Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has ruled out a return to the caretaker system to conduct the upcoming parliamentary elections.
In her Friday address to the nation, Hasina said her government was determined to put Bangladesh’s democracy on a ‘firm institutional footing’.
“In a democracy, there is no place for an undemocratic caretaker system. The country has seen what happened after 1/11, when the caretaker came to hang round Bangladesh’s neck like the proverbial millstone,” she said in her address broadcast live over state radio and television.
The last caretaker government headed by former Bangladesh Bank governor Fakhruddin Ahmed created history, when, instead of conducting early elections, it imposed an emergency on Jan 11, 2007 with backing from the army.
Instead of conducting the polls within the stipulated three months, the caretaker government stayed in power for two years.
Many politicians and businessmen were arrested in graft cases — including both the leading ladies, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia.
Speculations became rife about a possible ‘Minus Two’ formula taking shape.
Finally, the country got back democracy through the Dec 29, 2008 polls.
The Prime Minister addressed the nation on Friday amid apprehensions about the next national polls.
Hasina said Bangladesh aspires for a ‘modern democracy’, not a return to an ‘undemocratic caretaker system, ‘which had outlived its utility’.
She said the huge mandate for the Awami League-led coalition in the December 2008 polls was the ‘conclusive verdict against the caretaker arrangement’.
“The nation has seen what happens when an undemocratic caretaker entrenches itself and goes beyond its brief”, she said. “The massive mandate given to us in 2008 indicated a comprehensive rejection of the caretaker arrangement.”
The Prime Minister has been asking the opposition to join the parliament session and place its demand for a neutral dispensation to conduct the upcoming 10th parliamentary polls.
But with Hasina now firmly ruling out a return to the caretaker arrangement that the opposition is pushing for, the door would seem closed on a dialogue between the ruling coalition and the opposition.
The opposition led by the BNP has said the ruling party should place a bill in Parliament to bring back the caretaker system.
Or else, it says, it will not participate in the forthcoming national election because it fears a poll without the caretaker will not be ‘free and fair’.
Some of its leaders like former Dhaka Mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka have even called for ‘armed resistance’ if the government tries to force a poll without restoring the caretaker. – bdnews24.com