BNP on Monday opposed the move to use the electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the upcoming elections to Chattogram City Corporation, saying the Election Commission took the decision to rig votes again.
"Though voters in the Dhaka city elections rejected the EVMs vehemently, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has again announced to use this means of digital vote rigging in the Chattogram city elections,” said BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi.
Speaking at a press conference at the party’s Nayapaltan central office, he further said, "This means the move has been taken to create a scope for vote robbery in Chattogram in the same style of Dhaka. We condemn the CEC's such a decision.”
Election to Chattogram City Corporation (CCC) will be held on March 29 as per the schedule announced by the Election Commission (EC).
The entire elections will be held using the EVMs instead of traditional ballot papers.
As per the election schedule, the deadline for the submission of nomination papers is February 27 while the scrutiny of nomination papers is on March 1 and the last date for the withdrawal of candidacy is March 8.
Rizvi said the EC should formulate time-befitting rules and regulations so that bad people cannot be elected.
“The Commission should also ensure such an election atmosphere so that people can vote for the candidates of their choice. But the CEC is going to use the EVMs that are turned down by the world instead of ensuring proper election atmosphere,” he observed.
The BNP leader claimed that the voters in Dhaka demonstrated their no-confidence in the CEC and the current EC with their low presence in the February-1 elections to two city corporations.
Rizvi said their party leaders and activists have long been demanding the release of their chairperson Khaleda Zia as she is very sick.
“We again urge the government to free her immediately and thus allow her to receive advanced treatment,” he added.
Asked whether Khaleda’s family members are active to apply for parole for her, Rizvi said their party is not aware of it. “We’ve not yet discussed the matter with the family members.”
BNP on Monday announced a two-day programme to observe the Shaheed Day and International Mother Language Day with due respect on Friday.
BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi announced the programmes at a press conference at the party’s Nayapaltan central office.
February 21 will be observed simultaneously as Shaheed Dibas and International Mother Language Day in recognition of the Bangalees’ supreme sacrifice to the cause of their mother tongue. In 1999, UNESCO declared the 21st of February as the International Mother Language Day.
As part of the programmes, Rizvi said, their party will hold a discussion on Thursday afternoon at the Supreme Court Bar Council’s auditorium, marking the day.
He said they will keep their party and national flags at half-mast and hoist black flags at BNP Nayapaltan central office at 6 am on Friday.
Leaders and activists of the party will also gather in front of Balaka Cinema Hall at Nilkhet at 6 am wearing black badges the same day. Later, they will first offer fateha at the graves of Language Movement martyrs at Azimpur Graveyard and then go to the Central Shaheed Minar to pay tributes to the martyrs.
Besides, BNP’s different units across the country will also observe the day with due respect amid various programmes, including discussion.
BNP senior leader Dr Abdul Moyeen Khan on Sunday said their party chairperson Khaleda Zia would have been freed by the time had there been a ‘civilised’ government in the country.
“It’s fact that we couldn’t free our leader Khaleda Zia over the last two years. It’s also true that we put in our efforts to free her,” he said.
Speaking at a discussion, the BNP leader also said their party observed sit-in, token-hunger strike programmes, formed human chains, and staged demonstrations in a peaceful manner demanding their chairperson’s release. “These programmes would have worked to free her, had there been a civilised government.”
Ganotantra Forum arranged the discussion at the Jatiya Press Club demanding Khaleda Zia’s release and her proper treatment.
Dr Moyeen, a BNP standing committee member, said their party must work out a strategy to have Khaleda freed by evaluating the real situation of the present Bangladesh.
“I don’t believe that we’ll be able to free Khaleda Zia by denying the reality of current Bangladesh. It’s the hard reality,” he observed.
The BNP leader alleged that the government has imprisoned Khaleda as it fears her and the country’s people. “She’s convicted in conspiratorial cases by controlling the judiciary.”
Speaking at the programme, Nagorik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna said Khaleda Zia will not be freed if her party leaders cannot wage a strong movement.
He questioned why BNP leaders are only making various statements and political rhetoric about her release instead of taking to the streets.
“Begum Zia will come out of jail like a star if her party leaders can act properly. Why’re you making statements if you can’t do that? Take strong programmes for carrying out a strong struggle taking the risk of your lives instead of making statements,” Manna said pointing at BNP leaders.
Stating that people suffer the great defat when they lose the mental strength, he questioned whether the BNP leaders get defeated mentally. “BNP is dead if its leaders think Khaleda Zia won’t be able to come out of jail alive.”
Manna said BNP alone can free Khaleda Zia if it wages a strong movement by organising and uniting its crores of supporters.
