Dialogue between Bangladesh’s ruling party and opposition evokes mixed response

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (C) sits in a dialogue with opposition party in Dhaka on November 1, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 02 November 2018
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Dialogue between Bangladesh’s ruling party and opposition evokes mixed response

  • The dialogue was held in the run-up the general election of the country, which is scheduled to take place in next month.
  • The four-party Oikya Front pressed for 7 demands.

DHAKA: Thursday’s dialogue between the ruling alliance of 14 parties led by the Awami League and the Oikya Front, the new opposition alliance, received a mixed reception in Bangladesh’s political circles. The dialogue was held in the run-up the general election of the country, which is scheduled to take place in next month.
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which is a key player in the front, said, “We are not satisfied with how the talks went.” However, his close ally, the front leader and Gonoforum President, Dr. Kamal Hossain, said, “We have placed our demands and the Prime Minister will inform us about her final decision later.”
Obaidul Quader, the general secretary of ruling Awami League and the second in command of the party, quoted the Prime Minister, saying, “The door is open and we can sit again later.”
The four-party Oikya Front pressed for 7 demands, which included: The formation of non-partisan election period government, the resignation of the incumbent government and dissolution of the parliament; the release of political prisoners, including BNP chairwoman Khaleda Zia, and the withdrawal of false cases filed against political activists; the reformation of the Election Commission and the abandonment of the Electronic Voting Machine for this election, ensuring a level playing field for all political parties; and the deployment of army during the election, to allow the foreign and domestic observers to witness the election process.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina immediately agreed on the two points regarding ensuring the level playing field for all political parties and the presence of foreign election observers.
S.M. Rejaul Karim, Legal Affairs Secretary of the ruling Awami League, said to Arab News, “We had the discussion in a very congenial and cordial environment. The Prime Minister has accepted the issue of a ensuring level playing field and the presence of international election observers during the election, and I think it was a fruitful discussion.”
During the meeting Prime Minister assured the opposition that her government will facilitate the election commission in every way to hold a free, fair and inclusive election, said Karim.
“After the meeting I strongly believe that the opposition will get much more confidence and take part in the upcoming election. As a result the country will experience an election with festivity in a democratic environment,” opined Karim.
However the opposition alliance leader Dr. Kamal said, “The prime minister gave a long speech. But we didn’t find any specific solution there, except for some positive comments about holding rallies and meetings.”
BNP secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam said his party will continue the street protests to achieve their demands.
Islam and his party were disappointed that the PM rejected their demand for the release of Khaleda Zia. She had said that the government could do nothing since it’s a legal matter. Hasina also said that her government did not file the cases against Zia.
Dr. Ataur Rahman, a renowned political scientist and teacher of Dhaka University, said to Arab News, “Although it is not completely satisfying the dialogue has opened the door for the opposition parties and they have got assurances that some of the demands will be fulfilled. Now the opposition should wait and watch the situation.”
He analyzed it as a “wheeling and dealing” situation where both the parties will try to win the maximum gain. “I think in the coming days there will be few more surprises in the political arena till the submission of nomination papers for the election race,” added Rahman.
Kashem Humayun, a veteran journalist and managing editor of Bangla Daily Sangbad, says to Arab News, “Government can’t do anything contrary to the constitution and the situation in this term is quite different from the last election held in 2014. I believe that the main opposition BNP will take part in the election.”
He added: “If any change is required in the constitution that should be done in parliament, and for that reason also BNP should join the election race.”


Mexico demands apology for colonial ‘abuses,’ Spain hits back

Handout photo released by the Mexican presidency showing Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador answering questions during a press conference at the Palacio Nacional, in Mexico City on March 25, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 26 March 2019
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Mexico demands apology for colonial ‘abuses,’ Spain hits back

  • “The government of Spain deeply regrets that the letter the Mexican president sent to his majesty the king, whose contents we firmly reject, has been made public,” it said in a statement

MEXICO CITY: The 500-year-old wounds of the Spanish conquest were ripped open afresh on Monday when Mexico’s president urged Spain and the Vatican to apologize for their “abuses” — a request Madrid said it “firmly rejects.”
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, an anti-establishment leftist, reopened the debate over Spain’s centuries of dominance in the New World with a video posted to social media, urging Spanish King Felipe VI and Pope Francis to apologize for the conquest and the rights violations committed in its aftermath.
“I have sent a letter to the king of Spain and another to the pope calling for a full account of the abuses and urging them to apologize to the indigenous peoples (of Mexico) for the violations of what we now call their human rights,” Lopez Obrador, 65, said in the video, filmed at the ruins of the indigenous city of Comalcalco.
“There were massacres and oppression. The so-called conquest was waged with the sword and the cross. They built their churches on top of the (indigenous) temples,” he said.
“The time has come to reconcile. But let us ask forgiveness first.”
Spain’s reaction was swift and unequivocal.
“The government of Spain deeply regrets that the letter the Mexican president sent to his majesty the king, whose contents we firmly reject, has been made public,” it said in a statement.
“The arrival, 500 years ago, of Spaniards to present Mexican territory cannot be judged in the light of contemporary considerations,” it said.
“Our two brother nations have always known how to read our shared past without anger and with a constructive perspective, as free peoples with a shared history and extraordinary influence.”

Lopez Obrador took office in December after a landslide election win that represented a firm break with Mexico’s traditional political parties.
A folksy populist, he pulls no punches in going after traditional elites — but had so far cultivated cordial relations with Spain, including during a visit to Mexico City by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez earlier this year.
Lopez Obrador made the remarks during a visit to his native Tabasco state, in southern Mexico.
He was later due to visit the nearby city of Centla. On March 14, 1519, the site was the scene of one of the first battles between Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes and the indigenous peoples of the land now known as Mexico.
With the help of horses, swords, guns and smallpox — all unknown in the New World at the time — Cortes led an army of less than 1,000 men to defeat the Aztec empire, the start of 300 years of Spanish rule over Mexico.