Speakers at the regional dialogue at Barisal on May 28, 2006 suggested empowerment of the Election Commission and creating awareness among the voters for nomination of honest, competent and courageous candidates for the next general elections.
Non-government research organisation Centre for Policy Dialogue arranged the discussion in collaboration with The Daily Star, the Protham Alo and private television Channel i on accountable development and election 2007.
Emphasising the need for bringing a change in the character of national politics, the speakers said the electorate should also be honest and conscious for ensuring a corruption-free general election.
They demanded resignation of the Chief Election Commissioner M A Aziz taking responsibility for preparing a false voter list and sought accountability for an expenditure of Tk 220 crore that was allocated for making the fresh voter lists.
They suggested the dialogue organisers hold discussion with the political leaders to convince them about the necessity of honest and dedicated candidates. The political parties should nominate competent long-time political persons as candidates instead of black money holders, they felt.
The civil servants should not be allowed for candidature unless they spend at least five years in politics after retirement, they said.
They also demanded registration of political parties and holding national election at the government expenditure to remove corruption and influence of black money in the election campaign.
The speakers said autocratic military rulers earlier suspended the constitution and destroyed the democratic institutions in the country.
They urged the politicians to guard against any communal activities and ensure safety and security of the minority community before and after general elections.
Presided over by educationist Prof Syed Aminul Haque, 94 persons took part in the six-hour-long discussion and freely expressed their views about the reform of the Election Commission, change in the election system and democratic practice in the political parties.
Extending full support to the civil society initiative, they put forward scores of suggestions for bringing necessary reforms in the election system and change in politics.
They vowed to spread the message of the dialogue to grassroots level and involve villagers in the campaign for honest and competent candidates.
Cross sections of people including local political leaders and activists, lawyers, teachers, businessmen, government officials, students, NGO workers, and cultural activists attended the dialogue to listen to the discussion.
Barisal City Corporation Mayor Mujibur Rahman Sarwar was the chief guest at the dialogue held at Shaheed Abdur Rob Serniabat Auditorium at the deputy commissioner’s office complex.
CPD Executive Director Debapriya Bhattacharya conducted the discussion while former advisor of caretaker government Hafiz Uddin Khan, and Sultana Kamal of Ain o Shalish Kendra spoke on behalf of the Nagorik Committee 2006 formed to prepare a vision paper for the next government.
President of Barisal Nagorik Parishad advocate Enayet Peer and former president of Bangladesh Medical Association Barisal Dr AKM Mokhlesur Rahman were the special guests at the regional dialogue.
Shajjad Sharif, deputy editor of the Protham Alo and Anisatul Yusuf Fatema of the CPD also participated in the discussion.
The dialogue was part of the civil society initiative for the campaign for honest and competent candidates in the next general election.
This was the fourth round of such regional dialogue as three previous dialogues were held in Mymensingh, Jessore and Comilla on the same topic. The next round of the regional dialogue will be held in Sylhet.
Stressing the need for a national consensus in greater national interest, Barisal Mayor Mujibur Rahman Sarwar said, “There would not be false voters and controversy on the voter list if the political parties had prepared the lists on the basis of a consensus.”
“We also do not want to see the influence of black money in the elections but the nomination of candidates comes from the party high command,” he said, adding that the CPD should hold dialogue with the top leaders of the two major parties for nomination of honest and competent candidates.
Advocate Enayet Peer said corruption and politics have become closely related which is very shameful for the politicians. He called upon the politicians to become united for saving the country from misrule and anarchy.
He said the ‘inefficient’ chief election commissioner is pushing the nation towards conflict and confrontation.
The country could not reach the level of a medium income state due to lack of good governance, Hafiz Uddin Khan said.
He suggested more power for the Election Commission, updating voter list every year, registration of political parties and arrangement for holding staggered polls.
Referring to the question of empowering the Election Commission (EC), Khan said the EC did not exercise whatever power it had been given.
As citizens of this country, the people should be vocal against corruption, misrule and injustice in the society, Sultana Kamal said, adding that people should not vote for those who are known as communal, against the Liberation War and do not want gender equity in the society.
The dialogue began with inaugural songs rendered by the artistes of local Udichi Shilpi Gosthi and Protham Alo Bandhu Sabha.
The other speakers who participated in the general discussion are: Dr Syed Habibur Rahman, SM Iqbal, Nazrul Islam Rajon, M Moazzem Hossain, Nurul Alam Farid, Mir Moniruzzaman, Dr Captain Sirajul Islam, advocate Talukder Mohammad Yunus, Dr Mizanur Rahman, Ebadur Rahman Chan, Mintoo Basu, Nikhil Sen, Manobendra, Ahsan Habib Kamal, AKM Mizanur Rahman, Rahima Sultana Kamal, Nusrat Jahan, Monirul Ahsan Khan, Prof Abdus Sattar, Mahmud Golam Sadeque, Bazlur Rashid Hawlader, advocate Shahida Talukder, Tofazzal Haque Chowdhury, Mohiuddin Manik, Shamsuddin Alam Kamal, Jiban Krishna Dey, Nur Jahan Begum, Alhajj Abdur Razzaq, Monir Hossain, Sheikh Abdul Kader, Mohsinul Islam Habul, Rabeya Khatun, Ismail Hossain Negahban, SM Saleh, advocate Abdul Hai Mahbub, Fazlul Bari, Shahidul Islam, advocate Salahuddin Masum, Arpita Halder, Mamunur Rashid, Santosh Mukherjee, Aminur Rahman Khoka, Kazi Enayet Hossain, Minto Kumar Ghose, Shameem Azad, Rashedul Hasan Miraj, Sajeda Matin, and advocate Golam Masud.