Vol. 5 Num 840 Fri. October 06, 2006  
Front Page

AL focused on chief adviser
Jalil places 31-point proposal at 70-minute meeting with Bhuiyan; reform dialogue resumes today

The much-awaited dialogue over electoral reforms between ruling BNP and main opposition Awami League (AL) began yesterday with the AL asking for resolving first the issue of appointment of the chief adviser to the caretaker government.

After the 70-minute one-to-one parley at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban, BNP Secretary General Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan and AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil at a joint press conference said they will sit today to continue the talks after discussing yesterday's outcome with their party high command.

"Abdul Jalil on behalf of the Awami League and 14-party opposition combine placed their demands before me. I asked for explanations for each of the demands and he explained them. Now I will discuss the opposition proposals with my party," Bhuiyan said at the brief press conference in the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban at 1:00pm.

Jalil, also coordinator of the 14-party opposition combine, said he placed the 31-point proposals for electoral reforms before the BNP secretary general.

"I explained to Bhuiyan our proposals for reforms in the caretaker government system and Election Commission," he told the crowded press conference.

The AL-led 14-party opposition combine has been agitating in the streets for the last one and a half years to press home the demands for reforms in the caretaker government system and the Election Commission.

The Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban wore a festive mood yesterday with the presence of a good number of lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition sides before the start of the dialogue at 11:45am.

Later, at an emergency meeting of the AL Presidium at 2:00pm at Sudha Sadan, Jalil informed the party policymaking body of the outcome of yesterday's discussion with the ruling BNP secretary general.

Jalil informed the meeting that he told Bhuiyan that they want to resolve first the issue of appointment of the chief adviser to the caretaker government while the other reform proposals will be discussed later, sources said.

"I argued for the necessity of appointing a person acceptable to all as the chief adviser to the caretaker government. Bhuiyan told me that he will discuss the issue with his party high command and let me know their position tomorrow [today]," Jalil told the presidium meeting chaired by AL President Sheikh Hasina.

Hasina, who cancelled her scheduled visit to Tungipara yesterday, asked the AL senior leaders to get prepared for the next course of actions no matter whatever the outcome of the dialogue, sources said.

Later at a meeting, leaders of the 14-party opposition line-up emphasised continuing the dialogue to press home their reform demands to ensure a free and fair election.

"I have tried to make him [Bhuiyan] understand the necessity of the reforms to ensure a free and fair election under a non-partisan neutral caretaker government according to the constitution," Jalil said at a press briefing at the Dhanmodni AL office at 2:45pm.

Mannan Bhuiyan, who informed BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia over telephone of his discussion with Jalil, held a meeting last night with his party policymakers on the opposition's proposals for reforms, sources said.

At the meeting, he briefed the policymakers about his first day's talks with Jalil.

Held at the LGRD and cooperatives minister's official residence, the meeting decided that the secretaries general of the ruling four parties will meet tomorrow to discuss the developments in the talks and decide how the BNP secretary general should face his counterpart at the dialogue.

The senior BNP leaders advised Bhuiyan on how to press ahead with the party's position on the second day of the talks on reforms. They also discussed the opposition's proposals from a legal point of view.

They opined that the ruling party should not agree to amend the constitution for changing the chief adviser to the next caretaker government.

Health Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Law Minister Moudud Ahmad, Khandaker Mahbubuddin Ahmed, Post and Telecommunications Minister Aminul Haq and Fisheries and Livestock Minister Abdullah Al Noman were present at the meeting.

Following the 14th amendment to the constitution that extended the retirement age of the Supreme Court judges, the AL on October 12, 2004 demanded appointment of the chief adviser to the next caretaker government in consultation with the major political parties.

The amendment confirmed appointment of Justice KM Hasan as the next caretaker chief, but the opposition combine declared to resist his appointment on grounds that Justice Hasan was involved with BNP politics.

Party insiders, meanwhile, said the ruling BNP may not budge on the crucial issue of appointing Justice KM Hasan the chief adviser to the caretaker government.

The opposition also came up with proposals for appointment of the chief election commissioner (CEC) and other election commissioners in consultation with the political parties.

But ignoring the opposition demands, the government appointed Justice MA Aziz the CEC on May 23, 2005, and two other election commissioners on January 16, 2006 and another one last September.

BNP Secretary General Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, left, and Awami League General Secretary Abdul Jalil exchange a few words after a press conference following first day's reform talks at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban yesterday. PHOTO: STAR