US supports Bangladesh’s goal of holding free, fair polls: State Dept

The United States has reiterated that political violence has no place in a democracy and that it favours no political party in Bangladesh.

“We support Bangladesh’s goal of holding a free, fair, and peaceful election,” principal deputy spokesperson at the US Department of State, Vedant Patel, said during a regular media briefing in Washington yesterday.

He said they have always emphasised the importance of the United States and Bangladesh working together to achieve the latter’s goal of free and fair elections.

“It’s an important aspect of our bilateral relationship. And we believe that free and fair elections are a shared priority, and many Bangladeshi government officials, including the prime minister, have themselves said that it is their goal,” Patel said.

On Wednesday, Bangladesh conveyed its dismay to 13 envoys in Dhaka over their “undiplomatic behavior”.

“We expressed our dissatisfaction. I hope that after our discussion today, they will realise that their joint statement has been presented prematurely, out of step with the flow of events, and they will refrain from such undiplomatic behaviour in the future,” State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam told reporters at Foreign Service Academy on Wednesday.

He said they advised the diplomats to be constructive, reminding them of the Vienna Convention.

The diplomats have also been warned that bypassing the government and behaving “devoid of objectivity, neutrality and impartiality” will only create a crisis of mutual trust, Shahriar Alam said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the heads of the 13 foreign missions that issued a joint statement recently after a candidate was assaulted during a by-election to the Dhaka-17 constituency.

The statement called for a full investigation and accountability for the perpetrators of the assault on independent candidate Ashraful Alom, better known as Hero Alom.

The joint statement was signed by the embassies/high commissions of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States and the delegation of the European Union.

Shahriar Alam said they have conveyed to the diplomats that this is an isolated incident that cannot be used to judge peaceful, fair and free elections.

“So only a last-minute isolated incident at a center presented by a handful of diplomats never reflects a day-long peaceful election. In giving a quick response, they did not give due importance to the objectivity of their assessment,” he said.

As soon as the incident came to light, the Election Commission and the government took prompt and legal action, said the State Minister.

“Two persons were arrested long before the diplomats’ statement. However, after taking legal measures, these diplomats were calling for legal measures which is unnecessary,” he said.

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