Monday, September 3, 2007

Commonwealth Secretary-General on Bangladesh

Commonwealth Secretary-General's Press Release
31 August 2007

Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon has welcomed the announcement by the Bangladesh Election Commission that a dialogue with political parties would begin shortly on the roadmap to the elections envisaged by the end of 2008.

He also called for a lifting of the state of emergency in Bangladesh and the ban on indoor political activity. “I am convinced that these are urgent and essential steps that need to be taken if the dialogue is to be meaningful and the roadmap implemented on schedule” said the Secretary-General.

Mr McKinnon said he had been closely following developments in Bangladesh, especially after his visit to Dhaka in March this year.

Expressing concern over recent reports of violence against students, academics and journalists, and the continuing detention of a large number of them, he added: “Freedom of expression is a fundamental political value to which all Commonwealth governments are committed.”

Mr McKinnon welcomed the lifting of the curfew imposed last week, and urged the caretaker government to release those detained without charge.

“I am also concerned about the very large number of political detainees, reportedly over 100,000, who have yet to be brought to trial. It is crucial for the caretaker government to respect the human rights of all its citizens and to ensure that the rule of law and due process are respected. The judicial processes should deal with detainees swiftly, fairly and transparently,” he said.

The Secretary-General reiterated that the task being undertaken by the caretaker government to re-design and rebuild democratic institutions was complex and immense, one that would require the continuing support of the people of Bangladesh.

“It is important that the caretaker government keeps the people of the country constantly informed of its plans in this regard, in order to retain their confidence. It is only with their full consent and support that political reforms can have the legitimacy required to be sustainable,” he said. The Secretary-General reaffirmed the readiness of the Commonwealth to assist in restoring representative democracy within the time-frame announced by the caretaker government.

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