Dhaka, Dec 29 (UNB) – Though the Jatiya Oikyafront is firm on its decision to stay in the election race till the last moment under any circumstance, its leaders look worried over ensuring the presence of their agents and common voters in polling stations across the country.
Talking to UNB, some alliance leaders and candidates have said they are facing a serious problem as many of their probable election agents are on the run in fear of getting arrested or harassed as law enforcers were raiding their houses.
Some candidates alleged that police have already arrested some of their agents, plunging them in deep trouble to replace them.
Besides, they alleged, common voters are sacred due to pre-election violence and ‘intimidation’ by ruling party men and law enforcers.
A leader close to BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said many candidates were making phone calls to their senior leaders to get their permission to quit the election race as they think it is useless to remain in the polls since their agents are getting arrested and threatened not to go to polling stations.
However, a BNP standing committee member said they are giving their leaders and activists various directives to remain alert and stay in safe places to avoid arrest before the voting. “We’re also giving them some other instructions about how they will discharge their duty and cheek vote fraud.”
He said they also worked out some strategies to ensure the presence of their candidates’ agents at every voting centre and encourage people to go to polling stations defying all odds and obstacles. “We believe the scenario will change if voters can go to the polling stations.”
BNP standing committee member and Oikyafront candidate for Dhaka-3 seat Gayeshwar Chandra Roy said, “I was injured in a serious attack by my opponents, but I’m not scared and suppressed.”
He said he will be there in the race, no matter what come may. “People will surely stage a vote revolution overcoming all barriers.”
Replying to a question, Gayeshwar said like other candidates, he is also concerned about the security of his election agents.
BNP candidate for Laxmipur-3 constituency Shahid Uddin Chowdhury Anee said, “We’re in the election in a dreadful situation. Our leaders and activists are being attacked and arrested. We’re not getting any help from the administration.”
He said some of his election agents have already been arrested by police and they continued their drive to arrest others. “It’ll be a very difficult job for us to send agents to every polling station due to arrest and harassment by police and ruling party activists.”
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal general secretary and Oikyafront’s Cumilla-4 seat candidate Abdul Malek Ratan said people are eagerly waiting to cast their votes, but the mass arrest of opposition activists is going on to frighten them.
He said he did not disclose the names of his possible election agents, but some of them have already been arrested.
Mahmudur Rahman Manna, convener of Nagorik Oikya and Oikyafront contender for Bogura-2 constituency, said his five possible agents were arrested by police while law enforcers were raiding the houses of BNP leaders and activists and trying to make people panicked. “I didn’t disclose the list of my agents. But police are arresting people suspecting them as my agents.”
He said people have got a bit demoralised due to attacks on BNP leaders and activists and intimidation by his opponents. “Ruling party cadres are asking people not to go to polling stations.”
Gano Forum executive president and Oikyafront candidate for Dhaka-6 Subrata Chowdhury said voting will be held in his constituency through electronic voting machines, but ruling party men were asking people not to go to police stations. “I can’t understand how the voting will be held if people can’t go to the polling stations.”
He said his election agents are on the run in fear of getting arrested as police were patrolling the area and arresting opposition activists.
BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said law enforcers and ruling party cadres were forcing BNP candidates’ agents and their supporters to leave their areas. “A scaring situation has been prevailing everywhere as armed Awami League cadres are staging showdown at every village”
He alleged that the Chief Election Commissioner has tied up the army after letting them in the field. “They’re not being allowed to work independently. Everything is happening under the supervision of the Chief Election Commissioner at the behest of the Prime Minister.”
The BNP leader, however, said there will be a vote revolution on Sunday even after the prevailing adverse situation.
Rizvi claimed that some 10,329 BNP were arrested, 844 ‘fictitious and false’ cases filed and 2,896 attacks carried out, 13,252 injured and nine party men were killed till Thursday since the announcement of the election schedule.
Dhaka, 29 (UNB) – Jatiya Oikyafront chief Dr Kamal Hossain has said he has no doubt about their alliance’s victory if the December-30 national election is held in a credible manner as there is huge enthusiasm among people to bring about a change in power.
He, however, said he is in doubt whether the election will be held in a free and fair manner as he thinks the government is behaving ‘abnormally’ due to lack of its ‘confidence’ in credible polls.
In an interview with UNB at his Bailey Road residence, Dr Kamal said if any government is formed against the will of people it will face ouster like HM Ershad.
He also said Oikyafront must remain intact even if it does not win the election and work for people and establish a government of people.
The Oikyafront chief also talked about their election preparations, election atmosphere, election campaign, their expectations over the December-30 election, his future role, his observations about Bangladesh’s democracy and some other issues.
“People’s spontaneous support for a change in government is remarkable. I can say without any confusion that Jatiya Oikyafront will come to power if a good election is held,” he said.
