Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday said that the next parliamentary election would be fair and free as she was committed to democracy and the Election Commission was completely independent.
‘The next election will be fair and free. I fought for democracy throughout my life,’ she said.
The prime minister said this when a US delegation, led by counselor of the US department of state Derek Chollet, paid a courtesy call on her at the latter’s official residence Ganabhaban.
PM’s speechwriter Md Nazrul Islam briefed reporters after the meeting.
Hasina said that if people voted for Awami League in the next general elections, her party would take the charge of governing the country.
‘I never want to come to power through vote-rigging,’ she was quoted as saying.
The PM said that she always struggled for the people’s rights to food and vote.
She said that the first-ever EC’s reconstitution law was passed in parliament and then a neutral Election Commission was constituted on the basis of the law.
She said that the EC was completely independent. It had administrative and financial independence, she added.
Bangladesh is due to elect its next parliament by end of this year or first week of January next year.
The last parliamentary election was held on December 30, 2018.
The prime minister said that no political parties in the country, other than Awami League, had bases at the grassroots level. Opposition BNP and Jatiya Party were born in the cantonments, she noted.
She said that AL had been in power only for 19 years in the 51-year history of the country’s independence. The anti-Awami League forces were in power for 29 years and there was no democratic polity during their regimes.
Focusing on the development of Bangladesh in different socio-economic indexes, she said that the transformation of the country had become visible in the last 14 years during her government. It had been possible due to the continued democratic practice and stability in the country, she added.
Nazrul said that the Russia-Ukraine war and Rohingya issues also came up for the discussion in the meeting.
PM Hasina told the US delegation that the world should stop this war right now as it had caused high inflation and commodity prices throughout the globe.
‘A war never can bring any benefit for the human kind,’ she said.
Noting that the United States was the most powerful country, she said it could stop the war anytime. The disputes could be settled through negotiation, she said.
About Rohingyas, the PM said the displaced Myanmar nationals had become a big burden for Bangladesh. The local communities in Cox’s Bazar were suffering and they had become minority due to the influx of such a huge number of Myanmar nationals there.
She said that the Rohingya people were being involved in different criminal activities like drug trafficking, human trafficking, militancy and infightings.
The PM said that the displaced Myanmar nationals had been staying in Cox’s Bazar for five years and now it was difficult to keep them there as its natural environment and the livelihood of locals were at stake.
She said her government arranged different facilities, including income generating programmes, to ensure better life of the Rohingya people on Bhashanchar island.
She asked the world community to provide their assistance to Rohingya people on Bhashanchar.
‘Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasanchar,’ she said.
PM Hasina also asked the international community to try their best for speedy and amicable repatriation of the Rohingyas to Myanmar, their homeland.
Derek Chollet thanked the prime minister for giving shelter to the Rohingya people on humanitarian ground.
He said that they would try their best for the repatriation of the displaced people.
However, the counselor to the secretary of state of the United States said that the repatriation would be possible when a democratic government returned to power in Myanmar.
He said that some recent high-level visits of US officials were reflection of the importance of the bilateral relations between the two countries. This relation would grow further, Chollet added.
He said that there were potentials to deepen the bilateral relations, but there are some challenges here.
Chollet arrived in Dhaka on Tuesday for a 24-hour stay in Bangladesh.
PM’s private industry and investment adviser Salman Fazlur Rahman, PM’s principal secretary M Tofazzel Hossain Miah, foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen and US ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas were present.