Bangladesh PM holds rare talks with opposition

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (2ndR) sits in a dialogue with opposition party in Dhaka on November 1, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 01 November 2018
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Bangladesh PM holds rare talks with opposition

DHAKA: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held rare talks with the opposition Thursday, days after its imprisoned leader was given a fresh sentence that will keep her behind bars for 10 years.
Hasina’s ruling Awami League party had earlier rejected any calls for talks with her opponents and ruled out accepting its demand for the dissolution of parliament before elections next month.
In an abrupt about-face, the prime minister hosted members of the opposition coalition at her Dhaka residence late on Thursday to discuss — but did not back down in her refusal to appoint a caretaker government for the polls.
Former foreign minister Kamal Hossain brought a group of 20 opposition officials to the meeting, according to Awami League deputy chief Obaidul Quader.
Hasina rejected the delegation’s key demand for a caretaker government, Quader said.
The visitors were “not satisfied” with the talks, said opposition Bangladeshi Nationalist Party deputy chief Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
The talks came as Hasina’s chief rival, former premier Khaleda Zia, was on Tuesday handed a seven year prison term on graft charges, while another appeal court doubled her sentence for an earlier embezzlement conviction.
Zia and Hasina have been rivals since the 1980s, when both women allied to force the country’s former military dictator from power.
The duo alternated power for two decades until Zia boycotted national polls in 2014, sparking violence across the Muslim-majority democracy of 160 million.
Zia’s is the only inmate in an otherwise abandoned 19th-century jail and her health has deteriorated in custody. Her physician said she was suffering from diabetes and that arthritis had rendered her left hand useless.
Lawyers for Zia have accused the government of putting her health at risk by refusing her specialized care in prison.


Babies not welcome in parliament, Danish speaker says

Members of the Dutch Senate (the First Chamber) in The Hague. (AFP)
Updated 7 min 23 sec ago
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Babies not welcome in parliament, Danish speaker says

  • In 2016, an Icelandic lawmaker made headlines after breastfeeding her infant while speaking at the podium in parliament

COPENHAGEN: A Danish lawmaker said Tuesday she was ordered to remove her infant daughter from parliament’s chamber, sparking surprise in a country often hailed as a pioneer in women’s rights.
“You are not welcome with your baby in the parliament’s chamber,” speaker Pia Kjaersgaard, an outspoken former leader of the far-right Danish People’s Party, allegedly told MP Mette Abildgaard.
“I didn’t ask for permission to bring her since I had previously seen another colleague bring a child into the chamber without any problems,” Abildgaard, whose Conservative party is part of the ruling center-right coalition, wrote on Facebook.
Abildgaard, who is in her 30s, said she found herself in an exceptional situation with her five-month-old daughter, and had never brought her into the chamber before.
But she said the infant was “in a good mood and had a pacifier in her mouth.”
Kjaersgaard passed the message to an assistant, who then asked Abildgaard to remove the baby from the room.
Abildgaard handed the child to an assistant and returned to the chamber to vote.
“MPs should be in the chamber, not babies or children,” insisted Kjaersgaard when questioned by news agency Ritzau.
She said clear rules would be issued on the subject.
The Scandinavian country is often held up as a champion of gender equality and women’s rights, and as a child and family-centered nation with generous parental leave.
Abildgaard noted that she was entitled to a year’s maternity leave with full pay, but that she had chosen to return to work.
Her Facebook post garnered more than 600 comments within the space of a few hours.
“A chamber that represents mothers, fathers and babies ought to be open to mothers, fathers and babies,” one person wrote.
In 2016, an Icelandic lawmaker made headlines after breastfeeding her infant while speaking at the podium in parliament.
And in September, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became a symbol for working mothers when she brought her baby to the UN General Assembly in New York.