UK minister says polls boycotters will suffer
Saturday, 21 June 2008

Shahid Malik, the UK's junior minister for international development, speaks at a press conference in Gulshan ThursdayBdnews24.com

UK's junior minister for international development Shahid Malik said Thursday BNP and the Awami League would suffer if they boycotted the upcoming general elections in December.

Malik said staying away from the democratic process was not the solution, and the political parties would be part of the problem if they did not take part in the election.

The parliamentary under-secretary of state at the UK Department for International Development and responsible for his government's development work in South Asia came to Bangladesh Wednesday on a two-day visit.

The visiting minister also urged the government to relax the state of emergency to allow political parties to prepare for the election.

"If you believe in a future democratic Bangladesh, which will—I am very sure—achieve prosperity for many, not the few, then you want to engage in this democratic process," Malik said at a news conference at Bay's Galleria in Gulshan.

"If you don't, then actually you, your ideals and your party is the one that will suffer."

Malik was asked whether the upcoming elections would be credible, if boycotted by the BNP and the Awami League.

"If they (the BNP and the Awami League) want to see a democratic, prosperous, and stable Bangladesh, then don't they have responsibility to work, to engage in dialogue and to engage in the democratic process?"

He said the parties would let down the people of Bangladesh, if they do not.

"Staying away is not the solution. Taking your bat and ball and going home is not the solution," Malik said.

"There is only one solution and that is engaging. If you don't engage and don't work—I am sorry—you will be part of the problem."

Malik reiterated his government's call for relaxing the state of emergency.

"This is not an ideal situation. I think we would hope if you want to have a credible electoral process, then there got to be loosening of the emergency situation to allow credible elections."

Loosening-up of the emergency rule allowing political parties and others to engage in the overall process will make democracy meaningful, he said.

But it was the government to decide when and how to relax the state of emergency, Malik said.

On corruption, the UK minister said: "The challenge of corruption is not something that is unique to Bangladesh. Every country in the world has corruption."

"There are types of corruption. I can say, the UK has some."

"The difference is, we started our fight against corruption hundreds of years ago. Bangladesh has only been in the world map for some 37 years. The real fight against corruption has just begun," Malik said.

He met with finance adviser AB Mirza Azizul Islam, army chief Moeen U Ahmed and civil society leaders to assess progress in efforts to hold the general elections.

Malik also visited some development projects funded by the UK's Department for International Development.

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