Dr Kamal, an eminent jurist and also the President of Gano Forum, questioned why the government is arresting so many opposition leaders and activists ahead of the election and why the ruling party is resorting to widespread violence by creating a ‘reign of terror’. “It seems the government has a lack of confidence. That’s why they’re behaving abnormally.”
He said their alliance could not prepare properly for the election as the election schedule was deferred by only a week ignoring their demand for one month.
Dr Kamal also said they tried to hold a pre-election grand rally in Dhaka to conclude their electioneering, but they were not allowed to do so. “It’s very abnormal attitude of the government. I got stunned seeing such unusual behaviour. The government did it as it has become autocrat. Even, we held such rallies during Ershad’s autocratic rule. The last election rally is very important, but we couldn’t hold it.”
He also said the government’s unusual activities have made him worried that it may try to bring the election results in their favour by all means.
Dr Kamal voiced his frustration over the role of the police. “The police force had manifested its partisan attitude under party governments in the past, too. But their role this time is unprecedented. They’re patrolling everywhere and arresting people without any reason. It’s a big punishment for me to witness such acts even after 47 years of the independence.”
He said political parties are still not politically mature and they are not showing respect for democracy in the country. “It’s undeniable that the quality of politics has deteriorated. The opposition used to enjoy generosity during elections held under Bangabandhu’s rule. Bangabandhu used to show respect for the opposition. He used to say the opposition is not our enemy as they are pro-democratic forces, and they should be given the equal opportunity.”
The Oikyafront chief also voiced concern that ‘so-called politics has now turned into a means of business. “We can’t call it politics. Unhealthy politics is like a cancer. Doing politics for personal gains is the sickening one. Politics should be for serving people what Bangabandhu and Tajuddin Ahmad had pursued. They didn’t do person-centric politics.”
Dr Kamal, a close aide of Bangabandhu, said Tajuddin Ahmad was removed from the cabinet, but it did not lessen his loyalty and love for his leader Sheikh Mujiubur Rahman and his party Awami League. “This is what the healthy politics is.”
To get rid of unhealthy politics and give democracy an institutional shape, he said good governance, the rule of law and the impartial enforcement of law should be ensured alongside creating public opinion against bad political culture.
Asked as to why it is not clear who will be the Prime Minister if Oikyafront comes to power, Dr Kamal said, “It’s a bit true the matter is not clear. But there’re four-five leaders in our alliance partners, including in BNP, who are highly educated and competent and experienced to be the Prime Minister. Any of them can lead (the government).”
Replying to another question that there is a public perception that he might be made President if their alliance forms the government, the Gano Forum chief said he does not want any such role as he is an octogenarian man.
He said he wants to live on a few years more to work for the country and its people. “I don’t have any desire to get any bigger post as he I was a cabinet member of Bangabandhu and a colleague of Bangabandhu and Tajuddin Ahmad. I’m lucky that I got such an opportunity at my early life and I’m happy with it.”
Dr Kamal also said he is eager to work with any government if he gets the chance to work for the people of the country.
Asked what their alliance may do if it cannot come out successful in the polls, the Oikyafront chief said the unity of patriot people is a big strength. “It can be made defeated by force, but this alliance must sustain and continue its work for people. We must remain united until a government of people is established.”
He further said, “If any government is constituted against people’s desire, it’ll face the fall…Ershad had tried to cling to power by force, but failed.”
Dhaka, Dec 28 (UNB) – All the election materials, including translucent ballot boxes and ballot papers, will reach polling stations across the country by Saturday as the Election Commission (EC) has completed its preparations to arrange the general election on Sunday, EC officials said.
Amid tight security with the deployment of over 7 lakh security members across the country, the voting in the election will be held from 8am to 4pm without any break.
The country’s people are going to witness a battle mainly between two major political camps –-ruling Awami League-led Grand Alliance and Dr Kamal Hossain-led Jatiya Oikyafront – in the election to be held with the participation of 39 registered political parties.
Meanwhile, the curtain fell on the 18-day official electioneering on Friday morning amid allegations and counter-allegations of violence from the two major political coalitions.
Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda on Friday urged the members of law enforcement agencies to create a congenial environment so that all can cast their votes as per their choice. "Huge aspirants are participating in the election. I hope the election will be held in a festive mood," he said while visiting the media booth at the Result Announcement Centre of Nirbachan Bhaban in the city.
Replying to a query about the fear of opposition parties, the CEC said, "We’re ready to prove them wrong. The voters will cast their votes in a festive environment."
Election Commissioner Brig Gen (retd) Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury said the Commission has taken all the preparations which are essentials for the election. “We’re fully ready for arranging the election,” he said while taking to reporters at Nirbachan Bhaban on Friday.
Shahadat said though there are political tensions, there is no fear about the election.
