Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Bangladesh General Election

Delivered in Plenary - 15th December 2008

Mr President

As Chairman of the European Parliament observer mission to the December general election in Bangladesh, I wish to express my thanks to the presidency for allowing the mission to take place. The previous chairman, who declined to go – Mr Robert Evans from the Socialist Group – tried at the last minute to have the trip cancelled, claiming the list of participants was not sufficiently balanced politically or by nationality. Well, there are still places if additional Members wish to participate, and I would welcome that.

I am delighted that the presidency had the good sense to stop this occurring. To have cancelled the mission would have sent all the wrong signals to Bangladesh – and the Bangladeshi community I represent in London – which is bravely seeking to strengthen its fragile secular democracy after two years of quasi-military rule.

Bangladesh is a vital country strategically in an unstable region, increasingly threatened by Islamist terrorism, a fact that the chairman of Parliament’s South Asia Delegation, Mr Evans, knows very well. Bangladesh deserves our encouragement as it seeks a democratic future. If we claim to be democrats ourselves, we should do all we can to support Bangladesh in this endeavour.