October 9, 2023
DHAKA – Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen yesterday said those who are predicting new punitive measures from the US are exaggerating.
He said US officials made no such communication when he was with the prime minister in the US late last month.
“Such words were not pronounced by them … You are inviting such restrictions. No one spoke of any restrictions,” he said after a six-member US pre-election assessment mission held a meeting with him at the foreign ministry today.
The US pre-election assessment mission wanted to learn what measures have been taken by the government to hold free and fair elections due by January next year, he said.
The mission did not speak of participatory elections or a polls-time government, he said.
All party agents, foreign and national observers will have access to polling stations. The voter list has photo IDs and the ballot boxes are transparent which can prevent fake voting, he said.
The minister said that if the media felt threatened, the EC can punish those who are intimidating the press.
“We said we want a free and fair election, free of violence. But we cannot guarantee it to be free of violence because all parties need to be sincere about it,” he said.
Momen told the US delegation the government has an electoral legal framework in place and an independent Election Commission, which can transfer and sack the police or other officials if they violate the law.
The delegation, comprising Karl F Inderfurth, former assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs; Bonnie Glick, former deputy administrator of the USAID; Maria Chin Abdullah, former member of the Malaysia House of Representatives; Jameel Jaffer, former associate counsel to the president; Manpreet Singh Anand, regional director for Asia-Pacific at National Democratic Institute; and Johanna Kao, IRI senior director, Asia-Pacific Division, arrived in Dhaka yesterday on a six-day visit.
Tomorrow, the mission is scheduled to hold meetings with the Awami League, BNP and Jatiya Party. The primary role of the mission is to provide independent and impartial information on election preparation and the electoral context.
Earlier, the EU decided not to send a full-fledged election observation mission to Bangladesh, after a pre-assessment team visited Bangladesh.
The development comes after the US announced a visa policy restricting visas of those who are perceived to intimidate the democratic election process or are involved in vote rigging.