Army given blanket power to arrest
The Election Commission (EC) in an unprecedented move agreed to allow the armed forces to arrest anyone from any place without a warrant during their engagement in election duties. The Armed Forces Division (AFD) in a proposal earlier sought the power for the army, navy and the air force for seven days including the polling day to ensure a peaceful atmosphere and security of voters in light of the existing law and order situation. Responding to the proposal, the EC finally asked the home ministry to issue a notification to allow the armed forces to have the authority as they had desired in addition to the power they already have to arrest any person within a radius of four hundred yards of a polling station on the polling day. The EC in its letter to the home ministry however did not specify the time limit for allowing the armed forces to exercise the new power. The home ministry will decide for how many days the armed forces will be allowed to exercise the power. But sources in the EC said the armed forces will enjoy the power for 20 days from January 10, the day of their deployment across the country on election duties. -- The Daily Star, January 9.
EWG won't monitor polls sans all-party participation
Election Working Group (EWG), an alliance of NGOs that monitors polls, will not undertake any national-level election monitoring initiative if all the major political parties do not participate in the upcoming election. The decision was taken following the directives of its donors, said the group's Media and Communication Specialist Javeed Ahsan. "There is no use monitoring a 'one-sided' election, which it is going to be," he told The Daily Star. A press release of the group said that it will refrain from monitoring the upcoming polls "if the present political situation prevails and the caretaker government, election commission, and political parties fail to establish conditions conducive to credible polls, and the parliamentary election proceeds on January 22 without the full participation of all major political parties." The group has suspended all voter and civic education activities, but will continue to assess the present situation, with an emphasis on political-related violence. It will sit for discussing its prospective role soon, the release added. The 34-member EWG was formed in August last year with a mission to contribute to a peaceful, free and fair elections in Bangladesh and to help foster a genuine culture of democracy and the highest standards of integrity and accountability of governance.--Prothom Alo, January 9.
Advisers approach grand alliance with election deferment proposal
Amid the donors' enormous pressures for all-party polls and after getting a green signal from BNP, a team of three advisers of the caretaker government approached the Awami League (AL)-led alliance with a new proposal deferring the next parliamentary polls by over a month. The three advisers placed the proposal to the AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil at a meeting. The AL however asked the interim government to postpone the January 22 polls first and then take initiatives to meet the grand alliance's demands of creating a level playing field for all. Sources said the three advisers -- Shafiqual Haque Chowdhury, Shoeb Ahmed and Azizul Haq, approached the AL general secretary at his Gulshan residence after getting a positive response for such a move from BNP high-ups. The initiative by the advisers to the caretaker government appeared to be a new effort to bring an end to the political impasse in the wake of a poll boycott decision by the AL-led grand alliance. LDP leaders Abdul Mannan and Redwan Ahmed were also present at the meeting. -- The Daily Star, January 10.
Adviser contradicts Bangabhaban spokesman's statement
The Bangabhaban issued a statement through a spokesman regarding meeting between the chief adviser and an adviser, which was contradicted by the latter. Adviser Dhiraj Kumar Nath met President and Chief Adviser (CA) Iajuddin Ahmed discussed his upcoming official visit to Noakhali and recent transfer of the secretary of his ministry, fisheries and livestock. But the Bangabhaban spokesman told the UNB that adviser Dhiraj Kumar called on the president as part of the CA's initiative since to discuss the emerging issues with the advisers. They discussed issues relating to law and order situation, and stressed the need for upholding the constitution and democracy through holding the general election on January 22, the UNB reports, quoting the Bangabhaban spokesman. They viewed that the next parliament to be formed through this election would play an important role in fulfilling the desires of the people and solve various problems, the spokesman said. Contacted by The Daily Star last night, Adviser Dhiraj Kumar Nath said he met the president on his own initiatives to discuss the issue of his visit to Noakhali and transfer of the secretary to the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock.-- The Daily Star, January 10.
Separation of Judiciary
SC gives govt 7 days to publish rules
The full bench of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court ordered the government to publish various rules on separation of the judiciary through gazette notification within a week and remove major hurdles for the separation. This order came when the attorney general (AG) said it will take more time to make effective various amendments of the rules for separation of the judiciary as the amended rules would be made effective through promulgation of an ordinance. Visibly angered by the AG's submission, the court asked why the government would amend them anew when the court had already amended all the necessary rules. The government has already been given as many as 22 deadlines to implement the 12-point directives of the Supreme Court on the matter, beginning from 1999. The time extensions were given mostly during the tenure of the BNP-led four-party alliance government. On November 27 last year, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, aggrieved at the government's repeated delays, asked the latter to implement the 12 directives within six weeks and submit progress reports on it to the court. The hearing of this matter took place when Attorney General AJ Mohammad Ali's submission irked the court once again. The court asked the government not to play 'cat and mouse' with the court. -- The Daily Star, January 11.
NDI, IRI won't watch Jan 22 elections
US-based election watchdogs National Democratic Institute (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI) suspended plans to send their delegations for the January 22 parliamentary elections as all of the major parties are not participating in it. "The NDI and IRI have concluded that an international observer mission would be unable to make a positive contribution to the process because all of the major parties are not participating in the elections," they said in a joint statement. The statement said the IRI and NDI are also concerned about the impact the current political environment might have on the ability of international observers to safely and effectively observe the elections. Earlier on January 6, the European Union also said its Election Observation Mission for the upcoming general elections in Bangladesh may not proceed as expected if the political stakeholders fail to resolve the ongoing crisis. "A failure of the current electoral process would be a major setback for democracy in Bangladesh and for the international credibility of the country," the EU stated in a release of the local EU presidency. -- Prothom Alo, January 11
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