Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Situation in Bangladesh

Delivered in Plenary - 10th July 2008

Bangladesh is a large and strategic South Asian country with 153 million inhabitants and some 80 million registered electors, making it one of the world’s largest democracies.

The caretaker government has now informed the EU and USA that it will proceed to democratic elections in December 2008, having successfully completed an electoral register which is robust against fraud. The military are now committed to withdrawing from policy-making. Ex-Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been released on humanitarian grounds. The emergency powers, which this resolution rightly wishes to see lifted, are still in place and need to go before the election. The large numbers arrested following the violence last year, which led to the state of emergency, need to be released or charged. Long-term EU observers should return as soon as possible to monitor the pre-election situation.

The EU is watching Bangladesh very carefully, given the concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation over the last few years and increasing Islamist radicalisation of its society, with an exodus of Hindus, Ahmadias and Christians, and the government’s seeming abandonment of its successful model of a secular multiparty democracy. Bangladesh has the makings of a successful democracy in the Muslim world and the EU needs to strongly support this.