The visiting delegation of the European Parliament (EP) favours some ‘agreed mechanisms’ well ahead of the next general election due in 2019 so that ‘many parties’ can participate in it in a free, fair and open manner with ‘maximum choices’.“It’s very clear there’s a need for some agreed mechanisms,” said Jean Lambert (Green Party), Chair of the Delegation for relations with the countries of South Asia of the European Parliament here on Friday.
Lambert came up with the remarks at a press conference before wrapping up their three-day visit to Bangladesh. European Union (EU) Ambassador in Dhaka Pierre Mayaudon was present.
Expressing their desire for ‘free and fair elections in 2019’, Lambert made it clear that neither the EP nor anybody else will be coming and saying ‘this is what you do’.
“We won’t make any recommendation…it’s something to decide by the people of Bangladesh…it’s your decision,” she said.
Responding to a question about the freedom of press, Lambert said the vibrant press and freedom of press are also part of democracy, and they have ‘some concerns’ in this regard. “I think it’s fair to say we’ve some concerns about what’s happening to the number of editors of the newspapers,” she said without elaborating.
The delegation leader also said neither the election issue nor the editors’ one was raised during her meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. “The issue of editors was not there.”
Lambert said they have raised four specific issues during their half-an-hour meeting with the Prime Minister that include murder of bloggers, rise of violent extremism at international level and trade issues. “We’ve serious concerns about human rights situation in the country and raised the issue of the murder of bloggers.”
The life of every Bangladeshi citizen, Lambert said, is important. “We requested full and impartial investigations into all the cases.”
The four-member delegation also welcomed the commitment made by the Prime Minister for further joint collaboration with the EU on better understanding the cause of radicalisation internationally, keeping in mind the important role Bangladesh plays in the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).
To strengthen economic cooperation, stabilization, also of the democratic structures in Bangladesh will be crucial, the written press statement on the visit made by the delegation mentioned.
On trade issues in general, the highlighted the opportunity for an increased exchange over the coming years as Bangladesh continues its efforts to become a middle-income country, and underlined the importance of the European Business Council to promote European investment in here.
The EP delegation held extensive discussions with Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, Law Minister Anisul Haque and State Minister for CHT Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing over the last three days.
The delegation also met BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, officials of Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, leaders of BGMEA, civil society members and the National Human Rights Commission’s Chairman.
At different meetings, the delegation raised several topics such as the implementation of the Sustainability Compact and said there is still room for improvement (in the RMG sector).
To improve the situation further, the delegation put forward full compliance of the country’s Labour Law in Export Processing Zones and full implementation of the ‘UN guiding principles’ on business and human rights.
The delegation visited a tannery at Hazaribagh as well as an EU-funded project at Dalit Colony, Gonoktuli in Dhaka.