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Friday, June 20, 2008
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Violent politics risks huge growth potential

Says British minister

Junior British minister for international development Shahid Malik yesterday said Bangladesh will risk its "huge potential" for development and the country's future if it returns to confrontational and violent politics.

Bangladesh has huge potential in development and growth that can be realised through greater investment in education and health, Malik said.

But this potential and the opportunities for future generations would be jeopardised if the politicians return to the confrontational and violent politics of 2006, he said at a press conference at the end of his two-day visit to Bangladesh yesterday.

"The confrontational politics that we have seen in 2006 has to be thrown into rubbish bin of history and the country has to move forward towards the future," said Malik, adding, "The politicians and political stakeholders will have to bear that responsibility."

During his trip, Malik met Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed, Army Chief Gen Moeen U Ahmed and Finance Adviser Mirza Azizul Islam. He also visited "char" livelihood programmes and slum education centres run by Brac.

He said during his meeting with Fakhruddin and Gen Moeen he was reassured about holding of the elections by this year's end.

"Elections in 2008 are a must. Consistently we, like many others, have encouraged the creation, in Bangladesh, of a level electoral playing field with a fair referee. It is then up to the teams to play their part," Malik said.

He said all political stakeholders, including the political parties, must commit to holding elections because "the people of Bangladesh deserve a democratically elected government".

Asked for his opinion on former premier Khaleda Zia's detention when another former premier, Sheikh Hasina, has been released, Malik said although due process and equal treatment are essential, Britain cannot interfere in Bangladesh's judicial system.

He also said the state of emergency must be relaxed in order to let political parties campaign for the elections.

The government is due to relax the state of emergency today in areas where local polls would be held.

"Emergency at any point of time anywhere is not ideal, so it would have to be loosened if elections were to be considered credible," said Malik.

The British under secretary of state for international development also praised Gen Moeen and the military for their work on preparing the voter list with photographs.

Asked if Britain's aid is tied to the type of government, political stability or level of corruption, Malik said development assistance would continue regardless of any political change.

"The people who need the assistance should not suffer if politicians do not do their job," he said.

British development assistance to Bangladesh would rise to $300 million a year by 2010 while about $960 million has already been given in the last four years.

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