Delivered in Plenary - 6th September 2007
Like my colleague Robert Evans, I also represent, in London, our region, over 150 000 constituents of Bangladeshi origin.
Bangladesh is a large and strategic South Asian country, and once again regrettably is in the news with the August student demonstrations and the arrest of three former prime ministers in a process aimed at combating corruption, but unfortunately and perversely having the appearance of attempting to stifle the democratic, albeit deeply divided, political classes.
The caretaker government has reassured the EU and the USA that it will proceed to democratic elections at the end of 2008, once the electoral registration process is completed and robust enough against electoral fraud. However, the timescale appears very long, and there are suspicions that the military, whose profile politically has recently risen, are keen to radically alter the political complexion of the country by removing from circulation the two warring protagonists, ex-prime ministers Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia. It is difficult to understand why they are not released on bail pending trial, and furthermore why the initial arrests were so melodramatic and lacking in due process under the emergency powers – which this resolution rightly calls for to be lifted, as well as calling for EU diplomatic observers to be present at the two ladies’ trials.
Certainly, Western aid donors are watching Bangladesh very carefully, given the concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation over the last few years and also increasing Islamist radicalisation of its society and a departure, very sadly, from its original course of secular multi-party democracy – a model we in the EU should strongly continue to support for that country.