Male, Sep 22 (AP/UNB) — Opposition supporters in the Maldives demanded Saturday that officials ensure a free and fair presidential election, as the country prepared to vote in what is seen as a referendum on whether democracy will stay.
Since Sunday's election was announced, opposition leaders have feared the vote may be rigged to favor President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's party. The European Union said Friday it is not sending election observers because the country had failed to meet the basic conditions for monitoring.
But the archipelago nation's election chief, Ahmed Shareef, said Saturday that all measures had been taken to hold the election in a free and fair manner and without violence.
"So far, we have facilitated whatever the opposition candidate requested, within the regulations and laws permitting us," Shareef told reporters. "I don't think he could give any concrete reason to call it unfair."
Still, opposition activists voiced their concerns.
"There is no democracy in the Maldives — democracy has vanished under President Yameen," said Adam Ahmed, a 58-year-old opposition activist. He said a second term for the incumbent could mean an end to an "already withering" democracy, as many voters wanted to see a change of government.
Beyond the postcard image the Maldives has of luxury resorts and white sand beaches, the 400,000 citizens of the former British protectorate have struggled to maintain the democratic system established in 2008.
The Maldives' third multiparty presidential election is being held five years after Yameen began consolidating power, rolling back press and individual freedoms, asserting control over independent governmental institutions and jailing or forcing major political rivals into exile.
Yameen has jailed two former presidents, including his half brother, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the Maldives' former strongman, his former vice president, two Supreme Court justices, two former defense ministers and many others after trials criticized for a lack of due process.
As protests culminating in violent confrontations with police and mass arrests have grown, opposition parties — many of them Yameen's own former political partners — formed an alliance in exile with the aim of unseating him.
Supporters of the opposition presidential candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, and the president gathered Saturday at their respective party campaign offices in Male, the capital, for final campaign rallies, as pink and green campaign banners hung across the city's streets.
"I don't agree with the policies of this government and also some corrupt activities," said 19-year-old Scifulla Waheed, who is looking to vote for the first time on Sunday. "It is high time that we should rise to change the government."
Waheed, who believes Yameen has weekend democracy in the Maldives, said a free and fair election "will change this regime."
Yameen's supporters were also vocal.
"Under President Yameen, everything has improved," said Latheef, who gave only one name. "If the opposition comes into power, the economy will be in doldrums and we will have to face hardships."
Dhaka, Sept 22 (UNB) – BNP leaders on Saturday participated in the Dr Kamal Hossain-led Jatiya Oikya Prokriya rally at Mahanagar Natya Mancha in the city to create a greater national unity to ensure a ‘functional democracy’ in the country through holding a credible national election.
Top BNP leaders, including its secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, and standing committee members Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain and Moudud Ahmed joined the programme around 3 pm.
Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh President Badruddoza Chowdhury is the chief guest of the programme.
On September 15, the Dr Badruddoza Chowdhury-led Jukta Front and the Dr Kamal Hossain-led Jatiya Oikya Prokriya formally announced the journey of a ‘greater national unity’.
Dhaka, Sept 22 (UNB) – BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi on Saturday expressed doubt whether the trial of August-21 grenade attack case is being held as per directives of the government.
“Many questions have arisen in public mind about the legal process of the August-21 grenade attack case. The ruling party is excited over its huge political success in taking revenge (on its opponents) through the court,” he said.
Speaking at a press conference at the Party’s Nayapaltan central office, he further said, “There’s a serious doubt in public mind whether the trial of the August-21 case is being held as per the guideline of the government.”
The BNP leader alleged that their party senior vice chairman Tarique Rahman was implicated in the case illegally through a supplementary charge-sheet though his involvement with the attack had not been found during the investigation by the 1/11 government.
“After returning to power in 2009, Awami League unprecedentedly appointed a pro-ruling party retired police officer as the investigation officer of the case who included Tarique Rahman’s name in the supplementary charge-sheet,” he said.
A speedy trial tribunal here is set to deliver its verdict on October 10 in two cases filed over the August 21 grenade attack on an Awami League rally in the capital in 2004.
Rizvi also criticised the government for what he said not taking any step for ensuring proper treatment of their party chairperson Khaleda Zia.
Referring to the statements of Khaleda’s some relatives who met her in Old Dhaka central jail on Friday, he said the pains in her hands and legs aggravated further. “The government is deliberately refrained from ensuring Khaleda Zia’s treatment in a bid to put her life at stake.”
He demanded the government immediately ensure treatment of Khaleda in any specialised hospital like United Hospital instead of in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).
Rizvi said BSMMU is not equipped with modern technology and machines to conduct some necessary tests of Khaleda.
The BNP leader questioned as to why the President and different ministers go abroad for receiving treatment if the government thinks BSMMU is equipped with modern technology.
Springfield, Sept 22 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump says he won't rush into any deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump tells a rally Friday in Springfield, Missouri, that he received a "beautiful letter" two days ago from Kim. But he's not saying what the letter said.
The president and Kim met in June in Singapore to discuss denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
Trump says he has a "very good" relationship with Kim. He notes that North Korea has returned Americans being held there, as well as remains of American service members who went missing during the Korean War.
The president also notes that North Korea has not conducted any ballistic missile or nuclear weapons tests in months.
Trump says, "Let's see what happens," adding "I'm in no rush."
London, Sept 21 (UNB) – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina arrived here en route to New York on a weeklong official visit to the United States to join the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
A VVIP flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines carrying the Prime Minister departed Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 9:55 am and landed at Heathrow Airport in London at 3:50 pm (local time).
Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK Nazmul Qaunine welcomed the Prime Minister at the airport.
After a two-day stopover in London, she will leave for New York on Sunday morning by a British Airways flight. The flight is scheduled to reach Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey at 1:40 pm (local time).
Bangladesh Ambassador to the USA Mohammad Ziauddin and Bangladesh permanent representative to the UN Masud Bin Momen will receive her at the airport.
After the reception at the airport, a ceremonial motorcade will escort the Prime Minister to Hotel Grand Hyatt New York where she will stay during her visit to the USA.