Published: Sunday, December 15, 2013

US congressmen urge Hasina, Khaleda for talks

Six influential Democrat and Republican members of the US House of Representatives have written separately to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader Khaleda Zia to engage in direct negotiations immediately to ensure that the upcoming elections are free, fair and viewed as credible by the Bangladeshi people.

They urged the two leaders to carry out the elections in a credible manner through establishing of a mutually acceptable mechanism.

The letters, dated December 12, were written by Eliot L Engel, Edward R Royce, Steve Chabot, Joseph Crowley, George Holding and Grace Meng with the same content. The letters were posted on the website of US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs Democrats on December 13.

In the letters, they said the United States will work with the future, credibly elected government of Bangladesh, and urged that future government to exact no retribution on whichever party loses the election.

“…we don’t believe election related violence is acceptable or a legitimate part of the democratic process. We urge you to do everything within your power to prevent any and all forms of violence.”

The signatories to the letters also said, “We don’t see how credible elections can take place unless the parties move quickly to engage in direct negotiations and all sides agree to move ahead.”

“As an important partner in South Asia, the United States is committed to its relationship with Bangladesh. The very foundation of our partnership is built upon a strong bond of friendship.”

Democrat and Republican members said they are concerned that continued political deadlock and related violence, including violence aimed at Hindus and other minorities, will have a negative impact on the real progress that is being made Bangladesh.

“The country’s economic achievements, including a 6 percent annual growth rate, the decline in the poverty rate, and the tremendous growth in our bilateral trade is progress that we don’t want to see stop.”

At the same time, they feared the potential impact that politically motivated violence and a flawed electoral process will have on this progress.