Speakers at the fifth round of regional dialogue of civil society initiative for accountable development at Sylhet (17 june, 2006) said honest and competent candidates cannot be elected without a proper voter list and a neutral Election Commission.
They said there should be a consensus between the two major political parties for removal of uncertainty now looming large on the next general elections.
They felt that the caretaker government would no longer be required if the Election Commission is neutral and powerful. The speakers also asked the organisers of the dialogue to reach the message up to the grass roots level.
The speakers suggested introduction of voter identity cards with photograph, bringing necessary amendments in the Election Commission and the existing election process for a free and fair general election.
The election cannot be free and fair without eradication of muscle power and fake voters, they said. They also spoke in favour of strengthening the local government and reducing the involvement of lawmakers with local development activities.
They asked the major political parties to give nomination to those who have been involved with politics for long instead of the moneyed men.
They also demanded cancellation of the provision of tax-free car import by the lawmakers as it makes them ‘corrupt’.
The non-government think tank Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) organised the discussion with the joint collaboration of The Daily Star, the Prothom Alo and Channel i as part of a civil society initiative for accountable development.
Executive Director of the CPD Debapriya Bhattachariya conducted the six-hour long discussion in which the local political leaders, lawyers, teachers, development workers and professionals participated. Several hundred people from cross section of society attended the discussion at Sylhet Zila Parishad auditorium amid an inclement weather.
Prominent educationist Prof Mohammad Abdul Aziz presided over the dialogue.
The speakers also suggested imposing a ban on contesting in the general election for at least five years by renegade politicians.
The candidates must be honest and competent as well as committed to improvement of the society and development of their areas, they said.
All have already rejected the acceptability of the Election Commission, said former lawmaker Hafiz Ahmed Mojumder who attended as a special guest. He suggested fixing a maximum age for election candidature.
Mojumder also suggested making the post of speaker and deputy speaker in parliament independent and free from party affiliation.
Another special guest, prominent politician M A Haque, suggested immediate introduction of ID cards.
He stressed the need for removal of corruption from the administration, as honest and competent lawmakers would not be able to run the country properly with a corrupt administration.
Prof Mohammad Abdul Aziz observed that the security personnel should not be directly involved with the election process. He suggested introduction of a system where MPs would face no-confidence of the electorate.
Aziz said false and fake voting cannot be stopped without introduction of voter ID cards while the election cannot be free and fair without curbing the influence of musclemen.
Prof Anisuzzaman and Dr Zafar Iqbal spoke on behalf of the 27-member Jatiya Nagorik Committee formed for preparing a vision paper on the basis of people’s voice raised at the regional dialogues throughout the country.
Abdul Quaiyyum, deputy editor of the Prothom Alo, Sharmeen Murshed of Broty, an NGO for election monitoring, and Anisatul Yusuf Fatema of the CPD also took part in the discussion.
The main objective of the civil society initiative is to create pressure on the administration and the political parties for good governance, said Prof Anisuzzaman.
He expressed the hope that the people would get the message and would not make mistake after getting proper information about the candidates.
“I am very hopeful that Bangladesh would achieve economic growth very soon as it was established through massive sacrifice,” said Dr Zafar Iqbal.
If people become aware of it, they would carry forward the movement for honest and competent candidate, he said.
The other speakers who participated in the discussion include, advocate Bedananda Bhattacharyia, advocate Abdul Hai Khan, Syeda Zabunnesa, Shafi Ahmed Chowhdhury MP, advocate Mujibur Rahman Chowdhury, Safwan Chowdhury, Faruq Mohammad Chowdhury, Brigadier general (Rtd) Zobaer Siddiqui, advocate Gholam Rabbani Chowdhury, Dr Kabir Chowdhury, Irfanuzzaman, Chowdhury Delwar Hossain, Aslam Kabir Tiru, Himadri Sheikhar Roy, Abul Fateh Fattah, Bahauddin Selim, Dr Syed Shamsul Alam, Azharul Islam, Uzzal Roy, Shaymoly Rani, Farzana
Siddiqui, AFM Kamal, Dr Mostafa Hasan, Shamimur Rahman, Zaida Sharmin, Akhtarul Islam, Shushanta Kumar Dash, Dr Mohammad Yunus, Dr Mizanul Haque Kazal, Ashraf Ali, Anisul Islam, Govinda Pal, Syed Abdul Hannan, Abdus Samad Nazrul, Abul Hossain, Abdul Wadud, Lokman Ahmed, and Prof Habibur Rahman.