BNP’s defeated mayoral candidate for the recently held Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) polls Ishraque Hossain on Sunday alleged that their party’s all leaders did not sincerely work to ensure the victory of the party candidates.
Speaking at a views-exchange meeting of the party’s DSCC mayoral and councillor candidates and senior leaders at Ananda Community Centre at Nayapaltan, he also alleged that party leaders and workers were not organised during the election.
“The local BNP leaders tried to remain in the field on the voting day, but they’re not organised. It can’t be acceptable that someone will take risks while some others will sleep. We won’t succeed in this way,” Ishraque observed.
BNP standing committee members Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Mirza Abbas, Iqbal Hasan Mahmud Tuku and some other party senior leaders were present at the programme.
The elections to DSCC and Dhaka North City Corporations (DNCC) were held on February 1 where BNP’s two mayoral candidates were defeated to the ruling party ones.
Ishraque said he visited many voting centres after casting his vote on February 1, and found a big difference in the attitude and sincerity of party leaders about the election.
“In some areas, I saw the councillor candidates made their frantic efforts to ensure victory by taking the risk of their lives. I also didn’t find the councillor candidates in some other areas, and our local leaders and activists weren’t made organised,” he said sharing his experience about the election.
The BNP mayoral candidate also urged the local leaders and activists to inform the party senior leaders about who played what role on the voting day.
He said the party’s weakness in the Dhaka city polls should be discussed so that it can take steps to come out of those in the days to come.
Ishraque said neither their party chairperson Khaleda Zia can be freed nor democracy can be ‘restored’ unless their party can strengthen its ongoing movement by organising the party rank and file.
Speaking at the programme, Khandaker Mosharraf, the convener of party’s DSCC election steering committee, said not more than 7-8 percent people went to cast their votes in the city polls. “But the voter turnout was shown 29 percent in DSCC and 25 percent in DNCC polls by rigging votes through EVMs.”
He said the elections to two Dhaka city corporations have proved that electronic voting machines (EVMs) are not an acceptable voting system.
The BNP leader claimed that voters showed their lack of confidence in the country’s voting system and the government by not going to cast their votes. “It’s an ominous sign for the nation.”
He said Khaleda Zia has been kept in jail by convicting her in ‘false’ cases so that she cannot raise her voice in favour of democracy and make efforts for its restoration.
Mosharraf said their party’s councillor candidates took a vow at their meeting to make the party well-organised and stronger at all wards and thanas to free Khaleda Zia through a strong movement.
Mirza Abbas said their party leaders and activists should have played stronger and more courageous role in the recently held city polls.
He claimed that their many councillor candidates were defeated through vote rigging. “Our candidate Ishraque is the mayor of people and our councillor candidates are the councillors of people.”
The BNP leader urged the party leaders and activists to strength the party getting united to have Khaleda freed from jail.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday said the government has introduced gastroenterology departments at 13 medical college hospitals across the country to expand the gastroenterology treatment in Bangladesh.
She made the remarks when a delegation of British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG), led by its President Dr Cathryn Edwards, met her at her official residence Ganobhaban.
A number of Bangladeshi gastroenterologists, including President of Bangladesh Gastroenterology Society (BGS) Prof Dr Mahmud Hasan, were present during the meeting.
Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters after the meeting.
The Prime Minister also said web cameras have been installed upto upazila hospitals across the country.
Besides, the government has been providing necessary training to nurses to make them more efficient, she said.
Dr Cathryn Edwards explained the importance of the BSG in the UK and its contributions to the delivery of training and clinical best practice standards in gastroenterology and hepatology along with facilitating specialty research.
He informed the Prime Minister that the BSG has been providing assistance for the development of quality and standard of gastroenterology treatment in Bangladesh.
Dr Edwards apprised the Prime Minister of a memorandum of understanding signed between BSG and BGS with the aim to support the establishment of a national training programme for endoscopy based at Sheikh Russel Gastro Liver Institute & Hospital at Mohakhali in Dhaka.
BSG President Dr Mahmud Hasan said the aim of the MoU is to bring an opportunity for reciprocal learning and collaborative research between the two societies.
He also said the establishment of a national endoscopy training programme in Bangladesh will underpin and help promote standardisation of care for patients with gastroenterology diseases.
In reply, the Prime Minister assured the BSG of providing necessary support from the government side, saying it wants to see more success of the efforts of the British society of gastroenterologists in Bangladesh.
The BSG is a registered charity organisation and one of the largest medical gastroenterology and hepatology communities in the UK.
As a professional organisation, it is a voice for gastroenterology and hepatology in the UK, influencing health policy nationally.
The BSG has established strong links with the BGS over the past seven years.
Prime Minister’s Personal Physician Dr ABM Abdullah was present on the occasion.