A total of 103,826,819 voters –- 52,371,616 males and 51,455,203 females -- will be allowed to exercise their franchise in 299 constituencies out of 300 across the country.
The EC has postponed the election to Gaibandha-3 parliamentary seat following the death of the Jatiya Oikyafront candidate. The Gaibandha-3 polls will be held on January 27.
In the 299 constituencies, a total of 1,861 contesting candidates are running in the election.
Of the contenders, 1733 are nominated by political parties and 128 independent ones.
The EC has already finalised 40,051 polling stations with a total of 205,691 booths for the 299 constituencies. As per the police reports sent to the Election Commission, 64 percent polling stations are important (vulnerable) across the country.
On the voting day, a total of 608,000 security men will be deployed to guard all the polling stations across the country. Of them, some 121,000 are police members, 446,000 Ansar men and 41,000 are village police members, according to the EC’s factsheet.
A security team comprising of 14-17 members will guard each polling station.
In metropolitan areas, a 17-member security group having at least four police members with arms will ensure security to each important (risky) polling station, while a 16-member group having at least three police members with arms to protect each normal station.
Outside metropolitan areas, a 16-member security team having at least two police members with arms will guard each important polling station, while a 15-member security group having at least one police member with arms to protect each normal polling station.
Besides, 12,420 Army personnel (414 platoons) now remain deployed on election duty in 389 upazilas, while 1,440 Navy personnel (48 platoons) in 18 upazilas, 1,260 Coast Guard members (42 platoons) in 12 upazilas, 29,490 BGB members (983 platoons) across the country and 18,000 Rab members (600 platoons) throughout the country.
Some 65,000 other security men, including Rab members, are engaged as striking forces across the country to maintain the law and order outside polling stations.
Police patrol teams in districts and metropolitan areas are engaged to maintain the election atmosphere across the country.
Out of 299 constituencies, electronic voting machines (EVMs) will be used in six –-Dhaka-6 and 13, Chattogram-9, Rangpur-3, Khulna-2 and Satkhira-2-- instead of traditional ballot papers.
A total of 2,124,554 voters will be allowed to cast votes through 5,045 EVMs under 845 polling stations in the six constituencies.
As per the EC’s directives, the government has already imposed ban on plying of unauthorised motorcycles from Friday midnight, while other vehicles from Saturday midnight.
Cox’s Bazar, Dec 28 (UNB) – Though the Election Commission has asked Rohingyas not to venture out of their camps here for a certain period, locals fear that the refugees may spell trouble during the national election on Sunday.
Md Ayub Majhi (leader) of Ukhiya’s Kutupalang Camp 5, said Rohingyas are coming out of their camps and going to various nearby places. “I’m not sure where they’re going or whether they’re joining any political campaign,” he said.
On December 21, the Election Commission issued a circular restricting the movement of Rohingya people staying in refugee camps in Cox's Bazar during the election.
A circular, signed by EC deputy secretary Atiar Rahman, states that Rohingya people may be used in the 11th parliamentary polls for creating anarchy in favour of different candidates.
To restrict their movements, the commission asked the authorities concerned to work so that they cannot come out from the camps from 7:00 pm on December 29 to 8:00 am on December 31.
There was no such embargo on Rohingyas’ movement during the 2014 and 2008 elections, said Palangkhali Union Parishad Chairman Gafur Uddin Chowdhury.
“During those times, the Rohingyas had influenced the polls in many ways,” he said adding, “This year, after the polls schedule announcement, many Rohingyas went out of the camps in groups and some of them even got involved in campaigns.”
The ruling Awami League and BNP have been accusing each other of using the refugees for political gains ahead of the December 30 election.
The local unit of Awami League claims that BNP and its allies are using Rohingyas in their campaigns. “Rohingyas have been seen in the processions of BNP candidates,” said Jahangir Kabir Chowdhury, the party’s Ukhiya Upazila unit general secretary.
He said they (Rohingyas) may cause problems during the election, a claim turned down by BNP leaders.
Sarwar Jahan Chowdhury, BNP’s Ukhiya Upazila unit chief, claimed that the ruling party is using the Rohingyas in many ways. “They may even try to mobilise the Rohingyas on the voting day and use them against their rivals,” he said.
The smell of money, and blood
Rohingyas are using the election season to earn some extra cash. But their involvement in the election process may lead to unrest, locals fear.
Advocate Ayachur Rahman, general secretary of Save Cox’s Bazar Movement, said a number of Rohingyas, who came to Bangladesh during 1978-79, had managed to enlist as voters.
“Those Rohingyas and the new arrivals might get involved in the election and sabotage the polling booths,” he said.
“Rohingyas have been ordered not to leave the camps from 7pm of December 29 to 8am of December 31,” said Cox’s Bazar Returning Officer and Deputy Commissioner Md Kamal Hossain.
