November 9, 2022
DHAKA – The USA does not care who wins the next parliamentary election in Bangladesh as long as it is a free and fair one, US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas said at a views exchange meeting with the Editors’ Council yesterday.
Haas also said the US does not favour any political party over another, according to a statement the council issued after the meeting.
The ambassador stated that all entities in Bangladesh must play a proper role to ensure free and fair elections and emphasised the importance of a free press in ensuring such.
He said free and fair elections begin far earlier than the actual day of the polls in the form of level playing fields for all, according to the statement.
The editors spoke to the ambassador about the challenges faced by free and independent media in Bangladesh, not only due to stringent laws but also due to the effects of media ownership.
The statement said, “The ambassador said that within the USA there is constant pressure and debate to face transparency regarding violations of rights, and that there are institutions to work on them.”
Speaking about the economic crisis faced by Bangladesh due to the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the ambassador said no country is better off today than they were before Russia invaded Ukraine, but some countries have been impacted more.
He also talked about how to transform the foreign assistance relationship between the two countries to coincide with Bangladesh’s graduation to a middle-income country, how sectors like high-level skills training needed additional assistance, and also stressed on diversifying the export basket, according to the statement.
The ambassador also told the editors that while it was important to focus on how to retain the trade benefits shared by the two countries, it was also important to think about the next step. To that end, he highlighted the need to create the conditions needed for foreign direct investment.
The statement said the editors were informed about the US International Development Finance Corporation, which provides private sector investment in infrastructure, innovation and women’s economic empowerment, and is governed by some of the same principles as the generalised system of preferences (GSP) to which Bangladesh lost access.
While Bangladesh has made great strides in worker safety after the Rana Plaza collapse which led to the US scrapping the GSP facility, the overall labour rights situation continues to be an impediment to gaining these privileges, Ambassador Haas told the editors.
At the meeting, Ambassador Haas appreciated Bangladesh’s role in opening its doors to the Rohingya refugee population without any expectation of them going back any time soon, but also said the US cannot force the Myanmar junta to take them back without risking their lives even though they need repatriation.
“We need to make sure that they are not in despair, with no hope,” the statement quoted Haas as saying.
The meeting held at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon hotel in the capital was moderated by Mahfuz Anam, the president of the Editors’ Council and editor and publisher of The Daily Star, and attended by Editor of Prothom Alo Matiur Rahman, Editor of Daily Manabzamin Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, Editor of Ajker Patrika Golam Rahman, Editor of Bhorer Kagoj Shyamal Dutta, Editor of Daily Ittefaq Tasmima Hossain, Editor of Inqilab AMM Bahauddin, acting editor of Daily Samakal Mozammel Hossain, Editor of Bonik Barta Dewan Hanif Mahmud, Editor of Financial Express Shamsul Huq Zahid, acting editor of Desh Rupantor Mustafa Mamun and Associate Editor of Dhaka Tribune Abu Sayeed Asiful Islam.