Free elections crucial for giving citizens voice: UK

Free elections crucial for giving citizens voice: UK

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Dhaka – British High Commissioner in Dhaka Alison Blake said on Monday free and fair elections, in any country, are crucial for giving all the citizens a stake and a voice in the government of their country.
She said there is a need for all to have ‘confidence’ that the election process will be a free and fair as she thinks democracy is about more than about what happens on the election day, or even the electoral process and the weeks and months before.
“A healthy democracy is one with strong and respected institutions and a responsible civil society,” said the High Commissioner while talking to diplomatic correspondents at her residence.
Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) hosted the discussion titled DCAB Talk. DCAB President Angur Nahar Monty and general secretary Pantho Rahman also spoke on the occasion.

Blake said they, in the UK, believe a democratic and inclusive state offers the best possible model for the stability and prosperity for all its citizens.
“And so my message today for our friends in Bangladesh is that we’re committed to strengthening sustainable and inclusive growth and economic development,” she said.
The envoy said they are also committed to supporting what contributes to a thriving tolerant democracy in Bangladesh because “this is not just in Bangladesh’s interest but in the UK’s interest, too.”
Blake said the UK is also committed to strengthening the bilateral relationship between the UK and Bangladesh, promoting bilateral trade and investment.
“Together we can build the best possible future for both our countries and a safer, healthier and more prosperous world for all,” she said.
Blake said the UK has been helping Bangladesh since its birth to strengthen democracy and its institutions, to uphold human rights and the values two countries share.
Responding to a question on formation of future election commission, she said, “At this stage, we’re watching with interest…”
Asked whether the UK will bring back its visa section in Dhaka from New Delhi, Blake said, “There’s, I’m afraid, absolutely no chance to bring back this decision making center here.”
It is more expensive, she explained the reason mentioning that it was part of global process to restructure their visa operations to create bigger centre responsible for decision making on visa issues.
Asked when the UK will withdraw the ban on direct cargo flight from Dhaka, the High Commissioner said she cannot give a ‘timetable’ yet though she recognises the lot of progress made so far on airport security. “We continue to have a very good and close dialogue with the Bangladesh government about the security of airports. You can’t change or improve airport security overnight,” she said.
The High Commissioner said the shocking stabbing of the security personnel a week or so ago shows the continuing need for the highest vigilance, but as anyone who has used the airport can testify, real improvements have been made.
“The work isn’t yet completed. There’s unfortunately still more to be done before the UK can consider the removal of the suspension on direct cargo flights. But we remain committed to working alongside Bangladesh and our other partners to deliver this,” she said.
On overall security situation, Blake said they have worked very hard with police and law enforcement agencies in assessing the security threat and expressed satisfaction over the additional security measures in and around.
The diplomat, however, said it is important to see that everyone’s security is ensured and it will be great thing if all can go back to their normal life.
The terrible events of July 01 at the Holey Artisan Bakery which shocked the world also showed beyond all reasonable doubt that the global extremist terror networks had extended their influence, their reach, into Bangladesh too, she said.
“Since then we have seen the strong will of the Bangladesh government and people to fight this scourge and action continues to be taken to identify and disrupt the militant networks,” Blake said.
The High Commissioner said things have improved, and confidence is coming back but it is far too early for any of them to relax their guard and many of the crimes over the past years are still unsolved.
“But the UK and other international partners will continue to work with the government, authorities and the people of Bangladesh to help address the threat so that all Bangladesh’s citizens, residents and visitors can go about their lives peacefully, in safety and security,” she said.
Responding to a question on Chinese President’s recent Dhaka visit, she said, “All countries have a perfect right to have many friends and it seems to be very healthy thing.”
The envoy said the UK will be leaving the European Union (EU) but it remains a globally engaged nation, open for business, international cooperation, investment and trade. “There’s every reason to believe our trade partnership will be strengthened.” -UNB

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