Regional dialogue at Jessore

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Regional dialogue in Jessore (May 13, 2006) demanded elimination of anomalies in the electoral system, declaration of educational qualifications of candidates, transparency and democratic practices within political parties, separation of the judiciary, empowerment of the Anti-Corruption Commission and an end to all sorts of outside pressure and influence of black money to ensure a free and fair election.

The farmers, labourers and women have to be involved in mainstream politics. And political parties must create honest and competent candidates as they would not come from outside the country, speakers at the dialogue demanded.

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The dialogue on ” National Election 2007: Civil Society Initiative for Accountable Development” was part of a series of programmes jointly organised by the policy think-tank Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), The Daily Star, the Prothom Alo and Channel i.

The speakers pointed out that the people want to see an effective parliament but its members often boycott it when they sit in the opposition bench.

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Politicians often change parties for getting better position. There should be a rule that one who changes a party cannot contest polls in next five years, they said.

They regretted that the candidates often forget their election pledges and become corrupt after being elected.

The government should give a clarification on the controversial draft voter list, the speakers thought.

The dialogue stressed revival of the sprit of Liberation War, the constitution adopted in 1972 and ban on communal politics.

Absence of any comprehensive plan for overall development of the country even after 35 years of independence was pointed out at the dialogue.

Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, executive director of the CPD, conducted the discussion while prominent educationist Sharif Hossain was in the chair.

Sheikh Hasan Imam, convenor of Jessore Nagorik Committee, Dr Kazi Robiul Haque, cultural activist, and Angela Gomez of Banchte Shekha were special guests.

Former finance minister M Syeduzzaman, Editor of The Daily Star Mahfuz Anam and Shykh Siraj of Channel i were guest speakers.

The first national dialogue on the topic was held in Dhaka on March 20 and the first regional dialogue in Mymensingh on April 29. The next regional dialogue is scheduled to be held in Comilla on Saturday, to be followed by one in Barisal.

Hasan Imam said lawmakers should not be involved in local development activities as those should be done by local governments. Members of parliament will only make laws, he felt.

Sharif Hossain demanded effective steps to combat corruption and plunder of public money by unscrupulous people.

He also suggested holding such dialogues at grassroots level, and involvement of younger generation in development activities.

Kazi Robiul Haque said democracy should be established at every stage of the society and it is urgent to have democracy within the political parties. Politicians will have to materialise the dreams of the civil society.

Syeduzzaman said the people should be aware of their rights and political parties should try for economic development of the country.

“Good governance and corruption cannot go together,” he observed.

Explaining the main objective of such dialogue, Debapriya Bhattacharya said the people should know the background of the candidates as they will get the opportunity of handling more than Tk 60,000 crore annually.

Political parties should be registered for bringing transparency in their activities, he stressed.

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Although the civil society is not a part of state mechanism, they have the right to speak out against corruption and mismanagement of the government with the power given in the country’s constitution, he said.

The main objective of the present initiative is to make the people more conscious of their voting right, said Mahfuz Anam.

“It is high time to tell politicians about the aspirations of the people and we want to reflect their opinion through a Vision Paper for the country being prepared by the Nagorik Committee.”

Although the Election Commission fixed polls expenditure at Tk five lakh, cores of taka are spent by candidates during election. There is a tendency to get back this money after they are elected, he said.

Criticising the election tribunal, Anam he said that after the filing of a complaint, the next election comes before it is resolved. He also stressed transparency in the activities of returning officers.

Shykh Siraj demanded more involvement of farmers in development activities.

Around 100 speakers participated in the five-hour discussion held at the district council auditorium.

The local elite participating in the discussion included M R Khairul Umam, S M Kamruzzaman, Prof Afsar Ali,Chowdhury Shahidul Islam Nayan, Kazi Munirul Huda, Shahidul Islam Milon, Robiul Alam, Advocate Monjurul Haque, Fakir Shawkat, Ekram-ud-Dowla, Harun or Rashid, Advocate Enamul Haque, Amirul Alam Khan, Habiba Shefa, Elahi Dad Khan,Prof Nargis Begum, Masuma Begum, Kazi Abdus Shahid Lal, Shuraya Sharif, Fazlul Haque, Mostafa Anwar Pasha, Simul Azad, Gulnahar Begum, Dr Sanjoy Pathak, Panna Lal Dey, Shah Hadiuzzaman, Zahid Hasan Tokon, Binoy Krishna Mallik and Fakhre Alam.

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