During this period, NGO workers and volunteers will also be barred from entering or leaving the camps in cars. However, they will be allowed to use cars to deliver food and emergency medical help.
Many locals say they feel the EC embargo should have been longer.
“This short-time ban has given Rohingyas the opportunity to take part in polls campaigns. We fear that they can cause large scale violence,” said Gafur, also general secretary of Rohingya Repatriation Committee.
Law enforcement and security agencies are on alert.
Cox’s Bazar police chief AKM Iqbal Hossain has said the law enforcement agencies have been cautiously taking position around Rohingya camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf while police, RAB, BGB, and Ansar members are patrolling the sites.
“It (the EC order) is to make sure that nobody can use the Rohingyas for political mileage or to cause disorder,” said Kamal.
Dhaka, Dec 28 (UNB) – Bangladesh lost many illustrious figures in the cultural arena in 2018 who served the country with their creativity, talent and intellect till their death.
But they have been kept alive through various homages and tributes at every level from the state to the personal, while the social media are filled with posts, comments and sharing of contents about them. Cultural organisations paid their homage organising different programmes to remember their work.
In 2018, the country lost many talented artistes like Ferdousi Priyabhashini, rock star Ayub Bachchu, dance guru Bazlur Rahman Badal and many others who were the brightest stars of their respective areas.
The list of lost gems was from the world of literature, dance, rock music, acting and movies, filmmaker, journalism and poets.
In January, Bangladesh lost actor Siraj Haider, playwright-writer Begum Momtaj Hossain, artist of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra Khademul Islam Basunia, writer ShawkatAli, singer Shammi Akhter.
Noted sculptor and freedom fighter Ferdousi Priyabhashini breathed her last on March 6 suffering from multiple health complications who was an example of courage for the womenfolk who are struggling in society in different sectors. She used to raise her voice about women's rights.
Ekushey Padak winner eminent poet Belal Chowdhury, who will ever be remembered for his contributions to Bangla literature, passed away on April 25.
Known by many names like poet, journalist, columnist and translator, Belal Chowdhury was awarded the Bangla Academy Literary Award in 1984, Mazharul Islam Poetry Award in 2013. Belal had served as the editor of Bharat Bichitra, a magazine published from the Indian Embassy in Dhaka.
In May, the country saw the death of Prof Dr Mustafa Nurul Islam, young actress Tajin Ahmed and poet, novelist and translator Mostafa Mir.
The untimely death of the young actor Tazin, who worked in multiple areas, such as a theatre performer, TV actress and anchor, playwright and journalist -- shocked the nation very much.
The actress, hailing from Noakhali, made a foray into the small screen in 1996 with the air of drama ‘Shesh Dekha Noy’ in BTV.
Pranab Saha, a permanent member of the Jatiya Press Club and joint editor of Channel I, died of old-age complications at 66 on June 7.
On the other hand, the country lost the renowned actress Rani Sarkar on July 7, language movement fighter Dr Halima Khatun, adventure writer Jafar Ahmed Choudhury in the month of July.
Rani Sarkar, the national film award winner, acted in almost 250 films whose acting career began as a stage performer in 1958 with the first break in AJ Kardar's film 'Dur Hai Shukh Kagaon'.
In August, the people of the country witnessed the death prominent dancer Bazlur Rahman Badal and two veteran editors – Golam Sarwar and A H M Moazzem Hossain.
Veteran journalist Golam Sarwar, the editor of Bangla daily Samakal, who had been suffering from heart problems and respiratory complications, passed away on August 14 while AHM Moazzem Hossain, editor of The Financial Express, on August 2.
Golam Sarwar served journalism for more than five decades with accomplishments and professionalism while Moazzem Hossain starting his career in journalism with the now-defunct Bangladesh Observer as a reporter worked for The New Nation, United News of Bangladesh (UNB), The Dhaka Courier, and The Daily Star.
On September 3, people saw the demise of writer and birangana of Bangladesh Liberation War Rama Chowdhury.
She authored around 20 books, including poetry, novels and memoirs alongside the best-known autobiographical work "Ekattorer Jononi" ("Mother of 71") which describes the torture perpetrated by Pakistani military during the Bangladesh Liberation War.
Bangladesh also lost rock star Ayub Bachchu, prominent face on silver screen and jatra artistes Sheikh Abdul Aziz, and artist of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra Rangalal Dev Chowdhury this year.
The death of guitarist Aiyub Bachchu is a huge loss to the music industry of Bangladesh.
The brightest star of rock world of Bangladesh, Bachchu, mostly known as ‘’AB”, died on October 13.
He popularised rock music in Bangladesh along with his band LRB (Love Runs Blind), had been an integral part of the Bangladeshi rock music scene for more than 25 years.
The month of December saw the loss of photographer Anwar Hossain, musician Amzad Hossain and filmmaker Saidul AnamTutul.