Comments of envoys: A reminder to protect our sovereignty

Published : Tuesday, 22 November, 2022 at 12:00 AM

Over past few weeks, few foreign envoys are making contentious comments regarding the future election and its potential environment as the 12th National Parliamentary Election is set to take place in early 2024. They are labeling their quotes as for the sake of protecting democracy in Bangladesh. But they must understand that, in some circumstances, sovereignty is significantly more vital than democracy and that is exactly what Bangladesh should opt for.

On December 29, 2008, the Awami League, who are now in power and led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, were elected to a second term in office. They had to face a number of challenges on their way to this particular victory. Immediately after gaining power, PM Hasina-led Awami League government jumped into a mammoth task of developing Bangladesh.

BNP declined an invitation from the Awami League in 2013 to talk about the election. BNP stated its intention to boycott the impending 2014 general election due to unfair election conditions, with the support of Jamaat-e-Islami, an ally. BNP attempted to modify the election law by mass strikes and public rallies. One of their concealed goals was to halt the prosecution of war criminals. Despite the boycott, Sheikh Hasina’s administration held the election and re-elected itself with ease. Buses were set on fire, bombs were thrown, and significant disturbances to daily life were made as a result of the BNP’s actions.

BNP agreed to take part in the general election peacefully in 2018. However they were unable to win back public favor. The party was virtually unnoticeable during the campaign and on Election Day due to the imprisonment of the party’s chair Begum Khaleda Zia and the exile of its senior vice-president Tarek Rahman. As a result, on December 31, 2018, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won a resounding victory in Bangladesh’s 11th national election, securing her third straight term. The political climate in 2014 and 2018 was not soothing for everyone as it was not for Awami League in 1996, 2001 or 2008. The election results were accepted by the international community and Sheikh Hasina bravely guided Bangladesh down the path of development.

Foreign diplomats have discussed the approaching general elections over the past few months in conversations with the chief election commissioner (CEC) and on other programs. The diplomats stated that they support Bangladeshis having free and fair general elections to select their leaders. They said that in order to guarantee the effectiveness of the nation’s democratic institutions, credible elections are a need.

Ito Naoki, the Japanese ambassador, on November 7 mentioned the 2018 election when he said that he heard about the example of ‘ballot box stuffing’. In reference to the 2018 election, he added that all major political parties are expected to take part in the upcoming national election in Bangladesh, which will be organized in a free and fair way. At a views-exchange session with the Editors’ Council on November 8, US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas stated that the US is more concerned with having free and fair elections than it is with who wins. He further stated that no party is preferred by the US over another.

On November 16, Turkish Ambassador Mustafa Osman Turan stated that Bangladesh’s ability to conduct free and fair elections is completely Bangladesh’s responsibility. He asserted that political parties must get together to resolve their disputes and that the government cannot fulfill all of its obligations on its own. If opposition parties do not participate, Bangladesh would lose the chance to organize a free and fair election, he stressed. Robert Chatterton Dickson, the High Commissioner of the UK to Bangladesh, stated on August 22 that a fair election must guarantee that all parties are permitted to participate, everyone should be able to cast a ballot without restriction, and the outcome of the election must be recognized by all parties.

The Bangladesh government has summoned Japanese Ambassador Ito Naoki, apparently reminding him of a Vienna convention that bars envoys from commenting on any country’s domestic affairs. Article 41 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 states it is the duty of the one receiving immunities and privileges to respect the laws of the receiving state and it is also their duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that state. In addition, the International Court of Justice reaffirmed non-intervention as a norm of customary international law in its ruling in 1986.

Despite the diplomats’ out-of-bounds comments, diplomacy hasn’t had much of an impact on Bangladesh’s political past. Strong nations’ diplomacy was unable to halt our ascent on the world map during our liberation war. Foreign diplomacy had relatively little influence on the political result even after freedom. On some occasions, few foreign intelligence agencies influenced some political events in Bangladesh but diplomacy was out of the picture on those occasions.

The position of Bangladesh is crucial due to geopolitical factors. Therefore various superpowers are attempting to control Bangladesh, especially as the globe is returning to bipolarity. The US and its allies are trying to influence the politics of Bangladesh as we now have different significant trade partners, China and India being number one and two. Bangladesh’s top trading partners include the US, a number of European nations, including Germany, the UK, France, Spain, and Italy, as well as Japan, Canada, and others. Diplomats from all these countries are trying to protect their interests but they must remember to behave diplomatically.

When foreign diplomats criticize Bangladesh’s democratic elections, high level of development, and commitment to human rights and freedoms, they come across as ‘preachers of democracy’, which only serves to highlight their hypocrisy and attempt to destabilize our nation and halt Bangladesh’s progress toward achieving an honorable reputation on the global stage. This type of act is completely in violation of the sovereignty of Bangladesh.

Just as the diplomats are responsible for conducting unethical activities, the lack of coexistence between the conflicting political parties in Bangladesh is equally responsible. Moreover, our media and intellectuals are also creating opportunities for the diplomats to make irresponsible remarks like CGS and prominent media personality Zillur Rahman provided the Japanese and Turkey envoy a platform to make their remarks.

The foreign countries did recognize the governments after 1975 in Bangladesh till 1991 and invested in Bangladesh too though democracy was absent. In 1971, the politicians and the people brought independence for Bangladesh. In 1991 also, the political parties through joint manifesto worked together along with the people to reinstate democracy in Bangladesh. The diplomats played no role on these two remarkable occasions. Now, also the politicians and the people have to find the solutions. If foreigners can influence us, then they will keep influencing our future also which is something we do not desire.

Diplomats working in all international organizations and all foreign missions located in Dhaka should be respectfully informed that they are requested to follow the relevant rules and etiquette in conducting diplomatic activities, which is stated in the 1961 Vienna Convention and the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular. The principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of States also signifies that a State should not otherwise intervene in a dictatorial way in the internal affairs of other States.

During last few years, the Awami League government under the farsighted leadership of PM Hasina is fighting valiantly against COVID-19 and global economic crisis to keep the country going and it was not easy. We know that democracy is important for any country. But we will not compromise our sovereignty in the name of democracy.

All political parties and groups need to get out of the political system of defaming or complaining about the internal affairs of the country. Not only the political parties but also the media and the intellectuals must act responsibly to protect our sovereignty and overdependence on the foreigners. If necessary, we must protest strongly and take actions. We must act and protest vehemently if necessary. Our development partners will stick behind us in this world of polarized politics and power out of self-interest.

At the end of the day, we must remain as a sovereign Bangladesh on the globe and only then, we will be able to ensure democracy all around.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Chief Patron, BangabandhuShishu Kishore Mela

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