B'desh must lift emergency without delay: McKinnon
Dhaka, Mar 21: Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon today said the state of emergency should be lifted from Bangladesh as soon as possible and polls held in the country.
He called for a road-map leading up to inclusive and credible elections as soon as possible for a new parliament, with time-lines attached.
The state of emergency and a ban on political activities was imposed on January 11 by the military-backed transitional government of Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed to quell political-turmoil over the General elections.
Mr McKinnon, who came here on Monday on a three-day visit, told media that at the moment there is no parliament in this country where the voice of the people can be heard.
''People should not be deprived of such a forum any longer than absolutely necessary. This is a fundamental right,'' he said.
The promulgation of the emergency postponed indefinitely the elections originally scheduled on January 22 last.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General, who had a series of discussions with Dr Ahmed, political party leaders and the election commission, said the people must be kept informed in a transparent way with ''best estimate'' target dates, of what the government is doing and planning to do.
Mr McKinnon, who earlier visited Bangladesh five-six times as the two-term Secretary-General said, ''This is a critical and somewhat unusual time for your nation. You are in a virgin territory and your situation is unique.'' About the Caretaker government's reforms to redesign and rebuild the democracy in the country, he said, ''This is an immense task, which in these circumstances can only be done with the continuing consent and support of the people.'' Mr McKinnon said, ''Once a new voters' register is ready, elections should be held expeditiously.'' He said, ''I have got the loud and clear message that the people of Bangladesh want a fresh start to their democracy. They also want to get it right.'' Calling for lifting of the emergency and ban on political activities without unnecessary delay, he said the question of lifting emergency should certainly not tied to the completion of the voter registration process.
He urged all political parties to work together with the Election Commission to enable the production of the new voters' list.
He suggested ensuring human rights and due process which he said is important for the large number of people recently detained under the state of emergency.
Mr McKinnon said the Commonwealth will remain engaged with the Bangladesh government and do all it can to assist in the creating of a genuine and sustainable democracy.
Asked if he got any impression that the current interim government has come to stay instead of transferring power to the elected representatives, he said if the present government stays in power for longer for it's interest, it will lose popularity.