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) – Jatiya Oikya Prokriya, led by Dr Kamal Hossain, held a citizens’ rally here on Saturday giving the government until September 30 to meet its three-point demand, including steps for the formation of an election-time neutral government through discussions with the political parties.
Their two other demands are taking effective steps for reconstituting the Election Commission and dissolving parliament before the announcement of the election schedule.
Oikya Prokriya also announced to hold rallies across the country with the presence of national leaders from October 1 to involve people in their unity process.
Engineer Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah, convener of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, read out an announcement of the citizens’ rally.
Jatiya Oikya Prokriya arranged the rally at Mahanagar Natya Mancha in the city as part of its efforts to create a greater national unity to ensure a ‘functional democracy’ in the country through holding a credible national election. Dr Kamal presided over the rally.
Top leaders of BNP, its some alliance partners, Bikolpo Dhara Bangladesh, Jataiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD-Rob), Nagorik Oikya, Ganosanghati Andolon and different other political parties and some civil society members joined the rally, and extended their support to the demands.
Oikya Prokriya also urged people to form committees of the Greater National Unity in all the districts upazilas, unions and words comprising all the political parties, individuals, the people of all walks of life and civil society members who believe in the spirit of the Liberation War to realise the demands of the mass people through united and peaceful programmes.
The Election Commission’s ‘failure’ to hold the recent local government elections in a fair and neutral manner has exposed again that a credible election is not possible under a political government, said the announcement of the rally. “A unity has also been created among people over the matter. So, today’s rally extended solidarity to the five-point demand and nine targets announced by Oikya Prokriya and Jukta Front at the Jatiya Press Club for a fair and impartial election on September 15.”
The rally also demanded that legal and justified rights be ensured for BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia as she has been jailed unfairly by hindering the normal process of justice.
It also demanded the government release the arrested students as they waged quota reform and safe roads movements and leaders and activists of all political parties after withdrawing the ‘false’ cases filed against them.
The citizens’ rally also urged the government not to arrest leaders and activists of any political party until the national election is over.
Speaking at the rally as the chief guest, Bikolpo Dhara Bangladesh president, AQM Badruddoza Chowdhury said they are in discussions with different political parties and individuals, including BNP to strengthen the national unity. “We think our efforts will be successful.”
He, however, said they will not forge the national unity with those who were against the Liberation War. “The national unity can be intensified with only those who are pro-liberation forces. It’s time for putting up a resistance …and realising demands.”
B Chowdhury, also a former president, criticised the government for its ‘failure’ to ensure the security of people, including women and children, check extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, corruption, bribery and maintain law and order.
He also slammed the government for attacking and torturing students.
The former president also questioned as to why the political parties need to take permission from the police to hold rallies and meetings while the ruling can do it anywhere anytime as per its wish. “We’ll hold rallies by taking permission from people, not from the police, in the days to come.”
He also castigated the government for its failure to realise the fair share of Teesta water from India over the last 10 years.
Speaking at the programme, Dr Kamal Hossain said they are putting in their best efforts to empower people and restore their voting rights.
He said the country now has been under misrule as political opponents of the ruling party are being constantly harassed.
Mentioning that some people are sensing a conspiracy behind the national unity process, Dr Kamal said those who fear people are insulating people by calling their efforts to get united as a plot.
“Bangabandhu had given me the responsibility for formulating the Constitution of the just-liberated country. It’s my best achievement. Personally, I’ve nothing else to get. As a political activist, it’s my sacred duty to ensure the empowerment of people as per the Constitution,” he said.
Kamal, also the president of Gono Forum, said they are trying to forge the national unity to ensure a functional democracy and the rule of law and neutral enforcement of law by restoring people’s voting, basic, human and constitutional rights.
“People are giving a tremendous response to our call as they’re united over the basic issues. Time has come to unite the like-minded parties. I believe our efforts will yield a positive outcome.”
Speaking at the rally, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir thanked Dr Kamal Hossain and B Chowdhury for taking steps to forge the national unity as the government is trying to establish a one-party rule by destroying democracy.
“There’s no alternative to forging the unity to get rid of misrule of this government, and remove it from power,” he said.
Fakhrul also said their chairperson Khaleda Zia gave them a message from jail to create the national unity to oust the ‘fascist regime’ and restore democracy.
He said the government is now implicating their party leaders and activists in ‘ghostly’ cases to keep people away from election.
The BNP leader said people will lose their basic rights while the country’s independence will be at stake if a pro-people government cannot be established removing the current one.
Fakhrul said most political leaders at the rally made almost similar demands, including resignation of the government, dissolution of parliament, installation of an election-time government, reconstitution of EC, deployment of army and cancelation of EVM use decision, for holding the next polls in a fair and credible manner.
He called upon the national leaders to launch a united movement to force the government to release Khaleda Zia, all political prisoners, and ensure a fair and credible election. “We must get united for it. We’ve made a good progress over forging the national unity through this rally. We hope we’ll be able to forge the unity very soon under the leadership of the national leader and move forward.”
He also called upon all to join the movement for realising people’s all the demands.
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.