Speakers at the regional dialogue in Comilla (May 20, 2006) extended full support to the civil society initiative for honest and dedicated candidates in the general election to be held in 2007.
They demanded extensive reform in the electoral system so that black money and hooliganism cannot dominate the election.
They pointed out that there is no alternative to honest and dedicated leadership for ensuring good governance. They also suggested bringing reforms in the political parties and a massive change in the political culture of the country.
Around four hundred local civil society members including politicians, non-government organisation (NGO) workers, lawyers, teachers, social workers, and cultural activists attended the dialogue on ‘accountable development and election 2007’. Among them around one hundred spontaneously participated in the discussion and vowed to take the campaign to the grassroots level.
They observed that democracy should not be hostage to a section of wealthy people who gathered money through illegal ways. They also demanded drug free Bangladesh, ban on religion-based politics, registration of the political parties and bar on participation in the general election by bill defaulters.
The speakers also suggested reform in the education system introducing uniform primary education for all. They pointed out that many social problems could be resolved through creating awareness among the people about their rights.
As part of the third round of such regional dialogues the event at Bir Chandra auditorium located at the heart of the town was presided over by Porf Ameer Ali Chowdhury. The next round of the dialogue will be held in Barisal next Saturday.
President of Comilla Lawyers Association Syed Abdullah Pintu and former president of Bangladesh Medical Association Dr Mosleh Uddin were special guests.
Prof Jamilur Reza Chowdhury and Prof Mahmuda Islam spoke for Nagorik Committee while Mahfuz Anam, editor of the Daily Star, and Abdul Qauyum, joint-editor of the daily Prothom Alo participated in the dialogue on behalf of the organisers.
Executive Director of CPD Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya conducted the lively dialogue.
Speaking as special guest advocate Syed Abdullah Pintu called upon the people to bring a social revolution for bringing transparency in the electoral system.
“Social injustice should be resisted through social movements,” he observed. Opposing the idea of selling natural resources to any foreign company Pintu said, “We should not bring another East India Company in the name of investment.”
“Natural gas is our resource and nobody should be allowed to exploit it depriving our people.”
“On the other hand, there should be some sort of measures in our electoral process so that nobody can be elected through extra-mechanisms,” he added.
Jamilur Reza Chowdhury said policy makers are bound to understand the people’s need if pressure is maintained on them by the civil society. He noted that there are many examples where the government adopted a new policy after getting pressured by the civil society.
Successive governments were forced to accept a number of recommendations prepared by a taskforce led by Prof Rehman Sobhan, he noted.
Jamilur Reza observed that the country will face a serious environmental disaster as the rivers and water bodies are being filled up by encroachers. Although the government promulgated an act for preserving water bodies, most of the people are not abiding by the act.
Mahfuz Anam said the politicians failed to reflect the aspirations of the people. He called upon the people to speak out against misrule of governments applying their citizens’ rights.
He observed that good governance will come when honest and dedicated leaders will be elected.
Participating in the discussion Prof Mahmuda Islam observed that the political parties should nominate candidates observing the aspirations of the people.
Advocate Salma Ali suggested bringing practice of democracy in the political parties. She said retired persons from government services should not be allowed to be candidates in the election.
Among the local civil society members who participated in the discussion were, AKM Mofizur Rahman, Shafiqul Islam Sikder, Advocate Golam Faruq, Abdullahel Baqi, Mofizudin Ahmed, Advocate Afzal Khan, Liakat Ali, Zahidur Rahman Mamun, Bahaduruzzman, Dr Ali Hossain Chowdhury, Nirmal Chandra Das, Mahbubur Rahman, Hosne Ara Mina, Masuk Ahmed Chowdhury, Zamir Uddin Khan, Mominul Haque, Shah Alamgir, Jahanara Begum, Shah Mohammad Selim, Sharmeen Kader, Zahirul Haque Dulal, Gaziul Hassan Khan, Ekushe award recipient Dr Zobaeda Hannan, AKM Bahauddin Bahar, Kazi Najmus Sadaat, Nure Alam Bhuiyan, Papri Bose, Nripendra Kumar Chakrabarti, Abul Hasnat Babul, Advocate Nazmul Alam Chowdhury Noman, Omar Farook, Zohara Anis, Masud Altaf Chowdhury, Ahmed Shoeb Sohel, Abdul Hai Bablu, Rajin Rabbi, Fakhrul Huda Helal, Prof Shafiqur Rahman, Yasmeen Reema, and Mobarak Hossain.