Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Daily Star, Dhaka report on the conference

The Daily Star

Vol. 5 Num 878 Thu. November 16, 2006


Uphold democratic spirit and human rights
Speakers tell int'l confce in London
Staff Correspondent

Speakers at an international conference in London have expressed concern over recent political developments in Bangladesh and stressed the need to uphold the country's democratic spirit and fundamental human rights.

Policy Exchange, London, in association with the US-based Hudson Institute, The New Statesman and the International Bangladesh Foundation organised the conference on Tuesday, according to a press release received in Dhaka.

Dean Godson of Policy Exchange and Maneeza Hossain of Hudson Institute jointly opened the conference.

Representatives of the three main UK political parties, Awami League leader Saber Hossain Chowdury and former law minister Moudud Ahmed of BNP attended the conference where the speakers urged the UK government to listen to the concerns being expressed by the Bengali population in the UK about the forthcoming elections in Bangladesh.

Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, delivered the keynote address while Lord Avebury, Dean Godson and former British high commissioner to Bangladesh Peter Fowler chaired the sessions.

Nicholas Boles, director of the Policy Exchange, said: "Whether the BNP or the Awami League forms the next government is, in a sense, not the point: Bangladeshi democracy must be the winner."

"Not least because the UK has a large population with Bangladeshi roots, the British government has an interest in promoting fair elections in Bangladesh. If the British government were to privilege hardline Islamist opinion above that of secularists -- as was alleged by several speakers today -- that would be in neither the UK's nor Bangladesh's interests," he added.

Shamsuddin Choudhury Manik, a former justice, and Mohidur Rahman, international coordinator of the UK BNP, Dr Reza Kibria and MA Malik, UK BNP secretary, took part in the discussion.

In the session on UK policy towards Bangladesh, Martin Bright of The New Statesman, Cllr Ayub Korom Ali, Munira Mirza of Policy Exchange and Ansar Ahmed Ullah of International Bangladesh Foundation spoke about Islamists and their network.

Chris Blackburn, an intelligence analyst, and Hussain Haqqani of Hudson Institute gave their presentations at the session on terrorism and security.

In the final session, Abbas Faiz of Amnesty International, Shahriar Kabir, acting president of Forum for Secular Bangladesh, Ahmed Ziauddin of Centre for Genocide Studies, and Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch raised their concerns about human rights violations.

Representatives from the Foreign Office, Home office, ODA and diplomats also attended the conference.

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