Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The speech Awami League President Sheikh Hasina delivered at a press conference of the grand alliance at Sheraton Hotel in the city yesterday

Following is the full text of the speech Awami League President Sheikh Hasina delivered at a press conference of the grand alliance at Sheraton Hotel in the city yesterday:

On October 29 last year, President Iajuddin Ahmed appointed himself as the chief adviser to the non-partisan caretaker government in violation of the constitution. We said from the beginning that he is neither neutral nor non-partisan. We had placed 11-point proposal before him in order to prove himself to be neutral, but he did not implement those.

The chief adviser and 10 other advisers subsequently offered a package proposal signed by them. The proposals included resignation of SM Zakaria and Mudabbir Hossain Chowdhury; appointment of two new election commissioners and entrusting one of them to act as the chief election commissioner; depoliticisation of the administration; and bringing changes to the attorney general's office, replacing all law officers and bringing changes to the top posts of intelligence agencies.
But when we accepted the package proposal, he opposed the council of advisers-agreed proposals under the directions of Hawa Bhaban.
Yet, we tried to participate in the elections for the sake of democracy. After our candidates from the grand alliance submitted nominations, we noticed that the chief adviser has started implementing election engineering under the dictates of BNP-Jamaat.
Sixty-five days, out of 90 days, have already passed, but President Iajuddin Ahmed has not taken any steps to prove his neutrality as the chief adviser to the non-partisan caretaker government.
The chief adviser has established a shadow government of BNP-Jamaat instead of a non-partisan caretaker government.
The nationally and internationally unacceptable Election Commission has failed to prepare a correct voter list.
There are only 19 days to go to the elections as per the current schedule. But a correct and flawless voter list is yet to be published.
Now it is learnt that a voter list will be published after January 7. Under the voter list rules and regulations, there is a provision that the voter list should be displayed in public for 15 days for scrutiny before publishing the full electoral roll.
If the election is held on January 22, there will be no time to earmark 15 days for scrutiny and for subsequent correction and publication of the list.
It is clearly stated in Article 121 of the Constitution that "There shall be one electoral roll for each constituency for the purposes of elections to parliament, and no special electoral roll shall be prepared so as to classify electors according to religion, race, caste or sex."
But according to newspaper reports, the Election Commission has distributed three types of voter lists -- the list of 2000 and the updated and supplementary list of 2000. And the voters' names, their fathers' names and the voter serial numbers do not match. In many cases, the lists show different information regarding name, age and profession of the voters against the same serial number and the holding number.
Many voters whose names are on the list of 2000 have been dropped. Names on pages after pages in the voter list have been crossed off, while a huge number of false voters have been included.
We fear that the presiding and polling officers will be given the list which does not contain the names of grand alliance leaders, activists and supporters and the minorities.
Additional polling centres have been set up without any advertisements. In many cases, polling centres have been set up four or five miles away, so that voters favouring grand alliance cannot cast their votes.
The judiciary and the administration still remain politicised. Charge sheet has been submitted against eminent lawyers such as Dr Kamal Hossain, Barrister Amir-Ul Islam and Barrister Rokanuddin Mahmud in an unusual hurried way.
The Election Commission is not applying the law equally for all. As part of the election engineering, the commission has unjustly rejected the nomination paper of Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad.
The caretaker government has protected, instead of arresting, the criminals who attacked the houses of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leaders, including Badruddoza Chowdhury.
The Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and the police are being used to arrest, harass, torture and kill the leaders and activists of the grand alliance. The false cases filed against our leaders and activists in the last five years have now been used to arrest grand alliance leaders and activists.
No list of real criminals has been made. Instead of recovering illegal arms or arresting the arms holders, the authorities are collecting licensed arms from the citizens, thereby causing insecurity for them.
The National Security Intelligence agency and the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence are being used to implement the election engineering.
The administration has not been depoliticised. Rather, 20 personal secretaries of BNP-Jamaat ministers have been appointed deputy commissioners. Skilled and efficient officials are still serving as officers on special duty (OSD).
The chief adviser is trying to deprive the people of their right to vote at the instructions of BNP-Jamaat. He is conspiring to elect the thieves and the corrupt elements belonging to BNP-Jamaat who have plundered public assets and amassed huge wealth overnight.
Our statement is very clear. We want a free, fair and peaceful election according to the constitution. For this a congenial atmosphere should be created. It has been proved that the president as the chief adviser is not interested in creating an environment conducive to election. So, he must step down as the chief adviser. And a new chief adviser must be appointed according to the constitution.
In accordance with the package proposal, a new chief election commissioner has to be appointed and the Election Commission has to be recast. Over 300 partisan officers appointed in the Election Commission and as district and upazila election officers have to be removed or made OSD.
Every eligible voter has the right to vote. A draft voter list has to be published. According to the electoral laws, there should be at least 15 days to scrutinise the voter list before the publication of the final voter list.
A full voter list has to be published for each constituency.
All voters have to be given ID cards.
Transparent ballot boxes have to be used in the election.
Old polling centres have to be used as per the election manual.
Candidates have to be consulted before the appointment of presiding and polling officers.
Rab activities have to be suspended until elections. Extra-judicial killings must be stopped. A list of real criminals must be made in order to arrest them and recover their arms.
In accordance with the package proposal, changes have to be brought to the attorney general's office, all law officers have to be replaced and changes have to be brought to the top posts of intelligence agencies.
Effective measures must be taken to depoliticise the administration. Identified partisan officials have to be made OSD. They have to be replaced by competent and neutral officers.
All election candidates, including Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad, whose nomination papers have been rejected illegally, have to be allowed to take part in the election.
A new election schedule must be announced after update of the voter list in order to implement the aforementioned measures so that an environment conducive to fair election can be created.
Because it is more important to have an acceptable election with the participation of people than an election held within the fixed schedule. The people will neither accept nor allow rigged polls. The grand alliance wants an election that will reflect the people's verdict.
President Iajuddin wants to hold an election without a valid voter list after illegally assuming the post of the chief adviser. We cannot legalise such an election. Therefore, we, the grand alliance, have decided not to participate in the stage-managed January 22 elections.
Article 58 (D) of the constitution calls for a free, fair and peaceful election. We will go to the polls with the people after creating an environment conducive to a free, fair and peaceful election in Bangladesh.
We will enforce blockade programme across the country on January 7 and 8 to press the demands for the publication of a correct, flawless and updated voter list and the resignation of Iajuddin Ahmed as the chief adviser. If the demands go unheeded, we will lay siege to Bangabhaban for an indefinite period.
We call on the administration, police, Bangladesh Rifles and the armed forces to stand by the people and assist in the struggle to restore the people's right to vote. We will continue any sorts of movement to protect the people's right to vote.

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