Six Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have urged High Representative/Vice-President of the European Union (EU) Josep Borrell Fontelles to ensure free, fair, and impartial general election - possibly under a polls-time neutral, caretaker government - in Bangladesh.

The MEPs are Ivan Štefanec (EPP, Slovak Republic), Michaela Šojdrova (EPP, Czech Republic), Andrey Kovatchev (EPP, Bulgaria), Karen Melchior (Renew, Denmark), Javier Nart (Renew, Spain) and Heidi Hautala (Greens/EFA, Finland).

In a letter to the EU High Representative, the six MEPs also called for ending what they say "violation of human rights, release of Begum Khaleda Zia, and engagement of the government with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and other major political parties to find out a sustainable and democratic solution to the ongoing crises."

The Embassy of the European Union in Dhaka, however, sees this letter as the views of the six MEPs who signed the letter.

"I would just note that this letter reflects the views of the 6 MEPs who signed it," EU Ambassador to Bangladesh, Charles Whiteley, told our sister newsagency UNB.

The EU has strong reasons to stand with the people of Bangladesh as a long-time partner in trade and development cooperation, the signatory MEPs believe.

"Thus, the EU needs not only to remain in constant dialogue with Bangladesh's authorities on human rights agenda, but also to produce tangible outcomes," the letter reads.

They mentioned potential measures such as restriction of entry into the EEA zone for those responsible for and complicit in human rights abuses, or regular reminding of the conditions for the GSP+ incentive to which Bangladesh is a bidder may be evaluated.

"In this regard, we would appreciate to know more about the results of the EU-Bangladesh Joint Commission and Subgroup on Good Governance and Human Rights and the plans to work on the Bangladeshi authorities on these (and possibly other)," the letter reads.

Bangladeshi-Americans community takes a stand

A group of around prominent 200 Bangladeshi Americans have said the recent letter from six US congressmen to President Joe Biden - demanding stricter sanctions against the Bangladesh government - contains "false and misleading information."

The claim in the congressmen's letter, "Since Sheikh Hasina's rise to power, the Hindu population has been halved," is categorically false and hides the real reasons behind the persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh, they said.

In particular, the letter ignores the October 2001 post-national election violence unleashed on the Hindu community by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami led coalition, the Bangladeshi Americans said.

The congressmen's letter also contains "incorrect information" about the persecution of the Christian population in Bangladesh under the current government, they observed.

"We, the undersigned Bangladeshi Americans, request the congressmen to withdraw the false information from the letter," they said.

The wrong information would not only undermine the credibility of the congressmen's stance on minority rights in Bangladesh but also jeopardise the security and safety of the undersigned Bangladeshi Americans, according to their statement.

Also read: 6 congressmen's letter to Biden a 'false projection' of the state of Bangladesh's minorities, community leaders say

Noted Bangladeshi Hindu, Christian and Buddhist leaders have already rejected the claims about the state of minority communities in Bangladesh made in the congressmen's letter as categorically false.

hey also indicated that false claims hide the real culprits behind minority persecution in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Oikya Parishad leader Rana Dasgupta said that the congressmen's claim of Hindu population being "halved" under Sheikh Hasina's rule is a "travesty of truth."

"We understand that the US elected representatives sign many statements. But false information in congressmen's letter to President Biden is concerning and detrimental to the Bangladeshi minority communities," wrote the Bangladeshi Americans.

"We again request the congressmen to withdraw the false and misleading information from the letter for the security, safety, and wellness of the Bangladesh minority and undersigned Bangladeshi Americans who have been actively fighting for minority rights in Bangladesh for decades," they said.

Sovereign right to pursue independent policy must be respected: Foreign Ministry

In the government's most direct response, it said it expects respect from all concerned towards the country's sovereign right to pursue independent domestic as well as foreign policy based on the motto "friendship to all, malice towards none", as conceived by the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Bangladesh's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday (June 15, 2023) noted the remarks made by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the context of some recent comments made by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

"In this connection, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh would like to underscore that Bangladesh, like any self-respecting country, attaches highest importance to the values of sovereignty and freedom to decide its own course of action-both domestic and foreign-for the betterment of its people, to realise the dream of the Father of the Nation by implementing the visions laid by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina," the ministry said.

On Wednesday, China said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's remarks against US sanctions were "not just the strong position of the Bangladeshi people, but also the mind of a large part of the international community, especially the developing world."

"We have noted the recent remarks by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Indeed, while turning a blind eye to its own racial discrimination, gun violence and drug proliferation problems, a certain country has long been interfering in the internal affairs of Bangladesh and many other developing countries under the pretext of democracy and human rights," said Spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Wang Wenbin, commenting on sanctions on Bangladesh.

He said Bangladesh and China have been traditionally friendly neighbours.

"We firmly support Bangladesh in safeguarding its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, upholding independent domestic and foreign policies, and pursuing a development path that suits its national realities," said the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson.

He said they stand ready to work together with Bangladesh and other countries to oppose all forms of hegemony and power politics, uphold the UN-centred international system, the international order underpinned by international law, and the basic norms governing international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and build a community with a shared future for mankind.

You've got mail

The US Department of State has said they are not familiar with a new letter sent by six Congressmen, this time all Democrats, to Secretary of State Antony Blinken but noted that they usually respond back confidentially.

"I'm not familiar with the letter. We generally don't comment on letters that we get from members of Congress," said Matthew Miller, Spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, at a regular briefing on June 14.

He said they respond to them back usually confidentially but they will continue to make known privately as well as publicly any concerns that they have.

A group of around 200 prominent Bangladeshi Americans have said a previous letter from six Republican members of Congress to President Joe Biden - demanding stricter sanctions against the Bangladesh government - contains "false and misleading information."

In particular, the letter ignores the October 2001 post-national election violence unleashed on the Hindu community by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami-led coalition, the Bangladeshi Americans said.

Asked about BNP's position to obstruct elections under the current government, spokesperson Miller said he does not want to speak to that specifically other than to say that the United States is committed to the promotion of democracy and fair elections all over the world.

"That of course includes Bangladesh. Democracy is the most enduring means to advance peace, prosperity, and security. Promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms is at the heart of our - the administration's foreign policy, and we have made that clear as it pertains to Bangladesh," he said.

Leave a Comment

Recent Posts