment. We will hold such a good election so that we can tell the world about it.”

Replying to a query weather the government feels any pressure as US president and other officials often speak about a free and fair election, the foreign minister said, “We are very happy now. We feel no pressure. Since we ourselves want to hold a fair election, it is also better they speak about it and it reinvigorates us. When many parties complain to them (US) then the US tells us to hold a fair election.”

Asked on US cooperation on a free and fair election, Abdul Momen said, “I want their cooperation. If only the government and the election commission try, a fair election will not be possible. There must be sincerity and commitment of the parties and people. You (the US) help us about it.”