Bangladesh premier rules out election cancelation

Updated 03 January 2014

Bangladesh premier rules out election cancelation

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ruled out Thursday any last-minute cancelation of weekend elections that have been boycotted by the opposition, accusing her rivals of holding the country hostage.
In a final address to the nation ahead of Sunday’s violence-plagued polls, Hasina accused opposition leader Khaleda Zia of shunning dialogue and rejecting an offer to share power in an interim administration.
“We have tried our best to bring the BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) into the elections,” Hasina, who is the leader of the ruling Awami League, said in a 40-minute televised address.
“Zia spurned my offer for dialogue and instead chose the path of confrontation.
“The Jan. 5 polls will be held in accordance with the constitution,” she added.
More than 140 people have been killed in violence in the last two months since Hasina announced she would not bow to calls to stand aside and let a caretaker government organize the elections.
Zia’s BNP and 20 other opposition parties have refused to take part in the elections over fears that the result would be rigged, dimissing the contest as a “farce.”
The BNP has organized a series of general strikes and blockades designed to paralyze the country and hence scupper the contest.
“She held the people to hostage in the name of strikes and blockades,” Hasina said of Zia, blaming her supporters for the deaths of civilians and security forces.
Diplomatic sources say Hasina has been under new pressure this week to hold off on the election, with envoys privately warning her top aides that the polls would only further inflame tensions.
The United States and the European Union have cold-shouldered the contest, further undermining its credibility by refusing to send observers.
But Hasina, who was elected in 2009 after beating two-time former premier Zia, insisted the polls would be free and fair.
“The polls are being held under an independent election commission,” said the 66-year-old premier, who is the daughter of Bangladesh’s slain founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Hong Kong endures more transit disruptions, campus violence

Updated 18 min 12 sec ago

Hong Kong endures more transit disruptions, campus violence

  • Police said protesters shot several arrows at them near Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Life in this city of 7.5 million has been strained as thousands of commuters have been unable to get to work or endured lengthy commutes
HONG KONG: Hong Kong residents endured a fourth day of traffic snarls and mass transit disruptions Thursday as protesters closed some main roads and rail networks while police skirmished with militant students at major universities.

Police said protesters shot several arrows at them near Hong Kong Polytechnic University. None of the officers were injured, and six arrows were seized at the scene, police said.

Life in this city of 7.5 million has been strained as thousands of commuters have been unable to get to work or endured lengthy commutes.

The government appealed for employers to show flexibility. “For staff who cannot report for duty on time on account of conditions in road traffic or public transport services, employers should give due consideration to the circumstances,” a statement said.

The Education Bureau extended the suspension of classes for kindergarten to high school students until Monday. It ordered schools to remain open, though, to handle children whose parents need to send them to school.

At Polytechnic University, protesters shot an arrow at officers patrolling nearby, then threw flower pots from a height when other officers arrived. Police responded with tear gas, and protesters fired more arrows.

Protesters have hurled gasoline bombs and thrown objects off bridges onto roads below during clashes at campuses this week. The Chinese University of Hong Kong suspended classes for the rest of the year, and others asked students to switch to online learning.

Students at Chinese University, site of some of the fiercest clashes where students hurled more than 400 firebombs at police on Tuesday, have barricaded themselves in the suburban campus.

Early Thursday they used chainsaws to drop trees onto streets around the campus and prepared for a possible confrontation with police, which were not intervening.

Anti-government protests have riven Hong Kong, and divided its people, for more than five months.

A major rail line connecting Kowloon to mainland China was closed for a second day and five major underground stations were shut along with seven light rail routes, the Transport Department announced.

“Road-based transport services have been seriously affected this morning due to continued road blockages and damage to road facilities. In view of safety concerns and uncertain road conditions, buses can only provide limited services,” the department said.
Traffic was also disrupted because protesters have destroyed at least 240 traffic lights around the city.

The movement began in June over a now-withdrawn extradition bill. Activists saw it as another sign of an erosion in Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms, which China promised would be maintained for 50 years under a “one nation, two systems” principle when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.