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September 25, 2023, 6:53 pm

US for free, fair elections and freedom of the press Under-secretary Zeya meets PM, ministers

  • Update Time : Friday, July 14, 2023
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Prime minister Sheikh Hasina poses for photos during the meeting with US undersecretary for civilian security, democracy and human rights Uzra Zeya and US assistant secretary of state for the bureau of South and Central Asian affairs Donald Lu at Ganabahaban in the capital on Thursday. — Star Mail photo

Online Desk: The United States has once again underscored the need for free and fair elections and freedom of the press for an ‘inclusive democratic Bangladesh.’

The US under-secretary for civilian security, democracy, and human rights and US special coordinator for Tibetan issues, Uzra Zeya, conveyed her government’s position regarding the upcoming general election in a meeting with prime minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence Ganabhaban on Thursday morning.

She also called on law minister Anisul Huq and home minister Asaduzzaman Khan at their respective offices in the secretariat before meeting foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen at the state guesthouse Padma.

‘We discussed the need for free and fair elections, the ability of journalists to report without fear of retaliation or intimidation, collaboration to combat trafficking in persons, and the vital role  that civil society plays in democracies advancing respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedoms of expression and association,’ Uzra Zeya told a joint press briefing at the state guesthouse.

She said that they heard strong commitment from prime minister Sheikh Hasina and other ministers in support of free, fair, and peaceful elections in Bangladesh during the meetings with them.

‘A prosperous future depends on strong democratic institutions, and the broad participation of Bangladeshis in elections and the governance of their country,’ she mentioned, adding that the US looked forward to continued collaboration supportive to an inclusive and democratic Bangladesh, in which all Bangladeshis could thrive.

The foreign secretary said that Bangladesh had reiterated its call for withdrawing sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion.

The United States, as part of their global human rights policy, supports ‘free, fair, and peaceful elections’ and they want to do their part as a longtime partner of Bangladesh to help make this possible, according to the state department under-secretary.

Responding to queries about the US position on the main opposition’s demand for a poll-time neutral government, she said, ‘The timetable of the election is something for Bangladesh to decide.’

Responding to another question, she said that on Wednesday, they witnessed large political rallies ‘that were, thankfully, free of serious violence.’

She said that she had come here in recognition of the importance of their partnership with Bangladesh and to underscore the US’s desire to deepen that partnership in support of their vision of a free and open Indo Pacific that would be more resilient, more connected, more secure, and more prosperous.

Briefing on Zeya’s meeting with the prime minister, the prime minister’s press secretary, Ihsanul Karim, told reporters that Uzra Zeya said her country announced the new visa policy to assist prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s commitment to holding a free and fair election.

She also expressed her gratitude to Bangladesh for hosting 1.1 million Rohingyas from Myanmar.

Prime minister’s private industry and investment adviser Salman Fazlur Rahman, foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen, Prime Minister’s Office secretary Mohammad Salahuddin, Bangladesh Ambassador to the United States Mohammad Imran, US assistant secretary of state Donald Lu, and US Ambassador Peter Haas were present there.

About his meeting with the US state department under-secretary, home minister Asaduzzaman said that the visiting US delegation wanted to see the country’s next general elections free and fair without violence.

‘The US delegation told us that they have not come here to encourage any political party or individual. They only expect free, fair and peaceful elections in Bangladesh,’ he told reporters.

Law minister Anisul told the US under-secretary that the Digital Security Act, 2018, would be amended within September.

He said that the US wanted to see free and fair elections in Bangladesh.

‘We had talks about DSA. I have told them the same thing that I said earlier. I have told them that the DSA would be amended within September. They clearly stated that they are impartial and that they want to see free, fair, and neutral polls,’ Anisul told reporters, emerging from his meeting with the US delegation.

Uzra Zeya, accompanied by assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs Donald Lu, arrived in Dhaka on a four-day maiden visit.

During his first visit to Bangladesh in January, Lu conveyed to the government that the United States wanted the next general election in Bangladesh to be held in a free and fair manner.

The United States is pressing the Bangladesh government to ensure that the upcoming national election is held in a free and fair manner.

On May 24, US secretary of state Antony Blinken announced a new visa policy to support Bangladesh’s goal of holding free, fair, and peaceful national elections, restricting visas for any Bangladeshi individuals undermining the democratic election process.

Under the new policy, the United States will be able to restrict the issuance of visas to any Bangladeshi individual, believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh.  source: new age

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