Wendy R Sherman, US under secretary of state for political affairs, has cancelled her meeting with opposition leader Khaleda Zia.
The US top official, who arrived here on Sunday to attend the second US-Bangladesh Partnership Dialogue, was scheduled to meet Khaleda Monday afternoon.
Asked about the meeting cancellation, Kelly S McCarthy, press and information officer at the US embassy in Dhaka, told The Daily Star that the Under Secretary had regretted that a hartal marked the first day of the partnership dialogue, and subsequent schedule changes precluded her call on with the chairperson.
Sherman herself explained the reason at a joint press conference at State Guest House Meghna.
“My schedule required me to make some changes…I met with the opposition leader last time I was in Dhaka.”
Talking to reporters after addressing the partnership dialogue at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel later in the day, the Under Secretary said: “I was rather surprised when I arrived yesterday, a hartal was underway.”
In her remarks at the partnership dialogue, Sherman pointed out Bangladesh’s success in different sectors.
She however cautioned that the ultimate success of the country’s story is not guaranteed.
“My colleagues and I, along with a great many Bangladeshis, have watched with dismay as the streets of Dhaka have been shut down by hartal after hartal, by angry demonstration after angry demonstration.”
She continued: “I cannot presume to tell the people of Bangladesh or your leaders what issues demand attention, what wrongs must be righted, or what approach your country must take as it faces the grave challenges of the future. In Bangladesh, as in any democracy, this is for the people alone to decide.”
She expressed her worry that about series of shutdowns.
“…I worry about a cycle of violence that shuts down a city of millions on what seems like a daily basis, that dramatically slows Bangladesh’s economic growth, that feeds a political culture that rejects compromise, that breeds fear in minority populations, that brands some citizens and their beliefs less worthy than others, and that radicalises segments of the population.”
“To truly prosper, Bangladesh must free itself of this long-standing cycle of election-year violence.”